Weld Wire a Family Affair
IT’S A “FAMILY AFFAIR”
AT WELD WIRE COMPANY
My mother is in the travel industry, which always seemed to me an interesting, fun and exciting vocation. I loved the idea of helping clients plan honeymoons, trips to Europe, African safaris, or trips to Asia. Of course, if you’re going to be selling it, you have to know it. Therefore, there is travel involved; sometimes to ancient cities and/or exotic tropical locales. I have always loved history, studying maps and going on trips. Who doesn’t? At the time, this sounded to me like a dream job. Since she was a top agent in the country, I figured, “who better to learn from than my own mother”? However, when I was in my early 20’s (a long time ago) and job-hunting, I asked a couple of times if she would consider training and hiring me. Her response was consistently, “absolutely not, we would KILL each other!”
Weld Wire Company is a 3rd generation, family owned business with three principals; two of which are brothers, Jeff Saul and Alan Saul, and the third principal, Brent Saul, is the son of Alan Saul. In the three years I’ve worked at Weld Wire Company, I’ve never heard a voice raised, let alone seen or heard anybody killing each other. I only see love, honor, kindness and respect. In addition to the Saul family, we have other families working together at Weld Wire Company; a mother and daughter, as well as a grandfather and grandson. To us, we are all “family” at Weld Wire Company. Some are blood relations and some of us are connected by history; personal and work. We look out for each other and I thoroughly believe that we are as strong as we are because of our deep (and deepening) connections with each other. Family gives us strength, support and a sense of security. It gives us a sense of belonging and identity. I was curious and wanted to know how our team felt about working with their family members. The responses were extremely positive. Alan Saul shared with me, “My brother Jeff and I have become closer since we have worked together (26 years), and working with my son Brent helped me in my growth as a person, and it has been a wonderful experience. I love working with my family.” I asked Alan what he found to be challenging when it came to working with family. He told me, “The most challenging thing is working for the good of our family above the good of our company…we have managed to survive by loving each other more than our business.” The mother and daughter on our team are Susan Harmelin, who is in charge of Accounts Receivable, and Michelle Cucinotta, our Controller. I have only witnessed love and laughter between them (and certainly no murderous rampages). Michelle said, ”I enjoy getting to see my mom every day; our relationship remains strong”. When asked what she finds challenging with regard to working with family, she explained, “sometimes it’s challenging to keep family business out of the work environment.” In the warehouse, Ed Hack, and Dalton Hack are grandfather and grandson. Dalton shared, “My aunt, uncle, cousin, sister, mom and dad have all worked in the warehouse at some point. They would help out on a short term basis when there were large orders that had to get done.” He added, “working with my grandfather hasn’t really changed our relationship, but working together at Weld Wire Company has given us a chance to see each other more frequently. I enjoy the fact that there’s a certain comfort level you get while working with family members.” While doing some researching and reading about family members in the workplace, I came across what I felt was excellent advice for family members working together.
BungoBox CEO Tom Cannon, who co-founded BungoBox with his cousin, wrote and submitted an article on avoiding family discord in the workplace to Upstart Business Journal titled How to work with family members (and not go completely crazy) . The following advice is an excerpt from Tom Cannon’s article: “Set your roles : Don’t assume anything. Instead, define your job descriptions and resist the urge to micromanage. Sit down and actually write out job responsibilities for each family member. This will help ensure that all business-critical functions are accounted for and each member is happy with his or her assigned duties. Go into as much detail as possible. For example, include what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable conduct. This is something you can always refer back to as a way to keep you on track. If have disagreements at this point then perhaps working together is not the best idea.
Spend time apart: Be sure to develop your own hobbies outside of work. It’s healthy to have time away from each other. Maintain your individuality; consider driving to work separately, taking different lunch appointments and sitting in separate offices.
Compartmentalize: After work hours, stop talking about office issues and go back to being family members. During work hours, though, remember that what happens at home shouldn’t carry over to work. Create some clear boundaries so you can separate the personal things from work life. From the get-go, it’s very helpful to decide not to chat about work issues during family gatherings. It can be hard to do, but it will become more natural with time.
Cheer-lead: Remember to encourage your family members. A quick compliment can go a long way and helps keep everyone energized. Building each other up is crucial. Likewise, a negative comment can have even more detrimental impact than you realize.
Get on the same page: Be sure to define your goals early on so everyone is working toward the same things. Naturally, you will each have your own ideas about how to get to the end goal, so there will be clashes. But if you define your top priorities, there is a common purpose. Remember: at the end of the day, you are stronger collectively than individually.
Seek outside advice: Consider bringing in an external consultant once a quarter. Bringing in an unbiased person is a great way to get issues on the table and to gain a fresh perspective. Instead of dealing directly with your family member, the consultant can do so. It’s not always easy to tell your brother-in-law that he’s not cutting it. Oftentimes, it is easier to take direction from a third party.
Last but not least, communicate: Of course, communication is the most important thing to keep in mind. With family, however, this may be easier said than done. Sometimes you know your family members so well that you assume they know exactly how you are feeling. But that is definitely not the case. It’s best to let go of that idea and communicate as you would with any non-family member. Good communication results from actively listening and giving effective feedback consistently.”
I can appreciate Tom Cannon’s advice and I am not certain whether my mother and I would have “killed” each other or not, even if we had read Cannon’s article 25 years ago. Based on the fact that we are on each others nerves after a couple of hours together, she was probably right. Mother does know best!
On another note, we are so excited as we look to the future!! Great things “start with a spark”, and sparks are literally flying at Weld Wire Company! We are determined to have a powerful and positive impact on the welding industry and the future generation of welders. Stay tuned!
I’d also like to give a huge SHOUT OUT to our amazing, hard-working and dependable Warehouse Team. We are so grateful to all of you and appreciate everything that you do on a daily basis. Thank you for doing such an amazing job cutting, spooling, loading and unloading, managing Inventory, and most of all, getting Orders filled and shipped with such care and lightning speed. We salute you! And to our customers that we view as an extension of our family, we are here for you always. We appreciate your support and loyalty. Our “Weld Wire Family” will always do everything in our power to help your companies thrive and succeed in good times as well as in challenging ones.
Thank you, Brent, for allowing me to share my thoughts in your Blog space.