Christin Cardone McClave is a third-generation owner of Cardone Industries; the world’s largest privately help auto parts remanufacturing company, and an entrepreneur. In this interview, she shares why she later decided not to work in the family business, how she dealt with her husband working for her father for 19 years, and how she felt when they almost sold the company.
You started working for your families business at the age of 12. How did that influenced your life?
It instilled a strong work ethic. I was able to work in different parts of the business and get experience with sales, marketing, customer service, finance, quality control and manufacturing. I majored in business in college and after college I decided that I really wanted to work outside the family business. When I was 20 I got an internship at Johnson & Johnson. After my internship, I received a job offer to work for Johnson & Johnson.
You spent most of your career working at Johnson & Johnson and the last few years running your own company, Unifi Coaching. I’m curious as to why you decided not to work for your family business.
I just knew I didn’t want to be stuck in my family business. I had an internal drive to go outside and see if I could make it in the “real world”. I’ve gained so much self-confidence with working at Johnson & Johnson and starting my own coaching practice. The other thing that I learned was that if I ever go back in the family business it would be a well thought out choice. I think it’s important for people who are in their family business to choose it for themselves. I just knew in my heart that I needed to go work somewhere else and prove to myself that I could make it in a Fortune 500 company. I knew I could always come back to the family business and be respected. Now I have the experience and the ability to perform outside of the family business. I have really enjoyed consulting and being on a board committee.
You feel you add more value to your family business when you have outside experience?
Yes, absolutely. I think I bring more value. I am able to see things from a different perspective then when you are working in a business for so long, which often happens in a family business. They have many lifetime employees, very loyal and wonderful employees that may not necessarily have much outside experience. Although they are very capable people, just providing a different point of view is something that I bring to the table each time I’m working on a project or on the board.
Your husband has been working for the family business for 19 years. Tell me a little bit about that.
That is also another reason why I chose not to go into the family business. With my husband working there, we felt it was too much for both of us to be there. We met after he had already been working at Cardone for a few years. He had a proven track record and once we got married it really provided a nice balance in our family on a technical side. Our family tends to gravitate to sales and marketing while my husband has an Engineering degree and an MBA in Finance. He has a really good temperament, is creative, and very supportive which is a great component to have in a family business.
So overall it has been a positive experience?
Yes, I think it has been but he left the company at the end of January. He just felt like it was time for him to do something else. There are a lot of challenges and I think he’s gotten to the place where he’d like to work where he wouldn’t have to deal with all the extra issues. He’s not complaining about it – he’s basically said that it was time for him to move on and do something else.
He wants to do something in sports business, which is very different from what he has been doing for the past 19 years. His coach helped him work out his values and figure out where his passions are. That really helped him see that its time for him to move on and do something that he’s really passionate about. He is leaving on a really positive note and is definitely one of the top leaders of the company. It will be sad for the company to lose him but I think everyone understands, including my family.
Do you find that you have to choose between supporting your husband and supporting your father or brother? Can you give any advice to other women in your situation?
We do an exercise; I also do a lot of this in my coaching, changing hats, which is “wearing” a hat that is different, then your normal hat. When having a conversation with my husband sometimes we have on the family business shareholder hat. Sometimes it is the mom and wife hats; sometimes it’s my parent’s hat. We try to look at things in different perspectives. I’ll say you know I really see your perspective but if I put my dads hat on I can see how this is a really frustrating situation for him. We try to really talk in those terms because then it takes the emotion out the topic. We’re able to look at it through multiple perspectives and it helps us step back and not let it affect us emotionally.
Your family has recently gone through the process of a possible sale of the business that didn’t happen in the end. Why did the family make the decision to sell?
Every family business at some point has to deal with this question. Our business has 5500 employees in multiple countries. It is a very complex business model. With the challenges we were coming up against with local costs of labor, manufacturing issues, investments, we decided that we needed outside investment to help us grow. Also, my father is in his early 60’s. He started the business when he was 21 with my grandfather.
My father is pretty adamant when he says he will not work for a publically held company. He’s very passionate about keeping the company private and having majority ownership. It felt like the best option was to sell it to a company that could really grow the business. However, these last few years have been tough on a lot of different businesses and for us as well. We went through the whole selling process and in the end it didn’t work out. We’re regrouping, trying to figure out what the next steps are but for now we are back in family business mode.
What advice can you give to other families going through the process of selling the family business?
I think it’s really important for each family to look at themselves. It all depends on how many family units you have involved. We have four family units my parents, then my 2 siblings and I and everybody’s married. I think it is a really emotional process. Because my father is the majority shareholder, he gets to make the final decision. And of course because it’s his baby.
It was a very emotional rollercoaster for him going through the process. It was also emotional for me. I’ve thought should I have worked in the family business? Should I have helped out more? Could we have done things differently? How could I have been more supportive to my dad? Should we keep the family business together? We do look at these other 4th, 5th, and even 6th generation companies that have made it work. It is very impressive how they have been able to extend their family business to that level.
It’s a wonderful opportunity but at the same time a lot of stress too. It’s like a double-edged sword. There are wonderful benefits of having a family business. There are wonderful work experiences. The other side is that it felt like there was a huge weight on my shoulders. As your business gets bigger and bigger there’s a lot of facets to weigh. You’ve got over 5000 employees that count on you, certain debt on the business, estate-planning questions. Having a coach has really helped me talk and work through it, look at my life, and own it. There is life beyond the family business, even if we do sell it.
Written by Carmen Lence, Coach and Consultant at NextGen Consulting and Coaching LLC. www.nextgenfamilybusiness.com
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