Chamber Chat - Family Owned Businesses

Dec 16

By Meg Moss


Frank J. Kenny is a Chamber professional who frequently circulates articles pertaining to the “Chamber world” and how Chambers can benefit businesses in their communities. I was lucky enough to meet him at last year’s Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Frank and his wife Norma actually travel the country in an RV, visiting with, and consulting for, Chambers of Commerce. They’ve seen it all, from the ocean to the mountains, from the large cities to the small towns. One thing the Kenny’s have found in common in all their travels, is that there are different - special even - needs for family-owned and/or operated businesses.


While we don’t categorize a family business any differently in our Chamber than other small businesses, we do recognize that they have some specific needs that we can address to help them.


Family business is the oldest and most common model of economic organization. The vast majority of businesses throughout the world—from corner shops to multinational publicly listed organizations with hundreds of thousands of employees—can be considered family businesses.


But in regards to this article though, I’m talking mostly about the small family-owned business… ones where two or more owning partners are related, whether it be siblings, parents and children, cousins….you get the idea.


Frank J. Kenny recently wrote an article on the things that a small family-owned business may struggle with. One of the issues he indicates is replacing a key person. What will they do when a key person retires or passes on? They are left dealing with the loss of a family member, and a loss for the business. Succession planning is of key importance. If you are a family-owned business and don’t have a succession plan in place, please contact me at 919-775-7341 x 1502 and I can connect you with a professional to help.


Kenny’s article continues about potential struggles with family-owned businesses, such as performance issues. If someone is “given” a job because they are a family member, there are potential issues such as addressing human resources issues, underperformance, or time off.


Does everyone (or at least each key family member) have an equal say in business decisions? Dealing with this potential conflict can be tough when personal and professional worlds collide.


Kenny stated in his article “family-businesses are a large part of the American dream.” Not every business started by a family goes on to become a multinational publicly listed organization, and many don’t even want that. Some want that small town, corner store, “everyone knows your name” kind of business.


And that’s the type of business you will find with All Digital Printing in Sanford; owned by brothers, Van and Sam Sillaman. Years ago, Van and Sam were both working for companies in Cleveland, Ohio. They had a mutual acquaintance who opened a PIP Printing Franchise in their hometown of Mentor, Ohio, and it was an overnight success. This acquaintance (who turned out to be Van’s future father-in-law!) talked to the Sillaman brothers about opening a PIP Franchise of their own, and the brothers were in fact both interested in working for themselves. They investigated their opportunities in and around the Cleveland, Ohio area, but all those territories were already taken.


It was in 1982 that the Sillaman’s parents built their retirement home in Carolina Trace. Low and behold, there was an opportunity to open a PIP Printing Franchise in Sanford. So in 1986, Sam and Van made the move to North Carolina. Neither of them knew a soul in Sanford. Sam said that having a brother to go to work with every day was a comfort. Fast forward 32 years, they went independent after a 20 year contract with PIP Printing, and are both happily owning and operating All Digital Printing.


The Sillaman brothers have definitely had their ups and downs, but Sam states that the most important thing they have learned is that “family triumphs over business always!”

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