They say “Mom knows best”, and the older I get, the more those wise words ring true. Today I am going to give you a little backstory on one of my most asked questions: “How do you navigate the succession and daily challenges of a second-generation family business?”
My mom worked a lot growing up. She had just started Camille Beckman a few years before I was born, and she was still in the stages where she did a lot of the work by hand with a small team, picking flowers and baby's breath every Saturday morning and hanging it to dry in the evening. The work week was spent in the office, retail store, or at trade shows. When I say my entire world growing up was Camille Beckman, that is no exaggeration. I was always with her, and she was always building this business, step-by-step. Whether I was sleeping in her office or alphabetizing papers, there was always something to do, even for a little kid. By the time I was in grade school, my father had left his job as an engineer to help support the operations and financial aspects of her company, and even my grandparents were making lip balms every Saturday morning while watching ‘The Price is Right’. This company was truly built to be a family affair. As I’ve gotten older, I realized how rare and precious that really is.
A lot of times when you get to the second generation of a business, family feuds get out of control and directions shift just enough to create a tailwind that knocks the breath out of the company and aligns it for an acquisition. The ‘suits’ come in and give you a reasonable sum to exit, and you’re out. With a lot of brands that’s a reasonable direction; but not with Camille Beckman. You see, this company isn’t just a brand; it’s my mother’s energy (and literal name) made manifest into an organization. The parts I love, the parts I find challenging; it’s all her. Unless that were to truly change, I don’t see how I could ever exit such an organization because I AM of her as well. I get a lot of questions about how I can handle working with my parents. While it feels easy to me now, it didn’t always feel that way. Especially in a family like mine, expectations are high and details are important. Looking back, there are three things that really made it easy for me to stay focused on the long term and not get frustrated by the challenges of succession, day-to-day operations, or the highs and lows of running a business.
1). I was treated like a part of the company from the start. That includes for better, and for worse. While I got to experience the perks of being the boss's daughter, my parents also didn’t protect me from the challenges and pitfalls of that, both from the external world and within our family dynamic. I got to come into this role baptized by fire, fun, and fatigue. My parents expected me to be a part of this world and learn all I could; something I already incorporate with my own young children and hope to grow as they age.
2). I love and honor my mom. My mother has always been clear with me about her vision and intention for this business. She wants it to be family fueled and oriented, provide opportunities and stay true to her original values of American manufacturing and catering to small American retailers. When I started conflating my own desires with hers and found ways to stay true to my own while also honoring hers, everything became a lot easier. It’s easy to work as a family when you are actively focused on honoring your family.
3). I had my own children. Nothing helps better realign your life than having children. As I reflect on my own childhood, I see Camille Beckman as a way for ensuring certain values continue to be passed down to my own kids. As I started this email: “Mom knows best”, and now that I have my own kids I value a lot of the lessons she was able to pass down through her creativity, work ethic, and passion for learning and growth.
While it’s not always easy, running a family business is one of the greatest opportunities of a lifetime because it can build or break character and values. I’m curious what you think about family businesses, and where you most like to shop locally that supports those values and others you may hold dear.
Write back to us and let me know! Till next time,