Never in my life did I think I would be asked to write articles, and I never would have guessed in a million years that my children would want to not only learn the family business, but eventually take it over. I believe articles like this can be some of the most important ones for all of us to read, because no one really talks enough about planning for the future.
Let’s go back in time for a bit to talk about our family business. I went to Proctor High School and took a design class, which then led to me going to BOCES — a local vocational school — during high school for two years for design. During my senior year of high school, I bridged over to Mohawk Community College to take design courses and worked on my two-year degree from them. I always knew in my heart I wanted to do something with art, and my dream was always to own a graphic-based business.
Fast forward to after my wife and I got married. We started A&P Master Images from our home in 2003, more as a hobby for me to be creative since we both had very good full-time jobs. The business naturally grew year after year, but then a boulder hit us. One of our children became very ill with a rare disease.
At the time I was only 25, and my wife was only 22. Once we saw the care our child needed and how much time it could require, I made the decision with my wife to double-time it, working close to 100 hours per week for at least three years to get the company off the ground to take it on full time.
We barely saw each other during that time, but we both knew it had to be done. My wife not only worked full time, but she made sure our home was taken care of inside and out so I could focus on work. I worked midnights and also ran the business during the day, and my wife worked during the day as well and then would help me run orders afterward.
All during that time, our children were very little. They grew up watching us work and got to be around when customers came to the house and when we delivered orders. We even had my wife’s dad, Clayton Baker, and sister, Rachel Nitti, helping us run machines at one point. It was great having other family members that were willing to help along the way.
So, as our children got older, they always helped on and off in the business. We never forced it on them, but we told them: You want money? You have to work for it. You can pick up hours at the shop, but you have to take it seriously.
I remember at times bringing test print shirts home for my daughter to cut up in her room so we could save money on buying rags and on recycling, or my son coming in to help clean screens for screen printing. So, they have always been around it.
Fast forward to now. Our daughter, Angelena Potter, who is now 20 years old, has been managing our shipping/receiving department since she was 17. She knows how to help in customer service, embroidery, sewing, heat pressing, and much more. She has really grown into the position and taken the lead, which has been a massive help to our company’s growth.
Our 17-year-old son Ayden has, over the past few years, truly acquired a hunger for production as he knows how to clean screens, produce them, operate manual and automated screen-printing presses, run our new direct-to-film printer, and much more.
So, the point of all of this? A few weeks ago, my son told me that next year when he graduates high school, he wants to come on full-time and learn to become the production manager to help me and to back up all the managers in our company. I asked him why, since it was never our plan to have the kids work full-time in the business. He gave the best answer I could have ever wanted to hear! “Dad, I do not want anyone else who is not family running or owning our company.”
The following week, my daughter and son approached my wife and I together. It is never good when they both show up wanting to talk … They basically wanted to talk about the future of the company and how they wanted to take it over together to keep it going, which, to be honest, caught us by surprise. We never would have guessed that they wanted in for the long haul after watching how hard we worked to keep up with the success and growth of the business.
When your kids or any family members come to you with that type of conversation, it really starts to make you think about life and puts everything into perspective for the long haul. So, my wife and I sat down and talked about the future and what it entails for both of us.
We immediately had our living will revised so that everything will go in equal shares to our children except for how the business is set up. My son will take over my shares, and my daughter will take over her mother’s since we are an NYSWBE-certified company, and everything else will be put into a trust for them until they are 25 years old.
That was part one to help protect them financially and to ensure the company stays in the hands of family. Part two will be training both kids over the next two years to manage finances, buy product, develop pricing, maximize buying power, and more so that they learn everything now. This will not only prepare them for the future, but it will also help us ramp up our growth since we know both kids care about the company as much as we do.
As business owners, each day we are focused on growth, day-to-day operation, and simply keeping the lights on, and we never truly think about retirement or who will take over/own our company one day. I am truly thankful that my children want to be in the business and take it over. It was never the plan, but it does make me proud that my wife and I have built something that they truly want to take over for all of the right reasons.