Family is Everything

“Family is everything” was the headline of a recent ad by the S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., makers of well-known products like Ziploc®, Windex®, Pledge®, Raid®, Glade® and many more. The company is located less than 20 miles from where I live in southeastern Wisconsin. The ad included a message from Fisk Johnson, the 5th generation Johnson. He wrote, “Family is everything, a thought that is with me every moment of the day. As a father – as a 5th generation Johnson. For years, we’ve said the SC Johnson is a family company – but I just want to take a minute to explain what that really means.”He went on to write, “To start, it means that we don’t report to Wall Street. The decisions we make come down to caring for you and the world we share – not what analysts want to hear. And quite frankly, that doesn’t always mean doing what’s easy. But when I go to bed at night, I know what we’re trying to do is right. It also means that all those products you’ve come to trust over the years – you can trust that they’re made with your family’s interest in mind.” He closed his comments with, “To us, family is more than a relation. It’s our inspiration. Inspiration to care. To try to do what’s right. To always do better.”

I think this philosophy of doing business is reflected by many in the boating industry. Back on March 26th, I wrote an article entitled “Third & Fourth Generation Marine Distributors Going Strong” that featured long time aftermarket distributors MESCO, Keller Marine & RV and Lorenz & Jones Marine Distributors – each now being run by third or fourth generation family members. I know that each of these distributors operates on the same principles that made SC Johnson the quality company it is today.

And, as I said in the opening sentence of the March 26 blog article, “Over the years I have known a lot of second and third generation dealers in the boat business.” I was pleased to get nice comments from some of these dealers like what the following wrote:

John Underwood, former owner of Lockwood Marine

“Good article, Ben. I was the second generation in our family’s mechanical equipment supply business. My son runs it now, and my grandson runs the shop for him. Family businesses are certainly a great stabilizer for families, but the pesky things have to be re-invented every few years to keep them ticking.” So John’s mechanical equipment supply business now has a fourth generation in the business. And he makes a good point about family businesses needing to re-invent themselves every few years.

Jared Lacefield – Bohner Lacefield Marine

“Mr. Ben Sherwood, I just read your article on third & fourth generation marine distributors. I found it to be a great article showing the power of family owned businesses in tough economic times. I am a fourth generation family member in our marine dealership, which has been family owned and operated since 1939. Just as you stated in your article ‘I concluded they have survived and done well by working harder and smarter.’ This is exactly what our family business has had to do in order to endure these past several years of economic turmoil. The great thing about being not only family owned but nearly entirely family operated is that every aspect of the business is being run by an individual who takes the well being of the business very personally. I see a bright future ahead for our family owned business, one which will shine for decades to come. Thank you for the insight, which you continue to provide to businesses across the marine industry, it is greatly appreciated in these tough times. Thank you, Jared Lacefield

Larry Russo, Russo Marine

“We are now celebrating our 70th year in business and the third generation is in full control. We launched a succession plan in 1999, and all of the company stock has been passed from the second to the third generation over the past ten years. Our son Larry Jr., now 38 years old, is the general manger and his brother Alex, now 38 years old, is the operations manager. They run the day-to-day operations of the company. My wife Bee maintains an administrative role and I am most active in a marketing capacity. The company was founded in 1940 by my father John Russo and my mother Sandy. John Russo was a founding member of the Massachusetts Marine Trades and the New England Marine Trades Associations in the 1950’s and 1960’s.”

The above are excellent examples of family owned marine businesses that continue to set high standards for others in the business. If your business is a second, third or even fourth generation family dealership, marine manufacturer or distributor, I would love to hear comments from you.

About Ben H. Sherwood

Ben H. Sherwood is a marine industry veteran and a marketing consultant who operates Sherwood Marine Marketing in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. For more info, click About on the main menu.

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