Continuing the success of a family-owned business for over 100 years doesn’t come without challenges. It not only means keeping up with changing times in the world and business community but also keeping the peace between family members involved.
For Christy Schlafly, owner of Ford Hotel Supply, it has been her goal to overcome those obstacles. When Schlafly, who is the majority shareholder of her 105-year-old family business, took the reigns she knew that continuity of the business and the transition from generations needed to be addressed. After hiring an outside consultant to help with both issues, Schlafly was left still seeking guidance.
That’s when she turned to SCORE. Read on to find out more about Schlafly’s business journey and how her SCORE has helped define her path.
What does your business do? Tell us about your company and how you got started.
It was started over 100 years ago by my grandfather. He started selling china, pots, and pans for the food service industry. Prior to starting the business, he was a rep selling to hotels, which were in those days who had the gorgeous food service. He sold mattresses and other hotel supplies. He went bankrupt during the depression and then started again later. My father and his twin brother eventually joined the business, and then my brother and I. Today we work in commercial food service as consultants, designers, planners, and suppliers.
Why did you seek mentoring from SCORE?
Family businesses have challenges. After hiring an outside consultant and being disappointed, I found SCORE. Their mentors are real people with real advice. They say, “This is what I would do, or do this, or do you like this idea.” They help you form a path with concrete steps to take. I don’t have a new business and I am not an entrepreneur. I need a different kind of help...transitioning.
Did you attend a workshop (local or online)? Which one(s)? How did those sessions help you?
No. However, when I get in a bind and can’t see the forest through the trees, I give the mentors a call. I have a team that was assembled for me, and they are terrific. They come from the top companies across the country. Their expertise is treasured and valued. When they talk, I listen.
How often did you/do you meet with your mentor?
Not enough. I am sensitive of their time, but they check in on me. I am meeting with them next week. They are my guardian angels.
How has your mentor helped your business? (For example, have you successfully launched? Increased revenue? Achieved a specific goal? Added employees?)
All of those things, but they have helped me to guide my business. They are helping to light my path. I am a little bit different than other SCORE clients since I didn’t start my business. However, what I can say is that SCORE is for everyone. It’s not just for those starting out. It’s for those transitioning and those who need more expertise than they have.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business?
Get the right people on your bus.
What would you tell a business owner who’s thinking of meeting a SCORE mentor for the first time?