I’m the 3rd generation in my family business, but I’m not sure if I want my kids to follow in my footsteps.

I’m the 3rd generation in my family business, but I’m not sure if I want my kids to follow in...

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George Vukasin Jr posing in front of his family-owned company
George Vukasin Jr. doesn’t know if he wants his kids to follow the family tradition of managing the family business.

  • George Vukasin Jr. is the president and CEO of a company his grandfather started.
  • He says the family legacy is important, but he’s not sure he wants his kids to work there.
  • One of his sisters works at the company too, but his other sister doesn’t.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with George Vukasin Jr., president and CEO of Peerless Coffee and Tea. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Growing up, the warehouse of my parents’ coffee and tea company, Peerless, felt like Disneyland. There were open concrete floors where I could ride my bike indoors. The 150-pound bags of coffee beans were stacked high — a personal jungle gym for myself and my two sisters.

My dad ran the business but was also very hands-on when buying and roasting beans. That meant he tasted a lot of coffee. Sampling coffee is called cupping, and my dad did his cupping at the same table that his father (who founded the company) used. When my dad poured himself a taste of coffee, he always filled a cup of hot chocolate for me, and I drank it while I listened to him slurp samples — the best way to get the taste of the beans.

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I grew up physically close to the company, playing in the warehouse. My parents were always talking business at home since my mom was a co-owner. Despite that, I felt a step removed from the operations.

My parents encouraged me to get outside experience

My grandfather founded Peerless back in 1924. He had two sons. My oldest uncle went to law school and set out on a career that had nothing to do with beverages. My dad wanted to become an FBI agent and put away bad guys, but he had no choice. My grandfather told him, “You’re going into coffee.” Coffee wasn’t nearly as cool or sexy as it is today, and my dad was basically forced into it.

Because of that, my parents never pressured me to enter the business. In fact, they encouraged me and my two sisters to get professional experience outside the family business. I went to college to study economics and then went to culinary school in France for a year.

After that time away I found I really wanted to join the family business. My timing was good because my dad needed a coffee buyer, and he knew I had the skills. I started working at Peerless when I was 23.

I had been considering getting a master’s in business administration. There wasn’t a better business school than learning from my dad. He really was my best friend. Sometimes, working and living together, we got frustrated, but we were both able to admit when we were wrong.

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My parents only wanted blood relatives to run the company

I made my career at Peerless. My sister, Kristina, went to law school and worked for the district attorney’s office — getting that outside experience my parents always said was important — before coming back to Peerless. Now, she’s the executive vice president of the company. We talk every day and see each other most days, but we make sure to leave work at work and keep family separate.

Fifteen years ago, Kristina and I bought Peerless from our parents. Our other sister, Michelle, doesn’t work for the company but has a smaller ownership stake. My parents wanted ownership to pass to blood relatives, not spouses. Running a family business is complicated enough without more people involved. Luckily, that’s something we all agreed on.

I’m not sure there will be fourth-generation ownership

Kristina has three kids, who are now young adults. I have an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old. None of the kids seem to have an interest in joining the family business. I’m hearing that from other people I know who own family businesses, too.

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To be honest, I’m not sure whether I would want the kids to follow in our footsteps. Running a business is really difficult. I want my kids to be successful and happy — that’s more important than having a fourth generation join the business.

My dad has passed away, but he would be OK with that. He would be very proud that the company turned 100 this year — my grandfather would be absolutely flabbergasted. My dad was a very practical man and just wanted the people he loved to be happy.

Still, I’m teaching my kids how to roast coffee. They love doing it, and it’s a skill they’ll be able to have in their back pocket throughout their lives, one they can always fall back on. They roast with the same roasters their great-grandfather used in the 1940s, although digital technology now manages the process. There’s a bit of romance to see them enjoy the same sights, smells, and routines that were part of my childhood.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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