As master of ceremonies at the 27th annual New Jersey Family Business of the Year awards, Sally Glick, principal and chief growth strategist at Sobel & Co., said it was tempting to start talking about the many challenges family owned business face. However, she took a different approach; Glick told the audience gathered at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston that many of the nine companies that were being honored – based on her private interviews with family owners – shared four qualities that made them successful: A strategic and innovative approach that leads to profitability and longevity; a dedication to clients, customers and communities; a commitment to each other (family members); and a focus on the future.
Of these and other qualities that the honorees exhibited, Glick commented, “These are real world guidelines that are etched into the hearts and minds of everyone [business] in this room. They live these traits every day.”
The awards ceremony, hosted by the Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fairleigh Dickinson University, was held during New Jersey’s first-ever “Family Business Week,” an event that Dr. Dale Caldwell, executive director of the Rothman Institute, was responsible for establishing. He told New Jersey Business prior to the ceremony that family owned businesses: represent 65 percent of the national economy; represent 85 percent of all new money generated globally; and, literally, employ millions of people, “yet they are not getting enough recognition. I looked into it … there is a Small Business Week, a Women Entrepreneurship Week, and a Veterans Small Business Week, but no family business week.”
Caldwell approached Governor Murphy on the lack of attention and, just last week, a proclamation was issued marking October 20 – 26 as Family Business Week in the Garden State. Caldwell hopes the week-long celebration will turn into a global event.
In the continued effort to spread the word on the importance of family owned businesses, the Rothman Institute has created a website (familybusinessweek.com), created an FDU Family Business Poll that will take surveys of these businesses every three months, and is creating a TV show, to be broadcast on the Roku channel, that will highlight the success and challenges of family owned businesses.
Keynote speaker Debbie Schaeffer, third-generation owner of Mrs. G Appliances, Lawrence Township (a former Family Business Award-winning company), discussed how the successful appliance retail company is able to stand up against today’s giant home improvement retailers: “To win the retail game, you have to exceed customer expectations before, during and after the sale,” she said.
An avid believer in the power of social media, she said, “Today, more than ever, we have to create an emotional connection with customers … and social media is the tool to do that.” She said consumers live in a “review culture” and that is how they make their buying decisions. In responding to negative online reviews, Schaeffer says one must do so with kindness and appreciation and that “potential buyers will notice that.” She added that LinkedIn is a great way to connect with customers, saying that the social media app is “on fire!”
Here are profiles of the Family Business of the Year award winners, finalists and semi-finalists:
Up to $10 million in revenues:
Charles E. Green & Son, Inc. has been manufacturing metal stamped parts in Newark, NJ for six generations since 1876. The company’s first products were ferrules (a short metal sleeve for strengthening a tool handle). Product lines have come and gone over the years, but ferrules have always remained. Now 5th generation, John Green is joined by his children Caitlin, Rebecca and John. John’s two granddaughters are eager to follow the family tradition taking jobs at the company over the summer. The company has diversified into new industries by purchasing a private label cosmetics and skincare business and is seeking more opportunities in this industry.
Lowy’s Moving Services is 95 years old and just getting started. Fourth generation cousins have joined the company. Lowy’s sees itself as a customer service business that happens to do moving. This attitude is why Lowy’s is highly respected as residential and commercial movers. Not only is this company family owned but it also employs many families – father, son, brothers and cousin teams. The company is involved in many charitable and nonprofit organizations, but it is most proud of Move for Hunger. Lowy’s started this program 10 years ago when it considered all the wasted food left behind during a move. It has now delivered over 14 million pounds of food to local food banks. Most impressive is that, now, 985 moving companies across the country participate in the program.
American Tree Experts, Inc. was founded by Francis Rombough in 1934. Through self-education and an unshakable work ethic “Jack,” with the help of his wife, built the business when there was no such thing as safety equipment or standards. Jack’s sons eventually took over the business and now third generation cousins, Brian and Rich, have transitioned into leadership roles. All generations live by the motto, “Always do the right thing and you will never be without work.” The family also prides themselves on their education and certifications. They carry the certification of NJ Certified Tree Expert and ISA Certified Arborist.
Seniors in Place was founded in 2001 by Richard Blecker with the help of his three adult children, Mia, Chad and Adam, who joined the company between 2007 – 2009. After seeing Richard’s mother battle a long and serious illness that eventually took her life, the family was inspired to leave their careers in other industries and begin this family business. The family wants to have a positive impact on others going through similar difficult times as navigating the healthcare system can be complicated and impersonal. The Bleckers will always treat their patients as family. The future for Seniors in Place is focused on changing the Home Care Industry and improving the system. The family is incredibly generous in their philanthropy by supporting ALS, Lupus, The American Cancer Society, the Make a Wish Foundation and many more. Mia is a sought-after speaker educating the elderly on how to remain independent.
Smith Design, founded in 1978 by James and Laraine Smith, was built on a simple yet powerful idea; put people at the center of brand design. Now second generation, Jenna Smith, leads the company as a woman-owned branding and design agency. Over the years, they have expanded their services beyond packaging to include photography, styling, customer research, merchandising, content creation, web design and social media.
Over $10 million in revenues:
Foy and Ken Cooley founded Access Self Storage over 40 years ago. On a trip to North Carolina, they came across a self-storage business. They discovered since homes in the south are built without attics or basements these facilities are common, they made it easy to store and retrieve items. Would it work in New Jersey? They investigated the idea and took a chance, quickly realizing they had a winning idea. Next, they moved into managing facilities and today own 9 and manage 13. Over the years, Foy’s four children have worked in the business. Foy’s oldest son, Graham has been vice president of Business Development for the last 17 years.
ADPP was founded 29 years ago by Pritam S. Grewal. Mr. Grewal has spent many years developing and operating service stations and convenience stores as well as gasoline and diesel distribution business. He is joined in the business by his son, Shivprett, and daughter, Balpreet. Over the years ADPP’s achievements in the service station industry have been recognized by several major oil companies. ADPP is credited for creating many jobs in the state, employing over 350 people. It is committed to having a strong partnership with the communities where the company operates and is engaged in many community initiatives providing leadership and monetary assistance.
John Graziano formed FFP Wealth Management in 1991 with the goal of taking a more intimate approach to financial planning to help clients achieve their individual long-term financial goals. After several years, John was joined by his brother Joe and his brother-in-law Keith, eventually two cousins Chris and Anthony, John’s son Christopher and daughter Morgan. This team has created a supportive and positive family business. Non-family members act like and are treated like family as well. Clients come to the firm and remain for decades because they trust their advisors. FFP takes its philanthropy seriously forming a group called FFP Cares, which is run by a committee made up of non-family member employees who coordinate charitable activities in line with the firm’s commitment to social responsibility.
HC Constructors was established in 1985 by Harry Chowansky III and is now a third-generation company with six family members involved in the day-to-day operations and a certified woman owned business. HC Constructors, a civil construction company provides services to private and public companies throughout the Tri-State area. The company tagline is “Safety, Integrity & Solutions.” These are the values it finds critical to the success of the business. HC invests heavily in their employees and their community.
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