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Family-owned businesses share their secrets for success and sanity, 2008

Family-owned businesses share their secrets for success and sanity


Family-owned businesses share their secrets for success and sanity, 2008

Unconditional Love
While Cerreta is certainly a household name in the Valley, one of the most recognizable business names in Arizona is Bashas’. The family-owned Bashas’ Family of Stores has been around since Ike and Eddie Basha Sr. founded the supermarket and food services company in 1932. At the time, every family member worked for just one market, helping to fulfill the needs of the surrounding community. These days, the company is run by CEO and Chairman Eddie Basha Jr. and Johnny Basha, Ike’s son. Johnny’s first summer job, in fact, was serving as a carryout for Bashas’ when he was 13 years old.

Today, Johnny has moved up from bagging groceries and now steers the cart of the company as vice chairman and senior vice president of real estate for the Bashas’ stores, which include Food City and AJ’s Fine Foods. And it’s not a small feat: Bashas’ is in the top 10 of the largest companies in Arizona with more than 13,000 employees.

Johnny says there are many keys to the company’s success, but at the heart of it all is keeping in sight what really matters: community and compassion.

“These values were instilled in us from the beginning, from our grandmother and family matriarch, Najeeby,” Johnny says. “These values have left an indelible impression on the manner in which our company operates. While so much has changed, our philosophy has remained the same.”

Going Global, Family Style
While globalization of business and consolidation of all form and size continue to dominate the business scene in Arizona and around the world, many might see family-owned firms going the way of the dinosaur. After all, how can nice, family-owned companies with solid morals run with the bulls on Wall Street? Very well, actually, according to family business experts.

Poza believes there has never been a better time to operate a family-owned business.

“Small businesses, including family-owned operations, can succeed globally and, in fact, thrive,” Poza says. “They are nimble. They react faster to market niches and focuses and are able to keep the decisions where decisions can get made — with the family.”

Katie Pushor, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, agrees, noting that often, family-owned businesses are usually small at the onset, but with a vision and a passion for a new niche in the market.

“That’s been the story since Adam and Eve opened their first apple stand and it’s still happening in Phoenix today,” she says.

Family-owned businesses, Poza adds, are also able to ride out downturns in market cycles. Family businesses are usually in the game for the long haul and are not consumed by the quick buck, an intriguing idea since the average life of a company in the U.S. is 14 years and the average CEO is in the hot seat for less than three years, according to research cited by Poza.

“There are definitely advantages to owning and operating a family business,” Johnny Basha says. “Since we do not suffer from the bureaucracy of a major corporation, we are able to make relatively quick decisions considering the size of our company. Additionally, given that we are not beholden to Wall Street, we can take a long-term perspective in managing the organization. We can invest in assets that will benefit the company long term, rather than just satisfying quarterly metrics.”

Basha also likes to point to the upside of steering your own ship.

“Each morning, as I enter my office, I am met with the portrait of my father that hangs behind my desk,” he says. “His presence reminds me that my office sits on the same concrete slab as our first grocery store, built by my father in the 1930s. It is a great honor to continue his legacy, and that is by far the greatest reward of operating a family-owned business.”

Keeping it Clean
For Chad and Trisha Belnap, a Mesa couple who have owned and operated their own family business, Pure Flooring, since 2002, the dream of combining small business and family has turned out to be a match made in heaven. The company has experienced nearly 15 to 20 percent annual growth, and like many family-owned businesses, the Belnaps utilize a distinct division of responsibilities: Trisha handles the paperwork and data side, while Chad and his crew handle the day-to-day fieldwork.

“I enjoy being able to have success and being able to share that with my wife,” Chad says. “She gets so excited for me to have the business successes that we both work so hard for.”

Of course, it is not all hearts and flowers. Belnap cites health care and insurance as ongoing challenges. Still, he firmly believes small and family-owned businesses are the bread-and-butter of any economy.

“For long-term growth in any business, someone has to be responsible for the success and failure of the choices that are made by any company,” Belnap says. “I am glad that responsibility lies with me because it affects me and my family the most. The buck, literally, stops with me.”all in the family

Joan Koerber-Walker, CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association, notes that many of her members are family-owned and report they feel such pressures as access to capital, access to technology and health care concerns. Still, these are a challenge for all businesses. When you throw in the family element — the drama, the sibling rivalry — it becomes all the more complex. There also needs to be aline to draw in the sand, Koerber-Walker adds.

“Business doesn’t make good pillow talk,” she says. “Not only do family-businesses need to focus on the business, they need to focus on the family. That’s a huge challenge.”

At the end of the day, though, business is business and family is family. For veteran business owners such as James Cerreta, it continues to be a recipe — much like his chocolate — for success.

“It is a wonderful experience working with your family,” he says. “It’s important to realize a family and a business can operate simultaneously. But it is important to keep a focus on the business at hand. There are, after all, priorities in life.”

AZ Business Magazine July 2008 |