CINCINNATI – Kelly Backscheider just can’t help it.
Allen Backscheider has been her boss for two years at BGR, Inc. in West Chester. But he’s been her father for her entire life.
“My brother calls my dad ‘Allen’ in meetings. I can’t do that,” she said. “I call him Dad. But it just sounds so unprofessional.”
Chalk that up as one of the challenges faced by daughters who go to work in their family-owned companies. More difficult hurdles can include navigating new relationships with a company owner who is also a parent, not to mention other siblings in the business and long-time employees who have known the women since they were in diapers.
That’s why executive coaching firm Baker & Daboll recently launched Daughters in Charge, a new online community designed to help women manage their careers, build confidence and cope with the stress that comes from mixing family and business.
Baker & Daboll’s Amy Katz got the idea after working for a few months with a group of daughters in family businesses through the Goering Center for Family and Private Business at the University of Cincinnati.
“I realized they really had a unique career pathway,” said Katz, president of Daughters in Charge. “Listening to these young women struck me as something that was very special. They have interesting issues and opportunities.”
Katz and Baker & Daboll CEO Todd Uterstaedt had been exploring ways to expand their business online, and they decided Katz’s idea was the right way to do it.
After a year of preparation, the firm launched Daughters in Charge as a division of Baker & Daboll in November.
The initiative is too new to have a lot of clients.
But local women who worked with Katz through the Goering Center roundtable said they think there’s a need for its services.
‘Little Sister Mentality’
Molly Fender is the human resources manager at Monti Inc., a Cincinnati-based manufacturer that makes supplies for the electrical distribution industry. Her father incorporated the company in 1971, and she’s worked there full-time since early 2009.
Fender started working at the family business because she graduated from college and couldn’t find a job. Her dad had her start in the shop. A job opened up in the front office, and she applied for that.
“Growing up, I worked at Monti during breaks from college, and I never thought I would really end up here,” Fender said. “But as time went on, I really developed a love for the culture and the people.”
Fender has two brothers who also work at Monti, and that has presented some challenges, she said.
“It’s trying to get rid of the ‘little sister’ mentality on the part of my brothers so they think of me as a human resources manager,” she said.
But there also are the challenges that any young son or daughter faces, she said.
“My brothers and I, we work very hard, and we work very long hours,” she said. “It’s just proving yourself and working hard and just putting in the time and dedication so that everyone else accepts you like anyone walking through the door.”
There are Monti employees, after all, who started at the company 30 years ago – before 27-year-old Fender was even born. And plenty of co-workers were there when Fender worked at the company during college breaks.
“I failed a test in college, and my dad made me clean the manufacturing floor bathroom,” she said. “They’ve seen the struggles.”
Of course, working at the family business also presents tremendous opportunities. Fender already is in management. And Kelly Backscheider, who is 28, already knows she’s part of her family business succession plan at BGR, a West Chester-based industrial packaging supply company.
Good Family Relationships A Must
An important key to success is having a good relationship with the other family members who are part of the business, said Debbie Simpson, president of Multi-Craft, her family’s Newport-based printing business.
Simpson and her younger sister and younger brother own the company, work together every day and still get along so well that they and their spouses all vacation together every year, she said.
“The three of us do know how absolutely blessed we are to have the relationships we do,” she said.
Simpson said she’s been to business conferences where brothers and sisters involved in a family business won’t sit together or even talk to each other.
“It’s just so very, very sad,” she said.
She credits her father with the family’s success, not only because he’s “one heck of a good businessman” but also because he raised the kids to believe they could accomplish whatever they set out to do.
Simpson said she’s not sure how she would have used a business like Daughters in Charge when she became Multi-Craft company president in 1989. But she does have a group of women friends in management roles in their family businesses, and they’ve been getting together for dinner once a month for years.
Backscheider said she thinks that kind of network – whether it’s informal like Simpson’s or formal, like the Goering Center roundtable or Daughters in Charge – is invaluable for women in her position.
“The biggest thing I’m getting out of the roundtable is that what you’re going through, other women are going through, too,” said Backscheider, a marketing manager at BGR, Inc.
“It’s almost a sanity check for daughters in family-run businesses,” she said, “to know that you’re not alone.”
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