Family matters Featured

7:00pm EDT February 28, 2007

Credibility is hard to establish when moving up the ranks of a company, but it can be even harder for a family member being groomed for a future leadership role.

Blair Haas is dealing with that challenge as he brings a fourth generation — his son, Josiah, 26 — into Bud Industries Inc., a manufacturer of electronic enclosures. Haas says the biggest issue is making sure the other workers know his son is qualified for the job.

“We wanted to make sure he was well-qualified and would immediately gain the respect of the team,” Haas says.

The first step was introducing Josiah into the company as a teenager and having him work summers at the company during high school and college.

Although two of Josiah’s brother embarked on different career paths and another is still in college, all had the opportunity to work summers at the company.

“In Josiah’s case, he gained great credibility because, as a junior in high school, he worked in our maintenance department, which required him to start at 6 a.m.,” Haas says. “Not a whole lot of 17-year-olds are keen to be at work at 6 a.m.”

From there, he worked in sales and engineering, getting a taste of the different aspects of the organization.

Part of the process of integrating the next generation is assigning the person with key responsibilities so they are calling the shots and don’t get the sense they are “Dad’s little boy” but are instead responsible for getting the job done, Haas says. While Josiah was in college, Haas took him to trade association meetings, letting him coordinate the meeting room and making sure the meetings started and finished on time.

“But he was also introduced to the people, and joining me on business dinners giving him a sense of the business and what it involves,” Haas says. “We want to make sure he is well-trained to come into the business. Part of that is to understand what it

the business is about as opposed to the thing his father may come home at dinner and complain about what went wrong today. It’s real important to have a sense of the challenges and pluses and minuses before they mentally get on a career path.”

After college, it was important to Haas that his son get experience outside of the company in a position similar to what he would be doing at Bud. To gain that experience, he took a job in a semi-related industry and succeeded in making cold sales calls to get customers to buy products.

“He was dialing for dollars,” Haas says. “It gave him credibility because people understood that he wasn’t just getting a job based on being out of school and we were giving him a job.”

Haas says he learned a lot about how to integrate his son into the business based on mistakes his own father made when grooming him for the company.

Haas said he worked at Bud in the summers but mainly stayed in the sales area, and so lacked the experience that would have given him a general knowledge of the whole business.

“My goal was to make sure (my son) didn’t fumble,” Haas says. “He is gradually taking over various accounts. That’s how we’ve been easing him in.”

Haas says the downside of entering a family business is there is less eagerness by the older generation to let go, but he hopes he will know when to hand over the reins to the next generation.

HOW TO REACH: Bud Industries Inc., (440) 946-3200 or www.budind.com