All in the Family
Family-owned businesses share their secrets for success and sanity
By Greg and Cori Sexton
At 15, Buddy Stubbs had his first major ride: a 1954, KHK 900cc, two-wheel rocket he proudly roared around the streets of Decatur, Ill. By the early 1960s, Stubbs was on the racing circuit, eventually winning the Daytona 100 in 1963. Stubbs would seek further adventure over the next several decades doing motorcycle stunts in Hollywood.
Still, perhaps his biggest gamble was opening the first Harley-Davidson dealership in the Valley in 1966. Today, Stubbs owns and operates Buddy Stubbs Arizona Harley-Davidson with his two sons, Frank and Jack. For the Stubbs clan, working together with family has been a natural evolution over the years. And surprisingly, the Stubbs family, like
numerous other Arizona businesses run by family members, has found the experience extremely rewarding with little disharmony and one with great success.
So, what’s the key?
“We communicate with each other constantly, not only about business matters, but also personal matters,” Buddy says. “Occasionally business matters will create tension, but we are always able to make the best of any scenario. Family comes first and always will.”
Like many family businesses, the Stubbs’ have a definitive breakdown of responsibilities — which helps define the business while creating boundaries and clear areas of expertise. For Jack, the transition into family and business was natural.
“We grew up around motorcycles, spending a considerable amount of time at the dealership when we were young,” he recalls. “Since we developed the same passion for the business and industry as our father, it only seemed natural to get involved at an early age.”
And when you throw in the cool factor of working with motorcycles, it is a dream job waiting to happen.
“Who wouldn’t want to be involved with such a great brand and company as Harley-Davidson?” Frank asks. “I love working with motorcycles, people and family every day. It’s an exciting, fun and rewarding job. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. As a child, my father always seemed to enjoy his job and expressed a passion for motorcycles. We were also taught success does not come for free or without hard work.”
A Green Thumb
Over the years, Andre has worked with his wife, Claudia, among other family members. Like others, Andre cites “trust and confidence” as key factors propelling the family-operated business.
“You know your backsides are covered,” he laughs.
Andre has also pioneered other successful businesses over the years in the Valley. Still, he notes the challenges and differences family members have had over the years have made every step of the way a learning and growing experience.
“It is a great joy to work with your family,” he says. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
A Family’s Best Friend
Marshall says besides working with family, another strategic move his business made was buying and renovating its own building, the Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard location he’s owned since 1995. Again, family played a major role in that decision and family continues to grow the business.
“We all get along well, we understand each other and know the needs of the company,” Marshall says. “Of course, trust is a big thing in any business and it’s good to know that your family won’t stab you in the back.”
James B. Cerreta gets to work every day with his family at the Cerreta Candy Company in much the same way his father did decades ago, growing the business and passing it along to future generations of the clan.
“It’s like a family picnic at the park every day,” laughs Cerreta, who works with his father, James. J. Cerreta, his sister, Jennifer, and his three brothers, Joe, Jerry and Jonathan. “We enjoy each other and we have for all these years. Of course, there are little things that pop up, but because we love each other and the business, we make it work.”
Much like the Cerreta’s story, which began in Ohio in the 1930s with James’ grandfather, Ben Heggy, making chocolate, a family-owned business starts as a dream — an alluring entrepreneurial concept or idea percolating in some form or another. In Arizona, there are thousands of family-owned businesses toiling away each and every day — at the office and at the home and, sometimes, both.
Ernesto Poza, professor of Global Family Enterprise at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, has worked with family-owned enterprises for more than 30 years. He says families often start businesses with the underlying idea of growing a successful company and passing it down from generation to generation. The first generation, the foundation, is usually easy.
“When the kids join is when it gets complicated,” notes Poza, adding that functions are often assigned (i.e., sales, marketing, business development) to certain sons and daughters tackling certain aspects of the company.
Difficulties often ensue during transition periods, when children might want to change the original focus of the co
mpany, or when a parent has to face the fact that perhaps the designated heir may not be up the challenge of running the family business.