Growing up, I was always interested in our family’s contract janitorial business. When my grandfather, father, or other family members discussed business issues, I always paid attention. I knew that one day it could be possible for me to join it—but it was no guarantee.
We all were told from a young age that any relatives who had an interest in working for the family business would not simply have a job waiting for them; nothing was handed to us on a platter. In order to join the family business, each of us had to make our own way in the world, working for at least five to seven years at companies other than the family business, to gain experience, knowledge, and an understanding of the business world. In other words, family members in our family business were treated like all employees; they were hired if they could bring a valuable skill to the table.
The “five to seven” rule didn’t have as much meaning for us as children, but it certainly did when we were grown. As an adult, I returned to college and sold furniture for seven years before I was offered an entry-level job as a business development manager for the family’s contract cleaning business, IH Services, Inc.
After graduating high school with a lower than average GPA, I was not able to apply to traditional colleges or universities. Ultimately, I attended Johnson & Wales University, a culinary school in Charleston, SC. After almost two years of culinary school and six months of working at a five-star restaurant as a line cook, I told my father that I didn’t want to work in the restaurant industry for the rest of my life. He taught me that I had to turn things around for myself. It was a challenge, but I went back to college and graduated from Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in business finance.
Because of our family rule, I understood that I would still have to work at another company for at least five years. I was motivated to start that clock right away, so while I was taking college classes, I maintained a job selling furniture in High Point, NC, the “furniture capital of the world.” I worked in High Point for five years, and then continued my career in the furniture industry for another two in Taylors, SC. That is where I met my wife and best friend, Sarah.
After completing college and working for seven years, I was offered a job with the family business in January of 2005 as an entry-level business development manager (BDM). The experience and knowledge I gained from working in the furniture industry regarding sales, operations, and management of a business was invaluable. It helped prepare me for my new role and allowed me to bring a skill to the table that our businesses needed. I’ve been with IH Services ever since, even earning a promotion—not because of my family ties but, rather, because of the career and life experience I was able to contribute.
Looking back, I know with all my heart that I would not be the person I am today if we didn’t have this family rule in place. I was not guaranteed a job; I wasn’t offered my first position there because of my last name. And I certainly was not promoted until my contribution to the growth of the company produced results. As a third-generation leader in a successful family business, I highly recommend this “five to seven” rule to everyone with a family business. God willing, I will use this rule with my own kids one day. Achievements are not handed to you; achievements and respect are earned through hard work and perseverance.