“Do you remember these businesses?” a trending post asks on Facebook as readers reminisce about popular South Florida mainstays that went the way of the dinosaurs. Sustaining a business for the long haul can be daunting, and the statistics for family businesses are not particularly optimistic. “About 30 percent of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation. Twelve percent will still be viable into the third generation, with only three percent of all family businesses operating at the fourth-generation level and beyond,” according to the Conway Center for Family Business.
Yet as South Florida has grown and matured, there are a number of family businesses that have developed this region and are leaving a legacy – some four or five generations long. They’ve beaten the odds. Now several sons of bosses, or SOBs as they jokingly call themselves, have founded Family Businesses of America (FBOA) to help family-owned businesses in Florida continue to thrive.
Begun about three years ago, the professional organization is now comprised of about 30 members who hold leadership positions in well-established family businesses, including some of the oldest companies in Broward.
Cam Rogers confirmed, “My love and respect for the generations whose shoulders our law firm now stands on motivates my everyday decisions. Legacy is a common passion and theme shared among the members of the Family Businesses of America.”
Family businesses of America focuses on three areas to help cultivate friendships with other future family business leaders and equip them with the necessary tools to navigate the sometimes challenging waters of working with family. They CONNECT, COLLABORATE and EDUCATE. “These three pillars help develop us into well-rounded family business leaders equipping us with loyal business relationships, lifelong friendships and wisdom that will carry us on for the rest of our careers,” said Ryan Zuckerman, a founding member of FBOA and a shareholder of Zuckerman Homes, premier home builders and real estate developers in South Florida for four generations, established in 1924.
At FBOA members CONNECT once a quarter to socialize and network.
COLLABORATION occurs during monthly meetings. After an ice breaker in which everyone shares their highs and lows for the month, one of the members presents to the group a business issue and a family issue with which they are contending. Presenters meet with a peer in advance to coordinate, and they provide the rest of the group the opportunity to ask questions and give their advice and feedback on the situation immediately following the presentation.
EDUCATION is provided during high-level roundtable discussions with experienced family business professionals, leading well-established family businesses. Speakers have include brothers Scott Moss, president, and Chad Moss, executive vice president, of Moss Construction, one of the largest privately held general contractors in Florida. And recently Andrew Koenig, vice president of City Furniture, toured them around the operation, which was founded in 1971 by his late uncle Kevin Koenig and his father Keith Koenig, the current president. Andrew expressed to the group that work ethic and innovation are very important components to excelling in a family business.
“Those are the caliber of local talent we have come in and give us advice, and it’s really an open conversation,” explained Robert W. “Bob” Lafferty, Jr., HY Stat manager for Hill York, who is the current FBOA president.
But as the son of a boss, Bob admits “there are a lot of eyes that are always watching… FBOA has helped me to grow myself in the business and helped me avoid issues with anyone else in the company.”
Hill York President and CEO Robert W. “Chip” Lafferty, said he had the benefit of collaborating with a small group of “heir apparents” through a national air conditioning organization and benefitted from observing their succession strategies when he was Bob’s age. “I got to see how some did it well and some didn’t do it well, and how my dad and I crafted a program for me to go through… It just keeps getting harder and harder over time as businesses get bigger and bigger for the next generation to try and take over.”
And business is something these families do well. Hill York, which has created a culture of COMFORT Champions, was just named among the “Best Places To Work” by South Florida Business Journal. “It is a tribute to the special bond we all feel as a close-knit team that grows and prospers together,” said Chip Lafferty. “We’re proud that, for many who join Hill York, what starts out as a job becomes a career calling to be a Hill Yorker for life.”
Best Roofing has also developed a strong team mentality inspired by Gregg’s football days at the University of Miami, where he played, coached and was team captain. Just like bus rides to games, you’ll see their orange and black Best Roofing school bus, with their dog “Jake” the mascot on the side, transporting field workers to sites around South Florida. “Everyone must play their position. Our business model requires teamwork,” is one of the company’s published fundamentals all employees commit to memory. And Ian Wallick has been working with his dad to develop Best Roofing University, a systematic training program designed to carry forward best practices and maintain consistent levels of customer service company wide.
“We’re a large business with large business resources, but we have a small business mentality,” said Zack Wallick. Every year they host the breakfast of champions where the office staff cooks breakfast for the field guys and serves them. The also have a corporate chaplain on staff.
“I originally hired Albert Beltran of Corporate Chaplains of America in 2003 because I had a primarily Hispanic workforce that I couldn’t talk to. I brought Albert in to get connected with them and he has earned their trust,” said Gregg.
They also have a foundation called Best Cares set up through the National Christian Foundation to give a certain amount of the company profits to local charities. Beneficiaries have included Sheridan House Family Ministries, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where Gregg serves on the board, and Hope South Florida. Seven days a week they give what they call their “Jake Bus” to “Paws for a Cause” to pick up homeless people and take them to feeding ministries throughout the community organized by Hope South Florida.
“I think running a large local business, it’s important that you contribute back to the community,” said Zack.
“It’s a privilege,” Gregg confirmed.
That’s an ethic echoed by many family businesses and by the Ryan Companies as well. “My father has many organizations that are close to his heart, and giving to him is the goal,” said Patrick Ryan. “The more we do in business this year the more we can give. He and my mom both have set such a good example in that.” Wills Ryan has served on boards for a number of charities, and Judith Ryan has served on the board at Sheridan House Family Ministries as well as Hope Women’s Centers. They’ve also been active at First Presbyterian Church of Coral Springs for many years. “And I hope for that to be a legacy of mine and of our company,” Patrick affirmed.
If you would like to learn more about the Family Businesses of America, visit familybusinessesofamerica.com. In addition to the Sons of Bosses, the FBOA also has a small group of women who are leaders in their family businesses. Called the Daughters of Executives or DOEs, they meet on the third Tuesday of each month while the Sons of Bosses meet on the second Thursday of each month. The SOBs and DOEs get together for networking, social and educational events as well. If you are involved in a family business and want to check out a meeting, complete their online application at familybusinessesofamerica.com.