My Father, My Boss Every Day Is Father's Day at the Office
By Deborah Salomon
Christie Hefner had a job waiting in dad Hugh's empire. Ditto Ivanka Trump. Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas have acted with their fathers on screen.
James Murdoch took the heat for his father, Rupert, in recent court proceedings. The Windsors - Elizabeth, Charles and William - reportedly call themselves "The Firm."
Since pharaohs ruled Egypt, sons and now daughters have joined -family professions. TV critics credit this dynamic for the success of "Blue Bloods," about a close-knit three-generation cop family who talk shop at Sunday dinner.
Still, the outcome isn't guaranteed.
"The one big discussion we had going into (having son Bill join the law firm) was if either one of us felt like it was affecting our father-son relationship, we would end it," says Dan Pate, of Pate and Scarborough, in Pinehurst.
Perhaps because these cards were on the table, after more than a year Dan and Bill are still at the same table - and enjoying the experience as two adults with a shared past and present.
On Father's Day, we celebrate -cradle-to-office partnerships.
Two of a Kind
Jim Williams has absorbed his father Jimmy Williams' business credo like a sponge - and reflects it back like a mirror. "We're the same person 20 years apart," says Jim. "We're both kinda high strung."
"Nothing's more important than family," adds dad Jimmy. "We fished and hunted when (Jim) was a boy, still do, but now business comes first."
An annual fishing trip to Florida keeps the spark alive.
Father and son credit the success and expansion of Factory Flooring and Design, with stores in Sanford and Pinehurst, to a shared obsession for customer service.
Jim, admittedly not fond of school, learned flooring basics as a teenager.
"Sometimes he was receptive," Jimmy recalls. Jim spent several years working in flooring, followed by another 10 Sheetrocking.
Then Jimmy decided to open a showroom in Pinehurst.
"I had in mind to bring (Jim) into the business because I was so busy in Sanford. Who better to do it?" Jimmy says.
Jim's version: "He needed help."
Most of the time, father and son are on the same page, "like two mechanics working on one car," Jim says. "My dad is a strong man with strong ideas. We don't argue, we just talk loud."
Jimmy's version: "The younger generation sees things differently. Jim has a lot of input. He made it easy to succeed (in the new store). He's VIP material."
Who gets the last word? Jim grins and points to his father.
They don't talk business outside the office, and they don't feel -working together has changed their relationship.
"I've always had a reverence for my dad," Jim says. "The bond already happened."
In Formidable Footsteps
One name on the door, two Pates within. Attorney Bill Pate joined his father, Dan, at Pate and Scarborough, in Pinehurst, in 2010.
So far, very good, evidenced by the pride in Dan Pate's voice.
"Bill was around the office as a kid but he wasn't a 'runner'," Dan recalls.
"I definitely knew what Dad did," Bill answers. But it did not consume Dan because besides practicing estate and business law for 38 years, he attended school plays, coached T-ball and took his son fishing.
"He was my best friend," Bill remembers.
For a junior high school project, Bill shadowed his father for a few days. "I always knew (the law) was an option."
The idea didn't develop, however, until after Bill completed a business degree.
"I was surprised when Bill decided on law school," Dan says. "But I wanted him to do what he wanted to do."
After finishing law school, Bill practiced in Durham for six years.
Turning 30, with a wife and small children, Bill returned to Moore County - but not to his father's office. Then, one of Dan's partners retired. The logical happened.
These junior and senior attorneys have separate work spaces and different clients, but they often grab lunch together.
"When I meet with clients I introduce them to Bill," Dan says. "Clients like it that Bill's here, that they will know him when I do retire. I pass along to Bill things I've learned on the practical side, and he helps me along on the computers."
Father and son admit to different styles, but head-butting doesn't happen. Disagreements? Dan pauses, forming a lawyerly answer: "We keep them in the office."
Bill adds "They are handled quickly. They don't linger."
"I enjoy seeing Bill every day - seeing how he has grown into a mature man, a good lawyer and someone who is involved in the community," Dan concludes. "Knowing Bill's here (and familiar with the cases), I can go off for the weekend."
Bill's perks are substantial, as well: "Have I benefited from my father's reputation? Absolutely. I can't not live up to it."
Tried and True
Vito Gironda applies old-school Italian values to his namesake restaurant in Southern Pines - and to his family.
In Calabria, where Vito and twin brother, Franco, were born, after school let out in the afternoon, children apprenticed in a trade.
"Learning all aspects of my business was mandatory, just so if my children ever decide (to run a restaurant) they'd know what they are getting into." Vito says. "I'm tougher on my son than on the employees."
Marco, 23, began bussing tables at age 10. Sixteen-year-old Alessandra started hostessing at 14. Vito put their wages aside and matched them when time came for a down payment on a car.
Alessandra drives a BMW. "She'll be paying for that for a long time," Dad says.
Marco was able to fit a passion for racing cars and soccer into his father's mandate.
"We'd go to a hockey game; I was definitely around for soccer," Vito says. "But these days young people are too distracted."
Vito has little use for technology, especially the hand-held kind. Computers, he says, are robots. Vito's does not employ computerized ordering, nor does the restaurant accept credit cards.
"We do things by hand," he says.
Marco tried Las Vegas for a while but returned; he participates actively in the family business, as does Franco's son Michael. Vito hopes to cut back from 60 to 40 hours a week with Marco on board.
"We bump heads. I can be over the top," Vito admits.
Marco quickly adds, "Our looks are not the only similarity. It's like you're dealing with yourself."
In the end, "The boss is gonna win the battle," Vito states emphatically. He bemoans the decline of discipline in today's youth. "My parents were firm. My father won all the battles with me."
Then, from Marco, a shocker: "I agree with him. I was raised with old-school principles and that's what I believe in."
Vito continues: "My job is to make a man out of my son. If he doesn't do well, I've failed."
But the strong-willed father softens perceptibly with Alessandra, the current Miss Moore County Outstanding Teen.
"Dad is protective. He watches everything I do. I've been in the restaurant as much as my own home," says Alessandra, who has her eye on another prize, beginning with college. "I'll always come back and help, but I want to be in broadcasting."
Minding Their Business
"Dad's always been my boss," says Mary Stancil Hartsell, who keeps the books, mans the computers and lots else at Stancil and Son Heating and Air Conditioning in Aberdeen.
Working for Dad means the -flexibility to come and go, she -discovered after employment elsewhere. It also means working with her brother, James, now that their father, Joel Stancil, has retired - but who, at his wife's urging, stops by every morning.
Joel started the business in his garage, 48 years ago. "I was exposed to the workplace early," James says.
"James helped me install ductwork when he was 12," Joel says. "He always said I was too hard on him. Even now I let 'em know if they're doing something wrong." Father and son laugh about how the family knew James' whereabouts from the noises under the floor.
Young James was usually paid the going wage.
In the summer, James helped his grandfather in the tobacco fields. After coming home from Cape Fear Technical College, he worked in the business periodically.
"Then I called and told him I needed him," Joel says.
Mary grew up helping her mother keep the books. She has degrees in business-related fields and has worked in other offices. When Joel called her back she agreed, stipulating only that she could come and go according to her children's needs.
The brother and sister co-exist peacefully, perhaps because James says, "She's one year older. She'll always be my boss."
The father/child/sibling atmosphere relaxes this office. When it snows, count on a snowball fight. Mary says that business discussions feel more parent-child than employer-employee. "At a certain point Dad always wins," Mary says.
James, Joel and teenage grandson Harrisen Frye (the heir-apparent, after Uncle James) hunt every Saturday during the season. "That's a special time for me and Harrisen and the families," Joel says.
James acknowledges that working for his father with the expectation of owning an established business offers security not available in today's marketplace. That's fine with Joel. "I don't like (employee) rollover," he says. "You never know what you're gonna get. Running a business is not easy. James took a lot off me."
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story