For Family-Owned Companies, Don’t Rest Laurels on Past Generation’s Business Practices
Family management teams can carve their own path as opposed to sticking to what’s worked in the past.
I won’t tell you how old Josh Garner is, but I am old enough to be his father. And because his father is Rod Garner, one of my oldest friends in the alarm industry, I’ve known Josh almost from the time he was born. Josh Garner is the president, CEO and majority stockholder of AvantGuard Monitoring Centers, located in Utah and one of the fastest growing wholesale monitoring companies in the country.
When Garner joined the company, it had a pretty good size customer base. In the eight years that he has run AvantGuard, Garner and his management team have quadrupled the number of monitored accounts, opened up several new divisions, and moved into new headquarters that’s among the nicest in the industry. He was recently named one of Utah’s top 40 business executives under 40 by Ogden’s Standard Examiner.
I asked Garner our signature “If you had just one really great idea …” question, with a twist: to direct his response to his age group of people who are working or managing family-owned businesses. My estimation is that fully a third of the alarm companies operating today are either run by or have as part of their management team another family member, usually offspring. Garner was quick to answer, “Don’t rest on your laurels or your connections to family in the business. Seek out your own path, create your own niche and always, always keep growing.” I thought that was the basis of a good column, but before I could thank him he continued, “Always stay relevant, keep younger people around you and always be thinking outside of the box. Just because somebody in your family was successful, that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful in your own right.”
In 2008, Garner joined AvantGuard. A few years later, he bought out his father. Now as CEO, he helps decide where the resources are used and develops the programs necessary to stay on the cutting edge. Case in point, through his young eyes several years ago he saw and fully grasped the aging of America – and the host of ancillary issues and problems that it presents. What caused me to think about the work Garner’s company does was a recent incident that happened to me.
Don’t rest on your laurels or your connections to family in the business. Seek out your own path, create your own niche and always, always keep growing.
I’m a pretty healthy guy; I walk three miles a day and can still do 100 push-ups daily. Recently I was putting a large storm door, well over 100 pounds, into a track leading out to our patio. I was on the outside. I’m not sure what happened – either the door was heavier than I anticipated or I slipped – but one minute I was standing holding the door, the next minute I was on the floor with the door on top of me. Fortunately, the glass didn’t break, and I saw that a corner of the door had caught on a coffee table which kept it from crashing onto my head. But it was too heavy for me to move and if I tried to wiggle free, I might bring the entire thing down on my head. I couldn’t help but think of the often-mocked, “Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” – except it was true.
My wife was at the other end of the house and couldn’t hear me calling. My cellphone was on a table, out of reach. The door was moving ever-so-slightly from its precarious balance on the coffee table, and frankly, I was getting scared. Thankfully, a neighbor heard me and alerted her husband who came to my rescue, lifted the door, and then went off bragging to the rest of the neighborhood that he had saved my life! In reality, he did.
Don’t Be Afraid to Stray From What’s Familiar
It hit home during that incident how Josh Garner saw something significant that many in the industry did not. With the aging of the Baby Boomers, there was a huge market developing for PERS (personal emergency response systems). Garner recognized the potential impact early on and has built a huge business in that arena.
When Garner took over the monitoring operation, it was a traditional operation. He was also competing with hundreds of other wholesale monitoring providers. By differentiating what his company did, he was also differentiating the business offering and its value to potential customers – and it worked.
If you find yourself working in the family business, especially one in which a father or mother has been particularly successful, it might pay to look around, see what other people are doing to protect themselves and develop niche that becomes unique (and hopefully profitable) to you and to your business. All of a sudden you will find you are your own person, and that’s a good feeling!
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