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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Family Business Owner Gives Secrets to Success

Solid planning, a good customer product and always thinking of succession are keys to a successful and profitable family business, said Tim Smith, president of Bob Smith BMW in Calabasas, during a morning seminar sponsored by the Association for Corporate Growth 101 Corridor Feb. 7. “The more family members you have, the more complicated it is,” Smith told the crowd at the morning breakfast, part of a series of events sponsored by ACG highlighting issues in the western San Fernando Valley and Ventura County. Smith explained that his company founded by his grandfather, Robert A. Smith, who started selling Chevrolets in 1917 in San Francisco and later moved to L.A. after the Depression has been thriving because each generation has had a game plan. Currently, three family members work at Bob Smith BMW,his two daughters and a nephew and each has earned a place, Smith said. “If they can’t perform in the business, they can’t be in the business,” Smith said. “They have to earn that paycheck.” But that’s not always common, he said. “Our business has a lot of people who bring their kids into the business,” he said. “You have to avoid putting family members in positions where they are not qualified.” Smith also underscored the importance of finding a good product, although that’s not always easy in the car business. The Smiths, for example, have dabbled in everything from Fiats to Alfa Romeos, brands that performed far below expectations. But, again, the Smiths had a plan. “When certain brands would soften, we’d add another,” he said. That diversity let Smith get ahead when other dealers were struggling, he said. But the biggest key to successes, he said, has been making sure to communicate with family members, something that would ideally happen in a healthy family to start with. “If you have a dysfunctional family, you’ll probably have a dysfunctional business,” he said. “But when it’s successful, it not only helps the bottom line, it brings a sense of family pride.” Greggory J. Hutchins, a partner at the Westlake Village accounting firm HCVT, said Smith’s remarks about the issue affecting his company were helpful to all business owners. “This is information any business could use,” he said. “It was all very germane.” The next ACG 101 Corridor morning seminar is Wednesday, March 7, at 7 a.m. in the Fairway Room of The Westlake Village Inn, 31943 Agoura Road. The topic is “Controlling Workers Comp Costs” and features Mark Webb, vice president of government relations for Employers Direct Insurance Co. in Thousand Oaks. For more information, call (805) 449-1811 or visit acg101.org.

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