A Look At Family Business

By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Mercy College’s Dr. Mark Sirkin, a psychologist who has been consulting family businesses since 1994, said there are many advantages to working with family, like knowing all of the players in the game and shared values and expectations. But the same familiarities can lead to drawbacks.

The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.

Mergers, acquisitions and Wall Street mega-deals might headline the daily economic news, but family businesses, where adult children work with or for their parents, is still alive and well in the Valley — and the U.S., according to the Family Business Alliance, Wilkes University.

“Family-owned businesses are central to the U.S. economy,” said Sue Reilly, executive director, Family Business Alliance, on Thursday. In addition, she said, “Family owned businesses contribute 64 percent of the U.S. GDP (that’s $5.9 trillion), employ 62 percent of the workforce, and are responsible for 78 percent of all new job creation.

Nearly 5.5 million businesses in the U.S. are family owned.

“There’s something special about working for your father, especially if you’ve grown up ‘shadowing’ him, going where he goes and admiring his energy and dedication,” said Vanessa Venios, of Milton.

Dr. Jessica Pagana DeFazio has worked with her father, John Pagana, for 17 years, and sees him not only as a partner but also as a senior advisor.

Another advantage of working with your father is being able to call on his experience. “You can’t call your partner at 2 a.m., but you can call your dad at 2 a.m,” DeFazio said, laughing.

Mercy College’s Dr. Mark Sirkin, a psychologist who has been consulting family businesses since 1994, said there are many advantages to working with family, like knowing all of the players in the game and shared values and expectations. But the same familiarities can lead to drawbacks.

The key to maintaining a balance is communication of expectations from both sides.

“Very often, because of the deep level of understanding people are often resistant to putting things down on paper,” he said .

Sirkin, a father himself, said parents and children should determine when a working child will become owner or part owner, how much they will be paid and how regularly they will get raises.

Sirkin said when a family business goes poorly it can be a source of friction that can last a lifetime, but can be an incredibly rewarding experience when it does work out.

“People feel as though they are continuing their family values — what’s important,” he said. “Often it’s not about the money.”

On this Father’s Day we celebrate four business relationships between dads and their children, who’ve decided, in some cases, to come back to the Valley to work the family businesses.

In Milton, a daughter returns from Philadelphia to help market an organizaton; in Sunbury, two doctors, two generations, join forces; also in Sunbury, two pharmacists, a father and son who each spent years working in large chain stores, came together in an independent business; and in Danville, twin daughters stayed home and helped dad run a florist and gift shop.

Doctors in the house
Jessica Pagana DeFazio never felt any pressure in working with her father, John Pagana, one of the most respected physicians in the Sunbury area over the past 40 years.

“I did feel some pressure,” she admitted, “in trying to fill his shoes.”

But about two years ago, she sat down with Pagana and said “Dad, I’m not you. I’m not there like you are.’ He told me to be who I am and do what’s best for yourself.”

DeFazio said she wasn’t pressured into becoming a doctor.

“I did think early on about being a doctor,” she said Friday. “I knew I was good at science. I knew I was good with people, but I put that on the back-burner and tried a number of different things. I tried marine biology, I tried chemistry, physics. But I always came back to medicine. In my junior year I decided to go to medical school.”

Pagana was thrilled when his daughter said she wanted to come back to Sunbury and join the practice.

“I had other people come and want to practice with me,” he said Friday. “She and I have been together 15 years and never had an argument. Never. She is so easy to get along with. I’m not that way. We do have similar personalities, When I was in between medical school and residency, I painted houses. I would take her with me, and she was 10 months old. I took care of her while my wife was doing student teaching. We had a close bond right there.”

DeFazio said working with her dad has been pretty special.

“A father daughter relationship is special to begin with,” she said. But it’s great “to be able to work every day with your father and to be able to say, ‘hey,’ when he’s at the other end of the hall and you can ask for help.”

“I have learned a lot from her as well,” Pagana said. “Jess is up to date on everything. New guidelines. Technology. Computers aren’t my friends. Women have a special relationship in medicine. They are really good doctors. Both my daughters. Women have a tendency to really listen, better than men. They make good doctors.

“I am really proud of all my kids,” Pagana added. “I like who they are and the fun we have together.”

Father and twin daughters are florists (Scott’s Floral, Danville)

As they were growing up in Danville, twins Holly Edwards Hoffman and Heather Marks, 36, never expected to wind up working with their father, Scott Edwards, at his business, Scott’s Floral, which started in the 1970s.

Holly was on track to become a teacher; Heather had more of a marketing and public relations background.

“We sort of fell into the business,” Heather said with a smile. “And one of the benefits of that is that it’s been great working with my dad and sister.”

The two women have drawn clear lines as to their responsibilities in the business, which prevents any conflicts of interest.

“We all work well together,” Holly said. “We each do our own thing.”

Holly does the arranging and wedding designs, for example, while Heather does marketing and issues involving computers.

Scott agrees. “I don’t have to worry much. If I need a design or arrangement done, I know Holly can do it, and do a great job. That’s what she has a sense of naturally.”

They believe they learned their work ethic watching their father while growing up.

“I know he worked hard on the business, and I think we all picked up on that,” Heather said.

Scott is proud of both Heather and Holly — he has another daughter, not in the family business — but he never directed them into any particular profession. “I wouldn’t have done that. This is something they came to on their own. I’m glad, of course, that they did. And I’m very glad to work with them.”

Holly, Heather and Scott said sometimes their family life bleeds over into their professional life.
“It’s inevitable, I suppose,” Scott said. “Sometimes we’ll be at home, all of us, and we wind up talking about the store.”

If there is an issue that has to be dealt with one way or another, both Heather and Holly are very competent and can deal with the situation, Scott indicated.

Working with their parents does add a certain amount of stress to their job.

“It’s only natural to want to do a great job when you’re working with your parent,” Holly said. “Wherever I work I want to do well, but working with my father is something special. Yeah, it does add some pressure. But it’s also more satisfying.”

Father and son pharmacists (Medicap Pharmacy, Sunbury)
When he was a child, Matthew Balliet, of Northumberland, said he wanted to be just like his dad.
When he grew up, that’s exactly what he did.

Balliet and his father, Harry, run and own Medicap Pharmacy in Sunbury, and have been working together now for three years, Matthew said.

Prior to that both father and son were pharmacists for chain stores.

“Growing up I always took interest in what my dad was doing, his profession,” Matthew said. “And sometime in high school I made the decision that this was what I was going to do.”

Meanwhile, with his son in college, the elder Balliet began to think that if Matthew was going to become a pharmacist, “eventually we might go out on our own.”

Now, working together, they split the work.

“Dad helps out more with the financial aspects of the business, and makes those kinds of decisions, the operational side on a daily basis,” Matthew said. “From a pharmacy standpoint, pills, counseling, we share knowledge back and forth.”

Matthew said he’s learned a lot from his dad, early on. “I shadowed him,” he said. “In high school, I saw how he interacted with customers. Everyone has their own way of treating customers. He holds customers in high regard and I do as well. I try to teach him a little on the computer every day. Reliance upon computers and technology is his biggest challenge.”

I think you always want to do well for your parents,” Matthew continued. “Having a relationship with a parent at work, I think that puts a little extra stress in making sure that things are done the right way, that you are making them proud at the end of the day.

For the most part “with us business is business and family is family…even when we’re working,” Matthew said.

Father and Daughter Reunion
Vanessa Venios never thought she’d be working with her father, George Venios, executive director of TIME, The Improved Milton Experience, a non-profit focused on community revitalization.

And he never thought he’d work with his daughter, although she used to shadow him as she was growing up, he said Thursday.

“We’re a lot alike,” George said.

“I’m like his mini-me,” Vanessa said. “I finish his sentences.”

When she moved away from Milton and lived near Philadelphia, she worked in marketing and sales.

“Dad was working on Beerfest and I thought, ‘Yeah, I’d like to help my dad out.'” she said. “I also knew that philanthropy was something I enjoy doing naturally. It dawned on me this year that it would be fun to work with my dad. He’s not getting any younger, so I figured to help him out. I’d like to see him slowly retire and I could pick up the slack.”

Venios was looking to grow the TIME organization. Activities and events had increased and he was looking for someone to help with marketing.

Vanessa was the ideal choice, he said.

“Now she reports to me and I report to the board of directors,” George said. “I believe in a lot of flexibility and empowerment so I’ve encouraged her to be as independent as possible. And to be responsible and come up with innovative ideas. I’m pretty hands off with what she does.”

To be successful, his daughter had to have a real sense of hometown pride, George said. “She has that. I think my community involvement, she saw that as she grew up here and maybe that rubbed off on her. That’s a quality she has. We work well together. Our personalities are similar. We like to party,” he laughed.

“My dad puts no pressure on me,” Vanessa said. “Everyday he says he’s proud of me. He says I do a good job even if I don’t. I could live anywhere. I’m free, single. I could go to Florida if I wanted to. I could live in Greece, but I’m here with my dad. I love working with him.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top