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A Family Sign Company Foists Their Youngest Upon the Business

An all-too common experience in “The Case of the Peculiar Peg.”

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WE ALL KNEW HE’D end up at the company. We just didn’t know in what capacity… But forgive us, as we’ve begun at the end — although, the end is in the beginning and lies far ahead.

Gary Misakis had never been mistaken for the strongest spice on the rack. Fortunately for him, Gary’s family had run Thyme Signs in Paradise, OH for three generations. His father Harold was the president.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are NOT a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Created by ROLF L’MAO, Signs of the Times’ mascot. Email him at editor@signsofthetimes.com.

Illustrations by Karina Marga Cuizon

Starting with his high school summers, Gary was given little jobs here and there around the company, not finding any he excelled at. Two years of college, first on the East Coast then back here at the local state college, also failed to suss out a skill he could offer.

He lacked the talent or eye for design, the attention to detail for project management, the coordination for fabrication or installation and, frankly, the mind for sales or management. However, as Gary’s older brother Scott and first cousins Sophia and Brenda already worked at Thyme Signs, the expectation had always been that Gary — youngest of the four in his generation — would come onboard full time someday. And with his second year of college having just ended unspectacularly in April, that day arrived.

Earlier on this May 1 morning, at an all-hands meeting, Gary — wearing a button-down short-sleeve shirt and tie — was introduced as the new company office manager, a position that had not existed prior to the announcement. “Gary will be assuming some of the responsibilities that Accounting-HR had been handling before, like ordering office supplies — though not production supplies,” company President Harold Misakis said, careful not to add “of course.”

“Most of you already know Gary from his internships in various departments,” Harold continued. “If you’re new, and I think we have a couple of you who started earlier this year, Gary is my younger son, Scott’s brother.”

Gary would also be supervising the twice-weekly cleaning crew, Harold said, as well as delivering employees’ snail mail and coordinating employee events such as lunches, outings, the annual holiday party and more. Everyone applauded when Harold concluded, “Please welcome Gary to Thyme Signs!” Gary beamed and soaked up the applause.

Now, don’t get us wrong. There was nothing particularly bad about Gary and he harbored no evil intentions. Sure, he’d occasionally blamed a past screwup on someone else, dropped the ball a few times… He was almost as aware of his abilities and opportunities outside of the company as we were. Almost. No, it’s more a matter that he “couldn’t,” not that he “wouldn’t” when it came to what we do.

Creating a new position that insulated him from customers and where his messes could be contained seemed the best, if not the only way to bring him on full time. The heads of sales, marketing, fabrication and installation all clearly expressed relief not to have lost that lottery.

Still, a general sentiment remained just below the surface among all employees of Thyme Signs. A sentiment something like “WTF? The company creates a position and a salary — who knows how much for a family member and ‘manager’ — and that will leave less for end-of-year bonuses, raises, etc.” It was a move that only a family company could make.

Management often addressed us as “stakeholders” in all-hands meetings, encouraging us to take “ownership.” Not one of us would ever have hired Gary and yet, here he was.

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The Big Questions

  • If you were Harold, would you maintain family tradition and keep Gary at the company? If yes, how could you create opportunities for him to learn and grow?
Mike M.
San Francisco

Since the majority of sign companies are family owned and operated, or at least started that way, most of us have dealt with a “Gary” in our careers at least once.

Jim P.
Wyndmoor, PA

I have two daughters. The younger is now a partner and I consider superior in all ways with the rest of the staff (not because she is my daughter). Her older sister (who is very successful and capable at her chosen profession) would never be a good fit in this business. If a company has the resources to create a “job” for someone, that is their right. However, I would never give them any authority over the staff unless they have proven their capabilities.

Jon M.
Lansing, MI

Yes, given time, Gary will find his way. Perhaps his lack of skill will give him a better view of all parts of the business, as he will need to work harder to get up to speed.

Don B.
Cypress, CA

Harold, do your son Gary and your company a valuable service. Have Gary seek employment elsewhere. Depending on his success with another company you may want to bring him into your company.

Jim O.
Verona, PA

Family’s family. I would start him at the bottom of the company and over the years let him work his way up.

Dan W.
Tucson, AZ

No, this is business. In business, we do not pay for anything we don’t need if we wish to survive. His job is ‘make work.’ Sorry, son, but we can’t afford you, nothing personal.

Heather J.
Oklahoma City, OK

I work for a family-owned company and I wish the owner would have the family members start at the bottom in each department and learn how each is run and what is expected from each department. When someone who knows nothing about what we do or how we do it, is hired on in a leadership role, it is hard for the employees who have been there for a while to see them as leaders. Especially when they don’t respect the knowledge of those who have been doing it for a long time. It is a recipe for unhappy employees that resent management and lose respect for those making that decision. All employees should be treated the same and expected to learn company procedures, and advance only based on knowledge and experience. Family can and will still advance if dedicated and employees will feel they work in a fair environment that respects them and their hard work. Nepotism will ruin a company from the inside out. Just my humble opinion.

Robert B.
Oakdale, CT

Even though he had several failed shots at fitting into the company he is still family. As such with a family business and the likelihood that he couldn’t hold a position with any company due to his lack of taking responsibility for his errors creating a position for him is inevitable. With that said, if he screws up in this position, he should be asked to voluntarily resign and look elsewhere. Firing a family member isn’t easy on anyone so voluntary resignation (with an offsite discussion first) would seem best. But first, see how he does. In a larger company like this one sounds to be, someone to look out for those little office things isn’t a bad idea.

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