Several successful local business teams span generations.
In Walton’s Antique & Estate Jewelry in Franklin, there’s a worn spot on the woodwork of a doorway. It’s not just any old scuff, though. It marks where Julie Walton, the store’s general manager, used to bob up and down in her Johnny Jump Up as a baby.
It’s a reminder, she says, of how important the legacy of her family’s business is to her and to her own future children.
“I remember playing in the cases when I was little,” Walton, 28, says. “I used to have chores, like straightening the cases, helping out with maintenance around the store. I loved it. It’s always felt like home to me.”
Now grown up, she works side by side with her father, Mike Walton, who in turn took over the business from his own mother.
Successful family businesses abound in Williamson County, from automotive companies like Andrews Cadillac, Walker Chevrolet and Alexander Automotive to service companies such as the Lee Company. Garrett Beasley is a fourth-generation Realtor, working closely with his father, Andy Beasley, at Brentview Realty. And at the Lampo Group, three of financial wizard Dave Ramsey’s adult children work in the business with him.
Following Parents' Footsteps
Many younger-generation family business members had their hearts set on following in their parents’ footsteps. Jimmy Moody, whose family's Moody's Tire & Auto Service has been in business since 1944, "wrote a second-grade paper about how he wanted to be a tire man like his Dad,” says Jim Moody Sr.
For others, the family business beckoned later.
“I had just graduated from MTSU. I firmly expected to go to graduate school and had no intention of working in the hospitality industry at all,” says Claire Marshall Crowell, who helped out at her father, Andy’s, Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant in Franklin as a youngster. “Then Dad asked me to help temporarily, and after a while I thought 'Hey, I’m pretty good at this. I think I’ll stay.’ I don’t think he was very surprised, but I was.”
Today, Crowell has built an impressive professional resume, and helped grow A. Marshall Family Foods into a multi-faceted organization that owns and manages restaurants in Nashville, Franklin, Columbia, Murfreesboro and Chattanooga, provides catering for special events and even operates a food truck.
Family Business Rewards & Challenges
Crowell says the rewards of working with her family (her sister and brother also work in the business) are many.
“Dad and I really work well together. Our personalities are like puzzle pieces,” she says. “He is all big picture and creative, I am all about operations and how things run day to day. Knowing someone cares about your work as much as you do is a big plus, and the amount of trust and loyalty that is there is so important.”
Making a family business successful can present unique challenges. Emotions can flare, perhaps more intensely because of the family bond. And individual roles need to be defined and respected, younger and older generations agree.
“It can be a challenge to keep everyone on the same page occasionally, and everyone is opinionated,” says Jim Moody, 64. His three daughters and son all grew up in the business, and now son Jimmy is vice president of the company. “He went to Belmont, I went to Southeast Asia, and we both got great educations. I know a lot about the people side of the business, he really knows the books side of the business, so sometimes he and I clash over things like that, nothing serious, but he has a sharper pencil than I do.”
Separating the professional from the personal is important: It can be work to keep a holiday dinner from turning into a business meeting.
“My sister and brother can turn it off a little more than Dad and I do,” Crowell admits. “We go on family vacations and they’ll joke that we are Jay and Claire on Modern Family. But the business is our life – we have our families, but other than that it’s what we eat, sleep and breathe.”