There’s not much about my work that I actively dislike.
If you put me on the spot and asked me to name the one part of the job I could do without, I’d finger those long, silent stretches spent wrangling staccato thoughts into fluent sentences. I’m not the only solo practitioner who spends hours on end in solitude, staring at a glowing screen, but I don’t have much opportunity to commiserate with kindred spirits. Most of my fellow coworkers — nominal peers — work in teams. They occasionally have to open their mouths and communicate with their colleagues the old-fashioned way.
No surprise, then, that I relish opportunities to break out of my cocoon and talk to folks whose day-to-days are far more interesting than mine.
One such opportunity I’ll remember fondly for quite some time was a Minnesota Business magazine story (update: no longer live due to Minnesota Business mag’s closure) that got me up close and personal with three Minneapolis-area family businesses: Bachman’s, Celarity, and EDCO.
The multigenerational crews at Bachman’s and Celarity were kind enough to welcome me into their offices. I spoke with EDCO’s president and CEO, a family confidante that the owners trust enough to keep on a very long leash. We spoke about the awkwardness inherent in working alongside blood relatives, the inevitable blurring of professional and personal lines, the persistent and by many accounts deepening challenges facing closely held small and midsize businesses today.
My three subjects were all unique, obviously.
Bachman’s is a storied horticulture chain with florist shops in about two dozen Lunds & Byerlys supermarkets and a handful of full-service garden centers scattered around the metro area.
Celarity is a creative staffing firm that’s managed to stay one step ahead of wrenching marketplace changes. (After speaking at length with Marlene Phipps, Celarity’s principal, and capable sons John and Robert Arnold, I get how.)
EDCO is a pioneering siding company that’s gradually branched out to produce a full lineup of residential exterior products.
But all three have something in common: they’ve persevered through at least one generational transition. Bachman’s has four under its belt. When the easier path for founders and second-generation owners is to sell out to larger competitors or private equity masters of the universe, that alone is worthy of celebration.
These three companies were kind enough to open their doors and ease me out of my writer’s cocoon. For that, I’m eternally grateful.