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The Importance of Fundamentals: Family Businesses on Essentials for Success

By Tom Bidinger, Copywriter | Epicor Software | January 30, 2020

Golfer Bob Tway knows a thing or two about the importance of fundamentals. As a PGA TOUR professional, he’s dedicated his entire career to mastering them.

Getting better at golf takes patience, a strong work ethic, and a solid handle on the basics. “If you have the proper fundamentals, they don’t change: Good grip, good alignment, good posture, decent swing plane …,” Tway says. His dedication to the sport propelled him to a 1986 PGA Championship. “If you have the proper fundamentals they don’t change."

Now, his son, Kevin Tway, is also a PGA TOUR pro. “Watching him practice and prepare for tournaments just shows how much time it takes to get at the level I want to be at,” Kevin says.

The Tway family’s commitment to golf exemplifies how many family businesses operate. Discipline and dedication are behaviors they need to succeed. And much like religiously practicing at the driving range, family businesses practice a set of strong fundamentals to sustain and achieve higher levels of success. Here, we talk to two multigenerational family businesses about their insight on work ethic and the importance of fundamentals for business.

Leadership That Inspires People

In the lawn and garden industry, the Weston Nurseries family business is a 96-year-old retailer located in Massachusetts. Company President, Peter Mezitt, says, “I grew up in a production nursery environment and worked on the farm as a child. Any type of farming is hard, physical work, and I really enjoyed putting in a hard day’s work and seeing the results. That type of mentality needs to carry over to who we are today.”

The Mezitt family says business fundamentals including leadership, strategy, and a focus on people play a big role in their success. Good leaders inspire good followers, and whether you’re selling perennials in New England or working on your golf swing in Oklahoma, strong leadership is essential to business success.

Research from the Center for Creative Leadership shows that great leaders consistently display the following traits:

  • Honesty
  • Ability to delegate
  • Communication
  • Sense of humor
  • Confidence
  • Commitment
  • Positive attitude
  • Creativity
  • Ability to inspire
  • Intuition

For the most part, Peter Mezitt agrees. “It starts with how we communicate with each other,” he says. “Our management team focuses on organization health. We work hard to lead by example and treat one another with respect so that our entire staff engages in a positive and respectful manner. If we all feel good about our working environment, it rubs off on our customers,” Mezitt explains. Customers can pick up on the vibe of a business within seconds.” “It’s up to us … to always have our finger on the pulse and determine where our company needs to go next.”

Confidence and intuition from Creative Leadership’s list are among important fundamentals that New Jersey-based family business Warshauer Electric Supply uses. The company is an electrical wholesaler and distributor that began in 1954. Mike Warshauer is general manager and represents the third generation to join the family business. His father, Jim, is CEO. “One major philosophy that’s stuck with me is Dad’s emphasis on always fighting to stay relevant and dynamic in the market,” Mike says. “It’s up to us … to always have our finger on the pulse and determine where our company needs to go next.”

Business Strategy That Drives Goals

Creating long-term success is a fundamental practice that drives vision, profit, and growth. And strategic planning is much more than a once a year retreat.

An emphasis on long-term success and customer satisfaction is part of the business strategy at Weston Nurseries. “Every year, we select a ‘thematic goal’ that we must accomplish and agree to support,” Mezitt explains. A thematic goal is a rallying cry supported by leaders that galvanizes employees and is ultimately shared by the entire organization.

“Our thematic goals have been achieved at varying degrees of success—some great, some not so much—but they’ve all helped move our company forward into new areas or new ways of doing business,” Mezitt says. “I also think a fundamental of any family business is to focus on long-term success rather than the short-term gain.”

Emphasis on People

“All businesses are really in the people business,” Mezitt says. Jim Warshauer agrees, “This is a relationship business … what separates us are our people.”

“Treating people with respect is part of a two-way street to help foster teamwork,” writes Adam Bryant in The New York Times. He’s managing director of an executive mentoring firm and creator of the NYT series, Corner Office, which covers 525 chief executives and how they lead. “At the same time, leaders also need to hold everyone on their team accountable for their work and role on the team,” he says.

That belief aligns with how Weston Nurseries’ operates. “Productivity is one of the things we measure, and it’s fundamental to running a profitable organization,” Mezitt says. “If people are being productive, customers notice in so many different ways and feel good about giving us their business.”

Customer experience is also a big part of the people equation. “Unlike a larger company, smaller businesses can provide customers with a more intimate experience that makes people feel valued and appreciated,” Mezitt says.

Building Blocks

“Even though I’ve been running my business for over 40 years, I continue to adapt and learn new things every day,” says Jim Warshauer. Jim also strives to understand what his millennial son, Mike, wants and needs to be successful. “I’m anxious for our new leadership team to do their own thing, make mistakes, and then figure out what’s best for Warshauer Electric’s long-term future,” he says.

The best thing about solid business fundamentals is they’re tried and true building blocks for a family business’s future. They’re the philosophies and practices that reach across the years for new generations to shape. In Bob Tway’s view, “Give them the opportunity and it evolves from there.”

Whether it’s your business or your golf game, watch the 3 episode Tway video series for inspiration. Never stop learning.

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