Posted on Tue, Jun. 12, 2012
Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald Staff
Patrick Range, right, and his son, Patrick Range Jr, at their family Range Funeral Home, located at 5727 NW 17th Ave.
When David Grossman decided the family surgical practice needed a website, his father resisted. “He just thinks differently and couldn’t see the benefits.” But David pressed on. He showed his dad how the website could help patients access forms, learn about possible complications and share experiences. “Now, he sees that it’s an important component of our medical practice.”
Such generational differences are happening in workplaces across the country, but in father-son businesses, the stakes are high. Despite a turbulent few years, family businesses remain a substantial force in the national and global economies. But keeping the business in the family takes the ability to work through assumptions, expectations and differences. The fact is, only one-third of family-owned businesses survive to the second generation.
For fathers and sons, the dynamics are complex. “The level of emotion that exists in a father and son business can be profound,” says Drew Mendoza, managing principal of The Family Business Consulting Group in Chicago.
Today’s Gen X sons think differently than their boomer dads. They bring technology skills and innovation to most workplaces, along with a desire for work-life balance. While dads still bring experience and passion, many struggle to understand a mindset where productivity doesn’t necessarily mean facetime. Even more, the relationship between fathers and sons who work together today tends to differ from the past: many consider themselves partners rather than mentor-mentee.
As the country gets ready to celebrate Father’s Day, many fathers and sons still dream of working side by side. Those who do it successfully offer insight and inspiration.
Patrick Range Jr. has been working alongside his father for the past five years. He gave up a prestigious position as a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig after his grandmother passed away in 2006 — “too much for my dad to run the business alone. I felt a responsibility to take an active role.” The company, started by his grandfather, runs three funeral homes serving the black communities of Miami-Dade County.
Patrick Jr., 35, says he has a different perspective than his 72-year-old dad: “I understand the younger generation and what their needs are.” Just last week, he helped a young woman plan a memorial service for her father. “She was not interested in having a traditional service with the deceased present.”
Initially, Patrick says his dad pushed back when he brought a different perspective to the decades old funeral business. “It’s taken some adjustment on both of our parts but we’ve learned when to back off and when to push. I think it’s benefitted the business.”
Patrick says a huge challenge has been the struggle for work-life balance. This is an area where he has pushed hard to change his father’s mindset: “I’ve encourage him to realize you do not have to be at your desk to function in an efficient manner. I’ve even forced him to take off one day a week.”