Profile - Running A Successful Family Business

Establishing Roles And Responsibilities Is Key

Eddie BlauEstablishing roles and responsibilities is key.

The history of family-owned Innovation Line (asi/62660) is quite the tale of perseverance and pride. Not only has the firm endured the death of its founder, Clement Hasson, who passed at the young age of 44, but it later lost Leon Perl, who stepped in to run the company in 1986. Perl – a Holocaust survivor and Hasson’s father-in-law – died of leukemia in 2004. While other companies may have shut their doors, Innovation Line has instead blossomed into one of the fastest-growing ad specialty firms.

“When I arrived at the company, the promotional products division was only a $1 million business,” says Eddie Blau, the supplier’s current CEO. “I took a 50% pay cut and left my law career because I believed Innovation Line had great potential for growth.”

Blau, Hasson’s son-in-law, has bolstered the company’s product line through innovative designs, improved vendor relations, and investing in new equipment and larger facilities, increasing sales by 73% between 2012 and 2014.

Here, Blau shares advice on finding balance and investing in the future.

Q: How has Innovation Line been successful?
A: We’re successful because each family member knows their role and responsibilities, and each shares the same guiding principles and values. Family members are hands-on and expected to work very hard every day. As CEO, I provide overall leadership, vision and cohesion. My brother-in-law, Todd Hasson, does the same for the operating divisions he runs.

Q: What decisions have fueled your firm’s growth?
A: The company reinvests a significant portion of operating profit back into the business. We fund technological innovation, new product development, marketing and capital equipment purchases and overall business expansion. We’ve made it our mission to hire highly skilled industry professionals.

Q: What are the benefits of being family-run?
A: We’re highly invested in the company’s success, so we know family members will do whatever it takes to further that success. Another benefit is that although we’re family-owned, we’re not family-run.

Q: What’s the difference between the two?
A: We run the company as a professional business enterprise using professional management concepts rather than management by committee. We welcome input from all family members, but we separate our business work from family time. At the office, we’re dedicated business colleagues.

Q: How is your company’s investment strategy unique?
A: We’re able to react quickly in making investment decisions without a lot of red tape. Our family board is in sync with management on investment strategy – we believe it’s essential to invest back into the business to create a stronger enterprise, better work environment for employees and continue building a company rooted in honesty, honor and integrity.

Q: How do you find balance between work and home life?
A: I do my best to be present and available at home. I avoid talking about business pressures. Family bonding time is therapy for me, so I look forward to leaving the day’s stresses behind.

Q: What advice do you have for other family-owned businesses?
A: Separate your personal life from the work of running the business. Treat the business as its own professional entity, not an extension of the family. Invest as much money as possible back into the business to ensure future success. Have clearly defined roles for each family member so they don’t step on each other’s toes and create conflict. Treat your employees and customers with kindness, respect and appreciation.