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Monday, Aug 15, 2022
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Hands-On Experience the Best Strategy for Succession

FAMILY BUSINESS Hands-On Experience the Best Strategy for Succession By JEFF WEISS Contributing Reporter Kristin Gangi Saroukhanioff and her brother Paul Anthony Gangi got involved in the family business in completely different ways. While her brother starting out working in the Gangi Studios warehouse during scorching Valley summers, Kristin did not join the company until her phone rang one night while she was away at college. On the other end, her father Paul H. Gangi spoke: “I just fired the office manager. I need you to come here and reorganize the company.” Initially taken aback, Gangi Saroukhanioff eventually switched around her collegiate schedule, taking classes twice a week and working at the company the other three workdays in order to get the family business into proper shape. Many years later, the business which specializes in the printing of four color process and line art graphics, point of purchase displays and bus transit/shelter advertising, is in a state of transition as the two siblings gradually take the reins of the business from their father. “My dad is beyond being ready to retire, although he says he’s going to stick around for a few more years. This transition has been going on for five years now. My dad has always done management and selling, so my brother and I assumed the responsibilities that we were naturally predisposed to. I have no desire to sell and my brother has no desire to manage,” Gangi Saroukhanioff said. “I currently manage the entire company and my brother manages sales. My dad worked with each of us one on one to properly ensure that succession went smoothly and we took our own twists to it to make it the way it worked best.” As one would expect, the best way to ease the changing of the guard at a family business is preparing well in advance and making sure that the relative taking over the business has had substantial hands-on training. “We went to a lot of meetings. We still have a monthly family business meeting at home where we go over what’s happening financially, legally, what’s going with production, who’s doing what roles. Because my brother and I have been here so long it’s a natural progression,” Gangi Saroukhanioff said. Sardo family experience The interior design business is practically second nature to the Sardo family, owner of P. Sardo Interiors. Originally founded by Italian immigrant Antonio Sardo 50 years ago, Alex Sardo (currently an apprentice at the company) represents the fifth generation of Sardos to go into the trade. The company which produces custom made furniture, reupholsters furniture and does window treatments was passed on from Antonio to Phillip Sardo and his wife Virginia, who currently run the business and are making preparations to pass on the business to their son Tony. “My son has been working in our business forever. Since he was young, he would come to the business with me, have lunch here at the business and consequently he now knows every single angle of the business,” Virginia Sardo said. “Gradually, he learned little by little and he knows just about every portion of the business so that he can take over any field of it. The same thing is happening with my grandson (Alex Sardo). He’s 19 and showing interest in the business and he’s starting off on the ground floor in an apprenticeship and delivering errands and getting into the actual innards of the business.” Virginia Sardo maintained that the two most important things to make sure that the business will be in good hands are being certain that your children are interested in the business and that they have the same ideals that have propelled the businesses success for its duration. “Try to keep them interested in it, let them know all parts of the business. All of my children were brought up in the business and it becomes apparent where they are going to go,” Virginia Sardo said. “Everybody wants to eat, we had a business already built and at their fingertips and what better than to hand you an ongoing business. My husband took over the business from his father to make it grow. He was in the business from a young age and expanded it and took over. He’s very business minded it and is really a part of him like it’s a part of my children.” According to Dennis Jaffe, one of the founding members of the Aspen Family Business Institute, succession is not nearly as simple as tabbing a successor directly before the company president retires. “You don’t necessarily need a clone of the previous leader but rather you need to select a leader who can lead the business into the environment it faces in the future. The successor needs to be collaborative and able to work with the different stakeholders in the family,” Jaffe said. “Often there is not one person that becomes the leader but a team of people. There has been a growing trend of family leadership rather than just having one leader. Succession is not an event it’s a process. It should start many years before the baton is past. It involves clear expectations and the development of leader candidates, involving them with non family people in the business. It should have many steps which culminate in orderly succession.”

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