Every Day is Father’s Day for These Family-Run Companies

Tom Kessman, who started the Kessman Group in 1972, not only has three sons helping to run the business, his wife and two daughters-in-law also work at the company. “The hardest thing is when we all want to go on vacation together,” he said. “It takes a lot of planning. Fortunately, we have good managers who can keep things going while we’re gone.” His painting company began in Ohio, and as he grew and saw the building boom in the West, they moved to Las Vegas in 2009. One of his key clients was Abercrombie and Fitch during their worldwide expansion. Kessman worked on 900+ stores all around the globe and became specialists in faux finish designs and one-of-a-kind wall finishes that make the Abercrombie stores distinctive.

Sons Sean, Jeff and Matt have been with the business for 15-20 years, but all had different plans after high school. They went off to college, with Sean pursuing accounting, Jeff was interested in a culinary career and Matt was the artist in the family. But one by one, they each decided that the family business was what they wanted to do. Tom believes it is important that kids really want to join the company. If it is just expected that they’ll join the family business and they don’t have the opportunity to explore other options, they may always wonder if they made the right decision. “A family business is not for everyone. It turned out to be a perfect solution for all of us,” he said. “We are creating our own destiny.”

The company doesn’t heavily promote that they are a family, and customers often don’t realize they’re a family until they hear someone call their head honcho Dad. “We operate like a big family with all 125 of our employees, which is great for everyone.” Learn more about the Kessman Group.

Bill Waddell founded Waddell Painting 50 years ago and now his two sons, Robert and Jonathan, are running the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. based company. “I still pop in every now and then,” said Bill, who is mostly retired, “just to remind them who started it all.”

Robert said that one of the challenges of working with family members is to keep the professional and the personal separate. Or as Bill joked, “everyone needs to learn how to keep their mouths shut and work out their own problems.” What they love about working together is that they get to see their family every day and have flexibility with schedules and family time.

The boys both started working with their dad in their early teens on weekends and during school vacations. They were expected to help, and as Robert points out, it was the best thing to happen to him and his brother. “Dad instilled a strong business ethic in us and now 20 years later we’re running the company,” he explained. “As kids, we were sort of forced into it until we wanted to do it. Now, we wouldn’t want to do anything else.” Jonathan adds that because they worked in the field for so many years, now when they’re estimating a project, they really know what it will take to do the job right.

The Waddells like to promote that they are a longstanding family business, feeling that people like to support local, multi-generation businesses and it conveys stability. Plus, as Robert pointed out, there is a pretty strong family resemblance, so right away people know that they’re related.

“It’s funny: when we’re estimating a job and a customer mentions that they worked with Dad 20 years ago…somehow they can’t understand why they’re not still getting the same price Bill gave them!”

Learn more about Waddell Painting and General Contracting.