My father had operated his own small business when I was growing up and I spent several summers helping him.   Annemarie and I soon came to the conclusion that our children should work at USFSB during the summer and on school breaks.   We felt that it was important for them to understand how our family business operated and to learn the value of working for their spending money and to start saving for the future.

All of our children would come to the office to do such things as stuff envelopes for mailings, filing, and special projects that we would create for them.   We even gave some of their friends work to do at USFSB, at times, so that USFSB truly became both a fun and meaningful experience for our children and their friends.

Matthew and Michael are twins and our first born.  They both obtained engineering degrees from Syracuse University in 2004.   Matthew in civil engineering and Michael in mechanical engineering.   Matthew started a job in the Philadelphia area with a large engineering firm and was going to Villanova at night to pursue his masters.  Michael already knew that he did not want a career in engineering and went to New York City to pursue several business opportunities.

It was not long before both Matthew and Michael approached us about letting them start a New York City office of USFSB which they would run with several friends.   Annemarie and I were reluctant, at best, since we felt that they were too young and too inexperienced to start, essentially, a new business even if it was with our help and the backing of USFSB.  Also, we tried to counsel them on the possible problems to be encountered when you try to mix friendship with business.

Further, we had many conversations with Matthew about the merits (or lack thereof) of giving up his engineering career and moving to New York City and with Michael about pursuing his MBA before embarking on a business venture.

They were persistent and would not be dissuaded.   They worked up a reasonable business plan for the new office and we, finally, gave them the green light to proceed.   They had grown up working at USFSB and Annemarie and I felt that if USFSB was to really be a family business, we could not deny our children the opportunity to find their place at USFSB.

Annemarie and I decided that we were not going to unduly interfere with the way Matthew and Michael ran the New York City office since we viewed their involvement, to some extent, as a learning experience and we wanted to give them room for some experimentation as part of that learning experience.  We knew that this venture could wind up just becoming a costly and time consuming lesson; however, we also had confidence in them and believed that they would be successful even if some mistakes were made along the way.

Our children  were raised to be respectful which was a great asset for them when interacting with our employees.   They never tried to take advantage of their status as our children when dealing with our employees and always treated  our employees with respect.   In return, our employees were very helpful to them and also treated them with respect.

The element of trust is very important.  Annemarie and I enjoyed working with Matthew and Michael at this level since we knew we could trust them without question.   This allowed us to let them into our “inner circle” and to share our thoughts, concerns and aspirations about the business with them.

Matthew and Michael, with their friends, reached a certain level of success with the New York City office over the course of the year that they kept it open.   They came up with some very inventive business plans, expanded the government affairs and networking activities, and worked very hard at developing new business opportunities for USFSB.   In the final analysis, there just was not enough growth to justify the costs of a separate office in New York City.   Eventually, we all came to the conclusion that it was time to close the office and for our children and their friends to move on and get back to their lives where they had left off before USFSB.

Annemarie and I were proud of their efforts and they left USFSB better than they had found it.   We also believed that they learned a lot about business and themselves and that this experience would serve them well in the future.   In fact, both Matthew and Michael have successfully moved on with their lives and careers.

Matthew obtained his masters in civil engineering from Columbia University and recently secured his Professional Engineering License.   He now works for a large engineering firm in New York City helping to oversee a billion dollar project in Brooklyn.

Michael went on to obtain an MBA degree from Columbia University and now works for an up and coming online business in the San Francisco area.

We believe that all of our children have learned and benefit from their involvement with USFSB.  Our son, Joseph, graduated from Syracuse University in 2007 with a degree in Advertising Design and works for a large pharmaceutical advertising agency in New York City.   Our daughter, Julia, is a biology major at Syracuse University (I detect a pattern here) and intends to go on to medical school.

Even though USFSB will not be a career for any of our children, it has had a meaningful and lasting impact and influence on their lives.   They have seen what can be accomplished when a family works together for a common goal.   I believe it is clear that USFSB has still fulfilled its mission of helping to provide our children with the tools and skills to have  productive and rewarding futures.

Come back on Friday to hear Annemarie’s side of the story!