When Dad is Boss
A Father's Day Look at the Guy in Charge
Greg E. Hyder, 25, stands with his father, Ed G. Hyder, 60, at Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Market in Worcester. (T&G Staff/TOM RETTIG)
By Lisa Eckelbecker TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Original Article can be found here: http://www.telegram.com/article/20100620/NEWS/6200603
June 10, 2010
People who work for their fathers get to know their fathers in a unique way.
He's not just Dad. He's also the boss — the guy who signs the checks and runs the show.
Yet those who happily work for their fathers say they've learned things they might not otherwise have known about their dads, including what the men sacrificed to support them.
“I respect him a lot because I know what he's done here,” said Andrea M. MacDonald, controller since 2005 of Worcester Fitness, the health club business acquired in 1983 by her father, Lincoln MacDonald. “What he did here, he did for us, and I know that now because of the time I've put in here.”
Millions of U.S. businesses are family businesses. About 23 percent of the 16.7 million U.S. firms that responded to the Census Bureau's 2002 business survey identified themselves as family businesses.
Fathers leading those businesses exert a dominant force in their children's lives, for better or worse, according to Frank Hoy, director of the Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The family businesses with the greatest success, he said, are those in which fathers prepare children to take over and children work toward that point without succumbing to feelings of entitlement. Trust is crucial, he said.
“When you're looking at a business with generational succession, the success has a lot to do with relationship between the father and child,” Mr. Hoy said.
Gregory E. Hyder was about 11 and eager to save money for his first drum set when he started helping out at Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Market, his father's ethnic food store. Now 25, Mr. Hyder is general manager of the 10-employee store, or as he likes to joke, “Crown Prince of the Mediterranean Market.”
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for him,” Mr. Hyder said of his father, Edward G. Hyder, who started the market in 1975. “What he did in his life takes a tremendous amount of guts. Rain or shine, success or failure — it's on your shoulders.”
Ed Hyder said he could tackle that responsibility because he'd started working in his father's food store at the age of 10. Now, he and his son divide up tasks at the store, with Ed handling office management and butchering, and Gregory preparing foods such as hummus and baba ganoush.
Although father and son sometimes clash in what staff members call “Hyder Fights,” they also step in for each other, Ed Hyder said.
“We listen to each other. We listen for each other,” he said. “He'll take over sometimes when I'm having a tough day … I learned that from my father and uncles.”
Ralph J. Capalbo Jr. started young, too. At 12, he started working at New Method Plating Co. Inc., the metal-plating business started in 1931 by his father, Ralph Capalbo Sr. After college, he went to work full time for his father. Now, he's president.
Two of his three sons have followed him into the business. As children, they tagged along when he checked the building on weekends and sorted parts on the kitchen table at night. As teens, they painted windows and placed parts on racks. Christopher J. Capalbo, now 34 and vice president of operations, joined the company full time in 1998. Younger brother Nicholas J. Capalbo, 31 and vice president of facilities, followed in 2000.
Ralph Capalbo said he might not have spoken as freely to his father about the 19-employee business as the younger Capalbos speak to him.
“Younger people have more opinions and express them more,” he said. “It's just a sign of the times, and it's a good thing.”
The younger Capalbos, who never worked elsewhere, say whatever opinions they express exist alongside the reality that they are a family.
“It is a challenge when you come to a disagreement here and you have to say, ‘OK, I'll see you tonight at dinner,' ” said Nicholas Capalbo. “Very rarely do we have a conversation where business doesn't come up.”
Yet they, too, say working with their father has given them an appreciation of him as a businessman and man.
“He's done a very good job of caring about people,” Christopher Capalbo said. And, he added, “he's always been the same at home.”
Ms. MacDonald of Worcester Fitness, now 33, started working for her father at Worcester Fitness as a child, sitting in an office and receiving 1 cent for every envelope she stuffed. Her brother, Timothy L. MacDonald, now 34 and director of the Grove Street facility, would clean up litter from a ledge overlooking racquetball courts. Both worked elsewhere after college, then returned to the family business.
Their father taught them to justify their business recommendations, pay attention to service, and take care of the properties. Yet working for him also changed the father-son dynamic, according to Timothy MacDonald.
“Working for him, he's become more of a friend to me than a father,” he said. “Maybe that happens to everybody. You get older, you mature, you act like adults to each other more than father and son.”
Gregory Hyder, whose two sisters did not go into the family business, laughs about his father's arsenal of “good-bad” jokes. But he never worked anywhere else, and he said that seeing his father day in and day out at work shaped his perspective of a man who treats everyone in the store “a little bit like his kid.”
“If I had to pick a best friend in this world, it would be him,” Gregory Hyder said.