Jake Williams 
Vice President and Director of Business Development  
CPM Construction Planning & Management, Inc. 
Indianapolis 

CPM was founded by my dad, my brother is in accounting, my cousin is the CFO, and my brother-in-law runs our tenant finish division. 

I would say the two words that describe the leadership required to operate in a family-owned business are patience and accountability. Because there are multiple generations and age gaps combined with communication that tends to be less politically restrained, it’s important to be a leader who reminds each family team member to utilize patience while trying to understand each other’s points and perspectives. 

Family members must take accountability for the company success. Accountability sees the company globally and doesn’t let things that could “not be my responsibility” go unchecked. This is difficult to get out of employees, but family members who buy into the culture and company structure tend to take this on without much motivation required. 

Scott Cox
Vice President
Cox Fire Protection, Inc. 
Tampa, Fla. 

Family-owned businesses are unique from other businesses in that they create a sense of oneness among their employees. Most employees who work for us like the feeling that they are a vital part of the company and that their actions not only affect the company, but also the “family” as a whole. It helps foster a “think twice before acting” mentality that most companies wish their employees had. 

Each family member has his or her own personality and style of leadership, and the same is true in successful family-owned businesses. As leadership in successful companies is passed from generation to generation, the foundational principles that made the company great must be maintained. However, it is critical that those who may have been a part of the early establishment be willing to yield to strengths and innovative insights brought by new talent. 

While the important decisions ultimately come down to one or two key people, the sense of overall company buy-in must remain at the forefront. 

David Stansell 
President
Stansell Electric Company, Inc. 
Nashville, Tenn. 

My grandfather founded Stansell Electric Company 76 years ago in his garage in Nashville. Soon after the business really got going, he needed extra help, so he invited his two brothers to join the company and gave each of them one-third ownership in the business. This created second-generation problems right away. They had different styles and ideas about how things should be done—just like we do today—but they found a way to make it work. 

A big part of what made them successful, and remains a key part of our success today, was a strong sense of shared values. My dad grew the business significantly, especially into some key, niche areas. My brother Jake and I decided it was time to actually write down those core values and talk about them regularly as our company grew. We think this is an important part of why we have such a strong team today and continue to bring in people who share those values, even as we have grown to more than 200 employees and locations in three cities throughout Tennessee.