By Lea Hensel, UNI Business and Community Services
We all love our family. And for some of you, the idea of working with family could send shivers down your spine but millions of businesses are operated and run by family, and it works for many of them.In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 90% of American businesses are family-owned or controlled, accounting for 50% of the nation’s employment and 50% of the Gross National Product.
This month, we wanted the spotlight to focus on family business so I talked with Melissa Friedhof-Rodgers, manager of Ross’ Restaurant in Bettendorf, IA.
Harold Ross opened the Quad Cities restaurant in 1965 and today daughter, Cynthia Ross-Freidhof and her husband Ron own the restaurant, with granddaughter, Melissa Freidhof-Rodgers, holding down the fort for the past 15 years as manager.
Aside from being family-run with Melissa in place to carry on “Harold Ross’ all-natural, home-cooked vision into the third generation,” the restaurant is well-known as being a place that feels like home. Even when national media outlets reach out to Ross’, which actually happens pretty often, they ask about what makes Ross’ so family-oriented.
“It was my grandfather’s dream,” Melissa explains. “His dream was to come back from the Navy and open a restaurant that felt like home.” Over 50 years later, it’s still doing that and Melissa shared three reasons she thinks it’s been able to continue through all these years.
First of all, long-term staff. Ross’ is unique in that they have staff retire from the restaurant after decades of working there so aside from just taking care of their employees, the employees also build relationships with those visiting the restaurants. So community members get to know their servers as well and even customers who have moved away stop back to see their childhood server when they visit the area.
So that means they’ve been serving families for generations. Some for even six generations! There’s a shared history there between the restaurant and the community.
The restaurant itself is not just in the community, it has transcended to become part of the community. It’s everyone that makes it special and what it has been and continues to be for the community.
Advice for Working with Family
One of the most difficult parts of working with your family can be just that, working with your family. Melissa provides three strong pieces of advice on how to handle that.
Separate your family relationships from your business relationships.
Leave the emotion out and think objectively about what’s best for the business.
Have a succession plan in place.
If you're the founder of your business, it can be hard to think about letting someone else run it. I was excited to get some insight from Melissa on this topic since Ross’ has gone through three generations of the family. She shared two pieces of advice for succession planning.
It’s ideal to have the plan in place before the next generation comes of age. She credits a lot of Ross’ survival to new and fresh ideas to make the business thrive and reinventing as needed throughout multiple generations.
Preferably someone outside of the family needs to put together the plan helping reduce any potential conflict. Plus, this helps keep the family and business relationships separate.
In the End
All in all, when it comes to working with family, Melissa says to be sure to keep the business and family relationship separate, be objective about the business, and make sure you have good staff surrounding you so you can easily delegate shared responsibilities. Through three generations, Ross’ shows no signs of slowing down.