SHE SAYS:

When Joe started working at USFSB in 1995, it was because his brother was ill.  That alone had quite an impact on our young family.  The hours he worked between his law practice and USFSB and the time he and all of us spent with his brother became stressful at times.   Added to that, I was also working at my full-time job.  I did not begrudge the time we spent with his brother and, in fact, thought it was important to be part of the medical care and decisions.

On one hand, we wanted our children to spend a lot of time with their uncle, but we, also, had to be careful not to expose them to too much or make it too depressing for them.  The illness and the time we each spent dealing with his care, dealing with his father, our children and their activities all took a toll on our family that we probably didn’t realize as we were living it.  Our children were very cooperative, but looking back, I think, although, it was all a life experience, it was hard for all of us.

After it was all over and Joe began his career change at USFSB, it was hard for me to feel like I should become part of it.  In some ways, it was one of the stresses we dealt with for so long that even though Joe was growing the business and I could see the potential benefits for our family, it had somewhat of a negative impact on me, especially in the light of becoming an owner/employee there.  It was just so different than anything I was used to and I didn’t think I had much interest in working there.  Plus, we had never worked together before and it just didn’t seem ‘right’.

As I mentioned before, after college, I spent 20 years working in a large office of 20-30 people.  I always worked as part of a research team conducting environmental health studies and I also had experience in human resources.   Many of the employees were members of unions and there were very specific rules and regulations to keep track of as well as the rights and well-being of the employees.  In our particular office, there were also a number of professional including physicians and doctorate level epidemiologists.   I enjoyed working in this type of professional atmosphere and learned a great deal during my time there.

When Joe asked me to join him at USFSB, I was reluctant to leave a career that I enjoyed to go to such a small office.   That, in itself was an adjustment.  I went from interacting on many levels in the diversity of a large group of people to a very small group of people that were very single-minded and, in my view, did not work very hard.

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HE SAYS:

My first year at USFSB was spent learning the business as best I could while still maintaining my law office full time.   In reality, I was just “babysitting” the business, since it was not my intention to change careers and give up my law office.    Also, early on, I was hopeful that my brother would recover and come back to USFSB.

Even when it became clear that my brother would not be coming back, I was still not prepared to make USFSB my new career.   I realized that I would need to keep USFSB going if, for no other reason, then to have the money to pay for my brother’s round the clock care and to provide for my father who also was dependant on the business to supplement his income.

I inherited the business in June of 1996 when my brother passed away.   My brother had no other family than my father and me and, by pre-arrangement, it was decided that it would be better if I inherited and operated the business.   Even then, I was not convinced that I was going to make a career out of operating USFSB and I, certainly, did not believe that I would stop practicing law.

As the year progressed, I become more and more interested in USFSB as I learned more about the business and I started to realize the full potential of USFSB for the future. It was then that I made the decision to slow down my law practice and make a real effort to find ways to grow USFSB.   I was slowly making a career change even though I did not fully recognize that fact at the time.

Over the next two years, I became more and more knowledgeable about USFSB’s benefit programs and insurance products and began to feel more comfortable and confident in my operation of USFSB.   I was able to enhance some of our benefit programs and USFSB started to experience real growth.

In 1998, I felt I needed someone I could completely rely on and asked my wife Annemarie to leave her long-standing position in public service to come to USFSB.   Soon after she came to work at USFSB, we both realized that there would be many adjustments and compromises that we would need to make if we were going to successfully live and work together without the need of a good divorce attorney.

I have always run my business as more of a dictatorship than as a democracy.  Even though I will ask for the opinions of others, for better or worse, I make most of the decisions based on what I believe is the best course of action.   This, of course, can and does create conflicts between Annemarie and me and has shown us that there are many perils and pitfalls in running a small family business.

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

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