“Here’s what I’ve learned: all family members aren’t going to work,” Dowell says. “You’re going to have to realize that there’s going to come a time or there could come a time where you have to part ways and that can be tough.” One of the issues that can occur is the awkwardness if a family member is not performing at an acceptable level. Dowell says he had to fire his aunt at one point but since then the company has created better documentation and expectations, so everyone knows what they are re- sponsible for. He says they have weekly coaching sessions to ensure everyone is meeting their deliverables.

ADVICE FOR OTHERS Lemcke says if you’re considering bringing on a family member, they must be able to contribute to the common cause.

“If you’re going to bring family in there has to be a clear expectation and clear responsibilities,” Dowell says. “There needs to be religious follow up on those. There needs to be wins for these people, wins for the customer, wins for the com- pany. Those have to be documented and reinforced and applauded. If you can do that, then you can bring family members. You can grow them. They can make

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money. We can have fun, you can go to dinner with them, it can be wonderful, but it’s all going to be based upon the way that you set up and the way that you can show them a career path in your company.” Kravitsky agrees that family members should have defined roles when joining the company and they should be treated like any other employee. “Some family members aren’t players,”

Kravitsky says. “They’re not in the game full time and then it drags everybody else down.”

He also advises that you have con- trolling interest in your company rather than splitting it 50/50 with a family member. Family members should also have similar values if you want to be successful working together. “If your sons don’t have the same val- ues, work ethic and passion to succeed as you, then it’s going to be a difficult road to go down,” Hillenmeyer says. “I’m very blessed that the three of us are aligned in our thinking both in the short term and the long run.”

He adds that you should always make sure your family member, specifically your children, actually want to be part of the business.

“I think sometime people assume they

want to be in the family business without asking,” Hillenmeyer says. “I told both of them before they started that it wouldn’t be easy, you will have to work harder than others, you will be watched and scrutinized more than anyone and if you don’t produce and meet the expectations of the job, I will fire you. Then I will put my dad hat on and figure out what I can do to help them find a job that’s works for them.”

SUCCESSION PLANNING Lemcke says one challenge in succession planning is how to get his retirement out of the business without leaving Brett in a bad spot. Because Brett wants to stay in the business careful planning has to be made, since selling the company isn’t an option. Kravitsky says he is beginning the pro- cess of passing the business off to his son while Hillenmeyer has already made the transition with Chase now the current president of the company. “It’s always hard to have two chiefs,

once I felt he was ready to take the helm we didn’t make a big announcement to the company, Chase just began to run the meeting with me in the background,” Hillenmeyer says. “He had already earned the respect of others, so the transition was an easy one. Probably a little harder on me but it’s what I wanted, and I have no regrets. Chase and Seth are equal partners in the business, they work very well together, nothing gives me more pride than to be a part of watching them take this organization to levels I never dreamed of.”

Dowell says he hasn’t had a discus- sion with his daughter to see if she’d want to eventually take over Dowco as she currently is enjoying running her own business. Schepis says his parents have slowly started to transition some of the respon- sibility to Nick and himself, but he says it will never be a complete succession as they’ll always be talking about work around the pool.

RAMON REYES Arborist and

EVERY TREE NEEDS A CHAMPION. Bartlett Champion 18 The Landscape Professional //September/October 2020

“My dad and Joan have built a suc- cessful company and are hoping to retire with security and without worry for the future,” Schepis says. “My brother Nick and I are looking to continue to grow and expand on the legacy our parents have built. So that we can take care of our families, the way our parents have taken care of theirs.” TLP

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