November 18th, 2022
In a family business, how do you overcome being the Owner’s Child? What can you do to ensure success on your own merits? How do you lead a team that may initially question your qualifications?
Listen as our guest shares his advice for not only young people wanting to join the family business but also for the parents who want their kids to continue the business legacy, and thoughts on how being the Owner’s Child doesn’t have to overshadow your own success.
David K. Sargent started investing in stocks when he was 13 years old, which allowed him to buy into a business with his family while in his late teens. He worked for the company, Stripe-A-Zone, during summers and Spring Breaks, starting at the bottom. After high school, he chose to work full-time there. Over the next 24 years, he advanced his position from sales, to production, to operations, and to the executive level, and he was integral in helping his family grow the company 50 times larger than when they originally purchased it. David helped accomplish the consistent, rapid growth through innovation, improved quality, and efficiency. When his family sold Stripe-A-Zone in 2020, the new owners convinced David to stay with the new entity to help make additional acquisitions and run the company as its President.
David serves as Director of the Sargent Family Charitable Foundation, and a Director of the Arlington Margarita Society. He has served in the past in community organizations such as the Rotary Board, National Floor Safety Institute, and Young Men for Arlington. David lives in Arlington, Texas, with his wife Kari and their son, Kyle.
We all know the stereotype – inexperienced offspring of the owner steps into a company and employees have to deal with the fallout. The child either hampers progress in the business or is unproductive, coasting on the success already in place.
That’s the worst case scenario. So how do you plan for the best-case scenario? How does a family member help grow a company to 50x its original size and become so respected and integral to the operation that they help steer the company even after its sold?
In David K. Sargent’s case, it all boiled down to thinking less like an employee or family member and instead embracing the mindset of an entrepreneur. That’s what allowed him to excel in sales, production, operations and executive management. In our interview David shared the following insights on developing that mindset.
David’s family bought Stripe-A-Zone when he was just 17, but he had already done well enough investing his own savings that he was able to purchase 11% of the company.
“I saw a tremendous opportunity,” David recalls, “to invest in the company I was going to work in. To me, it was better to progress from allowing someone else to work with my money to instead being in control of that money myself.” In time the company sold for nine figures, so his investment paid off handsomely.
“There is a natural talent that most sales people possess,” he believes. “But there’s also institutional knowledge that comes from first working in the field to truly understand what the company can do. My time in the field also helped me foresee problems we could prevent and learn how to approach the customer, even at my young age.
“It gave me in-depth knowledge so I could present options and possibilities, potential issues and even risk analysis. That gave me the ability to talk about upsell, not just what the customer was asking for. If you can figure out what the customer needs and then fulfill that, you’re going to be successful.”
In fact, David did so well in sales that he oversold the company’s capacity to deliver, leading to scheduling problems and delays.
“Whether it’s personnel or supply-chain issues, there will always be things that come up no matter how hard you try. Even if you can’t meet the schedule, it’s ok as long as you communicate with the customer. When I took over the scheduling responsibility, it gave me the ability to control the ‘throttle’ of the company, using a hub-and-spoke model and communicating directly with every customer. That allowed me to eliminate many upstream problems.”
For young people thinking of joining their family’s business, David advises they become aware of the personal dynamics in place and be prepared to:
I invite you to listen to our full interview for David’s additional insights on: