Family Business in Peoria

by Roberta Parks, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce

What do American Pest Control, Avanti’s, Lippmann’s Furniture, Jim Maloof Realtor, Fritch Heating & Cooling, South Side Bank & Trust, Beck’s Florist and Craig Upholstering have in common? They are all well known, successful family businesses in the Peoria area.

Family businesses are the lifeblood of the economy in any city—not to mention any Chamber!—and Peoria is no exception. Of the above, at least two—Avanti’s and Lippmann’s—were started by immigrants, and Beck’s Florist is a fourth-generation business. As a baby, Nicole Crank spent many of her early days sleeping in a car seat in the back of the Lippmann’s store on Sheridan Road, tended by her mom, grandparents, uncle and employees between waiting on customers. Now in her pre-teens, Nicole will surely be in the next generation of family at Lippmann’s. She can certainly say she grew up in a family business!

Many family businesses have siblings involved in the business—Craig Upholstering is just one example. It is not uncommon that one sibling focuses on the accounting and financial side, while another is in sales and design.

Small businesses make up a huge portion of the economy. A majority of those fit the definition of family businesses—two or more generations actively involved in the management of the business. It is not unusual to have three generations still actively involved in the day-to-day operations of a business.

Family businesses portray the best of American values. Working each day with your family and passing down the knowledge and customs from generation to generation is as good as it gets. Knowing that you are building on a legacy that was started decades ago by your grandparents or great-grandparents has to be a great feeling.

Owning or working in a family business can have its downsides, however. Not all siblings have the same work ethic, nor do they necessarily agree on how the business should be run. Unfortunately, it is really hard to fire your brother or tell one of your children to go find another job. In addition, many family businesses accumulate some wealth, but that wealth is tied up in the business. Answering the question of how that wealth is passed on to the next generation is complex and takes significant planning. Interestingly, the Family Firm Institute, a help group for family businesses, is made up of three sub-groups—academics who consult with family businesses, estate planners and family therapists who work with families who are having trouble working together.

Regardless of the downsides, virtually everyone who works in a family business would not have it any other way. Sometimes members of the younger generation decide that the family business is just not for them. However, after working for other businesses, including large businesses, many of them cannot resist the pull to come home and join the family organization. Working for someone else just does not have the appeal, the culture or the sense of family that exists in the family business. Kudos to all the families who find a way to make a family business work! iBi

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