3 ways to improve a family-owned business


February 19, 2021


The ABC Home & Commercial Services family includes, from left, Landon, Rileigh, Ben and Tiffani Johnson; Vanessa and Michael Green holding their baby, Hudson; Kimberli and Raleigh Jenkins; Dylan and Cameo Jenkins with Bonnie, the dog; and Dylan and Gray Johnson. PHOTO: KAREN M PHOTOGRAPHY

Although it seems like there is a shift in the pest control industry toward acquisitions by corporate firms, it is still a comfort to remember plenty of companies are still family-owned and -operated.

At ABC Home & Commercial Services in Houston/Orlando, we certainly fall into the category of a family-owned business. Kim, my wife of 38 years, and I have three children. They and their spouses all work for ABC, and all eight of us are now working under one roof.

Currently, the ownership team consists of three baby boomers (the original executive team from 1986) and six “technically labeled” millennials. Although it was a bit of a rocky start for me as the primary decision maker for 35 years, I can see how individual team members’ perspectives and enthusiasm have made our company stronger and better. What follow are three strategies we’ve implemented to help us along the way.

1. Focus on ownership and communication.

When all of our children and their spouses became employed at ABC, it became apparent that there was a communication gap. Even though our kids were privy to some of the information within ABC, they were not a part of the “why,” and they expressed their frustration.

To keep them engaged and committed, our original three-member executive ownership team eventually transitioned to all six of the “kids” having a portion of ownership — and, therefore, a part of the decision-making process. This was a key component to our progress.

We hold a weekly ownership meeting to communicate concerns, discuss issues, design future plans, etc. The generational gap has become a moot issue because everyone has a seat at the table. These meetings provide a platform to prioritize individual and professional development for all of us.

2. Create an advisory board.

To help advise the entire team of owners, we asked three individuals to meet with us quarterly to help us with decisions, make recommendations and challenge us when needed.

Two advisory board members are outside of our industry, and they are very successful in their careers. The third is an industry family friend. Because of their personal and professional acumen, we highly value their input and direction. They help us with any stalemates, push us to think outside the box, and hold us accountable with one another.

3. Use a business counselor.

As a neutral third party, our business coach has been beneficial in assisting us with some difficult conversations with one another. He also has helped bridge the gap of understanding.

For example, Kim and I, as baby boomers, hold onto the idea that owners should be the first to arrive and the last to go home. But we have learned to be accepting of our children’s different idea of working hard: not longer, just smarter.

The counseling also helps us in our developmental process of leadership and communication. We focus on improving and growing as individuals, so we can be better at working together collectively. We know that, to have a healthy relationship with our whole company, we must continually work on our ownership team. I have found this has challenged us, yet we have benefited as a whole.

JENKINS, who rotates this column with his brothers Bobby and Dennis, is president of ABC Home & Commercial Services, Houston, Texas. He can be reached at rjenkins@goanteater.com.

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