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Episode 53: Guided By Grandpa's Values

In this episode of the Family Biz Show, Michael Palumbos hosts a conversation with Kohli Clark and Jennifer Donahoe from Felt Meyer Equipment in Syracuse, New York. Jennifer shares her unique journey into the family business, contrasting with Kohli's experience, who grew up closely tied to the company under his grandfather's mentorship. They delve into the company's history, starting in 1952, and its growth, including overcoming challenges and strategic expansions across the United States.

Jennifer and Kohli discuss the importance of family and employee relationships in their business. They highlight significant projects, like their contribution to COVID-19 vaccine production, showcasing their commitment to innovation and quality. The conversation also touches on the dynamics of family involvement in the business, the importance of communication, and maintaining work-life boundaries. They share insights on navigating business growth amidst challenges like supply chain issues and the pandemic's impact on the workforce.

The episode offers valuable lessons on leadership, succession planning, and the intertwined nature of family and business in sustaining a company's legacy. It illustrates how Felt Meyer Equipment thrives on family values, employee empowerment, and a forward-thinking approach, ensuring its continued success and contribution to various industries.

Episode 53 Transcript


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Michael Palumbos: Well, welcome everybody to the family biz show i'm your host Michael Columbus from family wealth and legacy in Rochester New York, and we have an incredible show for you, today we are joined with.

 

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Michael Palumbos: By Kohli Clark and Jennifer donahoe from felled Meyer equipment in Syracuse New York, and we have some great stories that we're going to be sharing with you and we're really excited about it so colby Jennifer welcome to both of you.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: thanks for having us.

 

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colby clark: thanks for having us.

 

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Michael Palumbos: yeah so we have kind of a tradition on the show we just ask each of you to talk about.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Your journey into the family business, so why don't we talk, you will do, ladies first and Jennifer if you don't mind sharing What was your journey into the family business and maybe even a little bit of background on some of the roles that you've played in the business so far.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: My journey was definitely different than kobe's we've all had different paths into the business and.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I grew up with my mom joining the business later in life, and she posted kobe's parents didn't always work in the business she joined later in life.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And so I took a trajectory of to go into college, I had always hoped and dreamed of working at felt mayor to work with my grandparents and work with other members of my family.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: But they didn't share that same vision.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And so what one of my one of the things my grandfather always said was that he needed a chaplain in our family business he had.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Everything every person already played a role, but he needed a chaplain to deal with everyone, so I ended up going to school for counseling.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I took that path, it was something that I had a passion for outside of you know, our family, but then I took my grandparents words in in honor and follow.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: That path and then ended up joining the business.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: After graduate school after I kind of weaseled and fought my way in.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I joined.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Okay What was your first position at the company.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: So i've done i've worn a lot of hats and my last 12 years here but and turned it mostly i've been doing HR i've done some sales i've done shipping i've done anything that anybody ever needed or asked.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Great well welcome that's a great that's a great story my uncle who's a priest.

 

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Michael Palumbos: would say you know, being a chaplain is being that you know family therapist sometimes and being able to have those conversations so i'm sure you know as, as we all know, in a family business having somebody that has that kind of a.

 

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Michael Palumbos: background where they might be able to see perspectives differently more easily is wonderful so and you use that with your employees to I met you and from the HR side of things that's just a wonderful love it Thank you colbie how about yourself.

 

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colby clark: Well, my my path was was was different from from jennifer's you know I grew up being the oldest grandchild and also the only grandson.

 

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colby clark: And when I was younger I spent my time with my grandfather my father was in the skin the ski industry so during the winter months, he was always gone.

 

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colby clark: So my grandfather, he would bring me into work, you know I started, you know as most people family business businesses do sweeping the floor doing odd jobs and I knew enough that this isn't what I wanted to do the rest of my legs.

 

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colby clark: As I said, my father was was in the ski industry, so the I graduated from college and.

 

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colby clark: My my girlfriend at the time was a year behind me.

 

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colby clark: Okay yeah i'm going to come back and what am I going to do well, my goal, eventually, is, I want to go work out in vail Colorado.

 

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colby clark: starting the started working on a ski Hill and and take over other family business, which was being in ski rap for the eastern part of the US.

 

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colby clark: And that has been 25 years later, so as soon as my grandfather got got his proverbial teeth and to me I couldn't I couldn't go anywhere but.

 

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colby clark: It was just such a wonderful experience to be able to work with him every day now I wouldn't have changed it and, as they say, the rest is history, you know i've had the i've had the luck of starting from the ground floor all the way up.

 

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colby clark: which has been fun, you know he he looked at me one day and said you're going to start purchasing for the whole entire company so good luck.

 

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colby clark: yeah I had no idea what I was doing but, at this time we just merged with cherry bro, which was a longtime family business and little falls, which is one of our competitors.

 

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colby clark: And all these these people looked at me said okay here's this 22 year old kid he's going to tell us how to do this, and it was tough.

 

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colby clark: We were very successful we turn that around, and I was remember sitting, one day, my dad my grandfather would always sit in the couch in front of me, and he looked at me says okay well i'm going to miss you so they would immediately dismiss me, I mean here, he said, well you're moving Alabama.

 

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colby clark: Alabama so yeah you're moving Alabama we've got a problem that facility in Alabama and I want you to move, I want you out of here by the beginning September, and this was a beginning of July.

 

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colby clark: Okay, so I made that move quick and and i've been lucky enough to spend time in each one of our facilities and and read and digest version is now we're at where we're at.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So your grandfather sounds like the pretty typical entrepreneurial D dominant personality that says, you know, I have a vision, and this is how it's going to go.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And, and that rugged you know individualist and terms of how we did things is that kind of sum it up a little bit.

 

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colby clark: yeah I would say, so I mean he obviously he's instilled in Jennifer myself, that this is all about fam right, I mean you want to be able to take care of your family you want your family involved.

 

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colby clark: And he always say well you know what a better way than to have a business it's a great way to have my family around me every day.

 

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colby clark: You know, so he relished in that and that's kind of you know what this third generation is really trying to build up right your first generation starts at usually second generation builds it your third generation, you know messes it up.

 

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colby clark: Where you know Jenny and I are taking more of an active roles of trying to get this instill the values of our grandparents put in us and their children as well.

 

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Michael Palumbos: yeah you know it's interesting that you say that because I I fight against that conversation, and because it is so pervasive in the family business world and so let's go back and hit history real quick when was the company started approximately how many years ago.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And 1952 1952 right, so you know you go back the average company is on the s&p 500 for seven years or less.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know that's the average so you know so forget about the fact that this is on your shoulders from a third generation and all those family business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: conversations the family has done a remarkable job already and needs to be applauded, and you know 1952 think about all the families that your grandfather and father and yourselves have touched.

 

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Michael Palumbos: and helped as you've been doing some things so you know, let me take that burden off your shoulders real quick, but at the same time, at the same time, what you're saying is I think you're starting to understand that.

 

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Michael Palumbos: fell Meyer, is a entity all by itself, it has its own yeah yeah number right, and you, you to want to become really good stewards of what you're doing that sound right.

 

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colby clark: I walked through I walk into the Office every day and, for some reason I hit hit hit the hit our TV screen at the same time of my grandparents every day smiling as as we walk in.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Building a Martini.

 

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colby clark: meaning.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: So yeah.

 

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colby clark: So that.

 

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colby clark: makes it all worth it.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Jennifer do you, mind you know I don't know who does the background of the company in the history, but do you, mind you know just walking us through.

 

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Michael Palumbos: To you know not present day became the abbreviated version what were things like what was you know your grandparents core purpose and some of the values that they've instilled in the family, you might pick it up on that a little bit.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And then come back and forth if she.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: called me, and I can both have pieces of Allah, and so our grandparents started the business but there's more than that, then i'm just as my my grandfather's father was the chief engineer at cherry burrell who colby mentioned prior we ended up purchasing.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And so that ability to invent and to that work ethic was instilled in my grandfather in a young age.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And so, he had a drive in the vision to always be like his father and but on top of that, on his own business, create his own inventions and.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: create a business where he could employ his family and have a place for them, but not just his family.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Everyone that is community that was a very important part of our grandfather and our grandfathers mission.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And so you know fast forward to 1952 our grandparents decided to start the business it wasn't maybe go of it.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: We always heard stories, which will be and I both were very, very grateful to spend a lot of time with our grandparents.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And even though they spent 24 hours a day, working on the company they always made time for all the grandchildren and all the all members of their family.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Most of the time we were at work with them, but nonetheless it was always a great opportunity to be with them and share these these memories, but.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: At the same time, so we always heard stories about starting business in 1952 in their house my grandmother.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: was on the phone in their bedroom and my grandfather will leave the House Sundays and go on the road for a week and leave the four children and my grandmother to.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Make invoices cook the dinner take care of the family and she would see him next week and, hopefully, he was able to bring home an order.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And then it kind of snowballed from that and colby can really talk about the purchasing the different facilities and growing.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: from outside, because he was involved in a lot of it, where I came in a little bit later, but that value of our grandparents starting the business and that work ethic, it took.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: For the years that they spent in the upstairs and their bedroom and the pictures we have of them working like that is really where our family reverts to every day when we think about what we need to do when we walk in the door.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I love that you know it's really unique is usually it's the second generation that's talking to me about the amount of time that they spent with the founder.

 

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Michael Palumbos: But colby because you know you came in so young and Jennifer because you know you just respected your grandparents so much you guys both got to experience that at a whole different level, I think that most people do.

 

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colby clark: yeah luckily, you know early on and the file marker my grandfather he his favorite samer lines doesn't make sense.

 

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colby clark: So you told me a story back in the late 60s were with original thrust was building to mitigate exchanges for.

 

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colby clark: pulpy products or shoes example uses things like that well they had a diversified to start building vessels to store the liquids and.

 

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colby clark: His what his formatted the times as well, Bob I don't understand why we just don't order these tanks from you know our competitor.

 

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colby clark: And he looks because it doesn't make any sense, no, no we're going to do this ourselves.

 

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colby clark: So, in the early 70s, is when we started building huge change and tanks, we went through a period of bankruptcy in the early 80s and really tried to work out of that hole in the early 80s into the 90s, and I.

 

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colby clark: started, you know summer times and stuff like that in the early 90s, but.

 

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colby clark: Our weekends, I would go to my grandfather's House and you know most times you know you most people have other grandparents they play outside in the snow and just run around and.

 

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colby clark: I was inside with my grandfather taken apart blenders trying to figure out how to make a better seal that's just how it worked.

 

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colby clark: So he gave us the drive that and in 1994 he said, you know, we need to diversify a little bit more.

 

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colby clark: And at this time frame was a really big issue a really big problem, so we wanted to get where the consumer base was the orange juice industry in Florida in the early 90s was was really booming and he said I don't care boys we're going to build a facility in Montgomery Alabama.

 

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colby clark: And we ever we looked at each other, saying, are you serious he's uh yeah so he was a driving force behind doing that.

 

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colby clark: And then in.

 

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colby clark: Around 1997 when I came on board.

 

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colby clark: was shocked cerebral he heard was going to be sold to one of our competitors, and that was a little falls New York Well he wrote a handwritten letter and fax it to the President of of chair borough says this doesn't make any sense, you know i've worked out in Syracuse New York.

 

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colby clark: How about selling us the business.

 

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colby clark: Nothing, if anything, would happen and a day later he got back them said okay.

 

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colby clark: It makes sense would rather sell to you, then, a big conglomerate in the Midwest.

 

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colby clark: When we bought chair bro We thought that the customer base was the same so we were just looking at it for supplemental for space.

 

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colby clark: Little did we know that the customer base was 100% different their energy that we were never in and that really helped our growth really helped us grow and then 1999 again free was an issue West Coast started booming so we built a facility in.

 

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colby clark: For me Nevada.

 

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colby clark: To cover the west coast and then in 2000 or 2001 we bought a facility and shall rock island.

 

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colby clark: to survive lust.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You guys are doing it all across the country at this point.

 

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Michael Palumbos: How many cases is it.

 

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colby clark: Right now we're seven.

 

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Okay.

 

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colby clark: So we there's it was all because of his vision, he didn't know what he wanted to do, but he knew we had to do it, and you know, being a family business he knew he had the people around him that we're going to make it happen.

 

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Michael Palumbos: gotcha.

 

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You know.

 

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colby clark: What.

 

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Michael Palumbos: No, I was just gonna say your grandfather had this you know what we would call today and Jim Collins, who wrote the book good to great would say he had a big hat a bee hag or big hairy audacious goal.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I don't know whether he shared his vision or whatnot with people or if it just would come out in pieces at the way you're talking about animals kinds of sounds like.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, it would come out and pieces his his his vision kind of you know, changed over time, but that's pretty interesting what a visionary he wasn't what it turned into today.

 

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colby clark: He was he was really the driving force behind it all, and you know Jennifer and I, you know being so close to him.

 

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colby clark: You know, we really want to carry out that vision for him and my my grandmother, and the rest of the family, because at the end of the day, you know, being in a family business.

 

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colby clark: it's about family it's about your your immediate family but it's also about your employees our employees our family as well, and sometimes it doesn't come across to them, because we all take this job in this business so seriously.

 

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colby clark: Knowing that it's on our shoulders.

 

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colby clark: You know, but it also has its benefits as well we don't have to listen to shareholders.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Right right.

 

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colby clark: Look at a pace.

 

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colby clark: We can make immediate decisions.

 

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colby clark: yeah we're very vertically integrated and then we can ratchet we can we can move in different directions pretty quickly and it shows what we've done since 1952 to talk today.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Do you so in thinking about your grandparents and the values are their values kind of embedded I mean you guys have corporate values today are those kind of the values from your grandparents just curious not.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Do you know what and I don't mean to put you on the spot, do you know what the company's core values are.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Well, I think we don't have we don't even listen exactly but in regard to our grandparents and you know again it's the invention ingenuity.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: and family values and quality, so I On top of that article I, Mr Kobe has a lot of other things, but.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: um Those are the things that we every day we were walking on the floor, those are Those are the things that we talked about with our employees that that commitment to the work and family values, and you know doing what it takes.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know it's as i've talked to family businesses, for years now, I find that more often than not, you know what you don't have these company corporate values that are posted up on a wall you guys are live with them.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And we, you know it's a grandma and grandpa instill them in, as we know what they are that's why you know I always almost usually comfortable putting people on the spot, because, even if they don't have them written down.

 

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Michael Palumbos: They know what they are, and you know I bet you if you were to walk out on the floor.

 

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Michael Palumbos: People there would say exactly what you just said.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Pretty cool.

 

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Michael Palumbos: it's pretty cool um it colby you mentioned, you know the the company went through a bankruptcy back in the 80s.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know any and here you are still doing what you're doing bigger, but you know better than ever were there, you know what were the other obstacles to the years that kind of shaped who felt Meyer is and what you're about today, would you say.

 

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colby clark: yeah you know, I think, am grandparents that they went through the Great Depression.

 

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colby clark: understood that you know you have to save a patty here.

 

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colby clark: The big thing that happened that really reshaped our company was in the mid 2000s about 2009 2010 you know and being it being in a family business, you always end up with some some family issues and family squabbles.

 

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colby clark: You know, there was a family member in the mid 2000s that was was was all about himself and try stealing the business from the other citizens in the family.

 

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colby clark: And they all rallied around each other, and you know we changed the entire management style where the company was run a certain way for let's say 20 years.

 

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colby clark: So that next generation of the second generation came through and really.

 

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colby clark: really changed the way that they wanted to do business and the family became more tight knit more driven and unfortunate, we had to make that make the difficult decision of removing a family member from the business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: happens.

 

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yeah.

 

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colby clark: But one thing that that we've always said is we're very thankful to that generation for doing that because instill more family values and us or our families now we're close than they've ever been you know, whether it be from aunts and uncles cousins and things like that that.

 

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colby clark: You have the family that's stronger outside of business, which helps the family in business row in a certain direction like we you know we don't get along every day.

 

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colby clark: Right.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Okay yeah.

 

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colby clark: But, but we know at the end of the day that everybody that is still in the business or even retired from the business has each other's back.

 

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colby clark: and support each other and knows that we may not make the right decisions, every day, but the decisions that we're making are for each other and for extended families that work for the organization.

 

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that's.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Perfectly said, I appreciate that.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I think back to our grandparents and our what some of their values were is something that was made them successful was every challenge was an opportunity.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: that's something that's also shaped how called me and I look at the business every day, is when we have hurdles we look as as an opportunity it's not a know.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: it's maybe it's going to take us a little bit longer maybe we have to think a bit a little bit harder, but our grandfather would make it happen.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love that love that I have a mentor can't remember exactly the quote but he says hidden inside of every obstacle is the opportunity for success, and then I get.

 

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Michael Palumbos: buried in there.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So the kind of the same thing I love that.

 

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colby clark: My my my mentor says there's no sense, putting the brakes on when the cars upside down.

 

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colby clark: Here here's a little bit better yeah I.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love that.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know thinking and looking back through history for the two of you in regards to the you know the company what are some of the things that you're really proud of both the family, the employees, the business itself what would you say, are the things that you're most proud of.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I think it's easy to say we're proud of our business that's an easy answer we're obviously very proud of what we do every day, our employees are.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: They are employees, speak for themselves, they are the best in the industry, we are grateful and thankful to have them working at this company every day it's a choice they make.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And so we appreciate that and we value that but on top of that, I personally again this is, I guess personal question but i'm proud of our family.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: i'm proud to know that I can rely on and colby shared earlier, I can rely on the fact that I know that every decision that's made.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Whether I agree with it, which is a 5050 or maybe 7520 depending on the day i'm has a bad decision was made and that reason is embedded in the best interest of the family and company.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: family is extended family as well, our employees to but, at the end of the day when I rest my head and try to try to make my brain shut off for a minute.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I can always look back and say that I am, day in and day out, proud of every single Member of our family because of the values and commitment they share.

 

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Great.

 

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Michael Palumbos: goalie you know.

 

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colby clark: From for me I use the stories, you know when I first started was was bringing people in there was this one gentleman who grew up in the south side of Syracuse we hired him, he was a troublemaker and a record jail time, etc, and I remember when he said he had his his daughter was born.

 

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colby clark: You know and i'm like well.

 

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colby clark: You need to straighten up right you've got a daughter that's coming through, and you know, he was we would sit down right monthly and talk about 10 to 15 it was 1516 years later he came up and said hey you know I want to let you know my daughter.

 

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colby clark: is going to college first and the family, you know just seeing when we're a smaller company that you know just seeing.

 

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colby clark: These people, and what what we were doing what it meant for their families and their other their kids brains and stuff like that was was awesome to see we don't see it as much now because you know, a coven right ready we can't be as a.

 

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colby clark: Family out as much as we used to but.

 

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colby clark: you're just seeing how people they come in and then you know how they leave.

 

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colby clark: You have.

 

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colby clark: To stay with saw life as people leave but see that they leave in a better situation than they were when they came That to me is.

 

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colby clark: When I was younger the competitive nature said, you know I don't want to lose people right, but now I look at it is I love people when they leave and they they better themselves and their families in a better situation than it was when they first started sure.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That, I think that's awesome I think I think as family businesses, we look at those employees differently and and that really is powerful to think about the impact that we have not just on the customers that we serve but mostly the employees.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know a lot of times.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, everybody says it's customer first, and I know that that's.

 

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Michael Palumbos: True, but at the end of the day, I think it really doesn't have to be employees, first because, if I don't have good employees doing the right things, thinking about things and and feeling good about who we are, as a company they're not going to serve the customer first.

 

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colby clark: we're all in sales right we're all in sales people on the floor, are the best sales and we have.

 

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colby clark: yeah happy and they're doing quality work, the people are going to keep coming back.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So one of my favorite questions asked companies and you guys, you know we haven't talked really about what you do, but so if you can take.

 

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Michael Palumbos: It you know go through history and from your perspective, think about maybe one of the toughest jobs.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That came through and that you know that you can think of to say Oh, my goodness yeah I remember that job, and you know tell us about that, so that you know that the audience can get an idea of what is it is that fell by our equipment does.

 

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colby clark: You want to take that one Jenny do you want me to take that.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: that's all you call me.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: You have you have all those stories.

 

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well.

 

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colby clark: I always like to say one story.

 

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colby clark: Back in the early 80s, we shipped a tank to a local dairy and this was what solve I was known for was was the dairy industry in the early days that the tank didn't drain.

 

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colby clark: So my grandfather was out there and say he got a bunch of cinder blocks and said just tilt it.

 

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colby clark: Well, that didn't really that didn't that didn't go over too well.

 

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colby clark: But but fast forward for me was.

 

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colby clark: We my goal when we started was to really diversify as much as we could, and when I moved back from Alabama and 2002 I walked into the office in our chief estimator the time August cook.

 

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colby clark: Had this big huge packet of work and he said here, you go good luck young man.

 

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colby clark: And it was our first major major pharmaceutical project.

 

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colby clark: which was for amgen they were making a budget and neupogen and the last up.

 

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colby clark: At the small facility in Hong Kong Puerto Rico.

 

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colby clark: So here I am i'm like I don't know what i'm doing here, but I guess i'm gonna have to figure this out and that was our our big thrust into getting into the pharmaceutical industry were over a seven year period and gentlemen who calls went from one facility.

 

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colby clark: To one major facility that they even got rid of mountains in Puerto Rico to keep expanding and we ended up building over 600 vessels for them in a seven year period of time 600 600.

 

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Michael Palumbos: wow, and so I mean I you know we got to meet through the family business central New York family business awards, you know and.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I got a tour of your facility so i'm just I just want to let people know real quick, you know that you know you look at anything that's the stores medical grade or food grade you know supplies or whatnot.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And felled Meyer, you know puts together those you know those types of you call vessels or storage tanks or whatnot.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And I was like looking at these things and going wow I mean the amount of of.

 

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Michael Palumbos: pride that the person who was you know just standing down and filing down the rough edges, in an area, you know, to make sure that you know inside of the facility that it was going into.

 

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Michael Palumbos: was perfect and you just see these were not just storage tanks, these were storage tanks that you know into the you know with the big quotes in the lots of big bold and underlined.

 

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Michael Palumbos: It was phenomenal.

 

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Michael Palumbos: what's the biggest storage take that you guys have ever put put in place.

 

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colby clark: The largest vessel we've we've ever fabricated in house.

 

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colby clark: Was 100,000 gallon storage vessel for milk.

 

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colby clark: Okay, and then the largest.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: do a lot of field work on site.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Where we.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Okay got it.

 

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colby clark: So, from a field work standpoint, we built up to 500,000 gallon tanks.

 

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colby clark: And then the largest pharmaceutical vessel we've ever fabricated was 70,000 gallons.

 

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colby clark: Which is fully electric Polish which was one of the largest that was ever built in the United States, it took from the ship from Syracuse New York to Atlanta Georgia, it took four weeks.

 

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colby clark: To go all the way down they actually had brought their own bridge they couldn't use regular bridges, so we had those those military movers reading some of the tank so it was it was unreal.

 

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Michael Palumbos: that's very cool so can kind of when it comes to you know impossible storage tanks that need to be incredibly clean and well taken care of that's what felt like or brings to the table as you're doing these things.

 

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colby clark: We say that if you go into a grocery store anything in the liquid form or powder form ghost or something we family.

 

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Michael Palumbos: There you go.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And that's also where some of our the pride that you that you saw that you experience on the factory floor.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Is our employees are again fantastic of what they do, they are the best in the industry.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: But there's something to be said that they watch because we're fully integrated they watch a product from start to finish, so they'd watch and they are have a hand in.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: That flat piece of stainless built into a you know, whatever vessel we're building per customer specification and then they go to the grocery store and they purchase that product or they watch their family member taking medicine.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: or or they're taking the vaccine or they're getting their booster shot flu shot, you know all those things it's a truly truly 360.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: degree of satisfaction that you don't always see it other businesses and that's why you know that we have that just a little little bit extra pride that you might that you experience there on the factory floor.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I love it.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I love it.

 

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colby clark: I think another really, really major project that I think we're all proud of was in about February or March 2020 or 2019 and all these years are blending together.

 

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colby clark: We started building vessels for.

 

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colby clark: Not only hand sanitizers for the colon.

 

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colby clark: But we also were building vessels for all the major pharmaceutical companies moderna we worked with them Pfizer that we were shipping tanks and record time to them so they could they could make these vaccines.

 

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colby clark: wow right now, to this day we're still making 10 a week for them that are going to Madonna as we've been shipping overseas to some of their pharmaceutical manufacturers bad technique going to Pfizer going to Merck.

 

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colby clark: And then you look at the hand sanitizer go Joe soaps, you know it's it's it's really impressive of how our staff all of our employees.

 

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colby clark: Whether it be from the order entry from the sales to the people on the floor to people ship prep fit technicians what they've done and what they've worked through to make sure that we kept this thing rolling.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it so because this is the family business show let's let's flip it around a little bit and talk about family a little bit so through the years how many different family members have been involved in the business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And I am.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Your grandmother grandfather yeah I mean just so it's three you guys are the third generation.

 

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colby clark: Total, including our grandparents.

 

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Michael Palumbos: There you go.

 

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colby clark: there's an eight total now in the early years he brought a brother in line in the workforce for a little while.

 

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colby clark: My father my mother is actually fell my or my father worked for the business for a week.

 

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colby clark: If I send you this we're only gonna be married a month.

 

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So.

 

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colby clark: yeah so so that was the total so you know.

 

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colby clark: We might it's a truly family business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Okay, love it and today either these who's you know, besides the two of you, are there any other family members in the business.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: So you made, maybe saw peak of our uncle that when he popped in and was standing behind me in a blue sweater for a second and so that's our uncle he's also in the business and we do have to to in laws in the business as well that working in parts of our facility great.

 

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Michael Palumbos: How do you know how do transitions happen so you've had you know you're I think you're in the process of a transition right now I would guess but, like the transition from your grandfather to, who was the next President was that.

 

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colby clark: So, so the next President of the company was was the was the one family member that we had to remove from the business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Okay.

 

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colby clark: And he was in that role, from 94 so he was in there for 16 years.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Okay.

 

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colby clark: As President and now our uncle Bob has been President since 2010.

 

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colby clark: We joke that we we know you're getting ready to retire when we get a more comfortable couch in the next generations office.

 

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colby clark: Because what they do is they sit there, most of the day, and they they check on you to make sure that you're making the right decisions and.

 

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colby clark: You know just make sure, things are moving in the right direction.

 

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colby clark: transitions of.

 

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colby clark: Theirs they're slow transitions right because it's family you don't know you don't want to leave right, I think you don't want to leave the next generation there without your help.

 

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colby clark: You know, we can it's very difficult to let go at times, because this is all you've known.

 

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colby clark: Right well we're lucky that you know each time of transition begins to happen.

 

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colby clark: They make their very lives become autonomous right they, let us make the decisions they, let us make mistakes.

 

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colby clark: because they know that they're there to help a section.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it i'm talking about family members outside of the business for just a second you know they're there they know the business they haven't worked in the business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Would you say that they, you know how did they feel about the business what are their you know, is there still a connection to that for them to the business talk about that a little bit john Jennifer sorry.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Absolutely so and I think both colby and i've shared because our third generation, at least I can speak to has been so involved in our entire family in our grandparents, they all all of us are connected.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: To the business and proud of it so outside of the business, they all have different paths and everyone works, you know they all have different passions, but when it comes down to it, they.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: are proud of the business and understand and that commitment, so obviously are the people that work actively in the.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: In the business have a day to day active commitment but it takes, just as much commitment on the other side to have the people that aren't in the family, because they're they're supporting.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: they're supporting and you know colby and I in the day day to day operations and our uncle who's in it.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: But they've supported the last 70 years and they have to support the future because again when it comes down to it, we have this business our grandparents built this for our family, and we all rather you're in the business or not keep that in mind, every day.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So without disclosing anything and i'm just going to ask you, you know let's say i'm curious for my own sake and for listeners are the ownership of the business or there's some people that own a portion of the business but don't work they're.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Not currently.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Not currently so sometimes that happens, and you know exactly you know and so it's it's a really interesting thing to talk about.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And look at it in because it's like there's what and even without ownership there's members of G three your generation that are really proud of what.

 

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Michael Palumbos: The legacy that felled Meyer has done and the families that they you know employee through the years and there's a connection and I betcha.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, they want to know what's going on with the business they've not going to they don't want to help with the day to day decisions they might you know if you ask them, you know they would give advice.

 

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Michael Palumbos: But I bet you that they want to know you know how's the company doing where we go, what are the latest projects is that sounds familiar.

 

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colby clark: yeah so the the second generation, the entertainment people in the second generation they're on the board of directors so.

 

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colby clark: it's a quarter that we we kind of review company status major projects.

 

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colby clark: We obviously we go over the books things such as that and we go over some of the other business ventures that we have.

 

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colby clark: You know they're interested in that as well, but then they're also interested, what are we doing to what are we doing to innovate right because.

 

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colby clark: that's kind of our tagline innovations family tradition So what are the products are we trying to come up with our what other product or what other machinery we're bringing in you know they're curious because again they help grow the business where it's at they're not here every day.

 

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colby clark: So I mean that's the biggest thing that we're learning is communication right communication in the family business, especially when you have family members that are no longer part of it.

 

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colby clark: You want to communicate you can't communicate enough to them, the more you communicate the the the less that they they see the one.

 

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colby clark: to know I guess.

 

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Michael Palumbos: One of the episodes that we just shot a pot, and just recording for the podcast was with.

 

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Michael Palumbos: If you have a cast iron pan in your kitchen that cast iron pan is probably a large cast iron pan.

 

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Michael Palumbos: yeah we had the large family in there and it was really interesting they have ownership, a whole lot of ownership.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That does not work in the business nothing day to day like like over 50 family members, only five or six of them work in the business but ownership all over.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And I bring it up, because I think it's you know their key was what you just said colby it was communication and that you know, everybody needed to know what was going on how things were going.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And we needed to over communicate they needed to over communicate in order to really make a difference and I think that's really powerful what you said and it's smart.

 

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Michael Palumbos: To get in front of it, because if you're if you don't communicate what happens, you know people I love to make a story of their head right.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Exactly and it's not easy it's not easy to communicate, especially and that's something that colby and I have.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: been thankful to learn, and in these transitions that we've watched is that it's a choice that you make.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Especially when you're working with family, there are sometimes you don't want to have a conversation with them.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: or there's sometimes where you, you know there's a lot going on and we're all active and but communication sometimes is a choice and we've caught me and I have made that commitment to communicate.

 

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Michael Palumbos: well.

 

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colby clark: And Mike that the other big thing is.

 

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colby clark: You when we learn at a at a very young age is once you walk out the doors of work.

 

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colby clark: You don't talk about work.

 

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colby clark: yeah so you know, we have, we have a family camp that we all, we all still go through during the summer and.

 

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colby clark: You would think that we all have our own business careers, because it's never discussed it's never talked about.

 

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colby clark: We all do family holidays together, it is never discussed it's never talked about, but when you walk through the doors back into work, then we understand each what our roles are and what we need to do for each other.

 

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Michael Palumbos: that's great, that is, the you know that those are really effective boundaries that I would say, more than 80% of family businesses don't have that boundary you know it's like okay you can't talk about business and during the holiday until after dinner, but then game on you know.

 

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colby clark: It wasn't always that way i'm accurate Members as a as a kid where it was a big part of of their lives, outside of work.

 

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colby clark: But really within the last I would say 20 years gen when you say.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: yeah definitely.

 

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colby clark: it's it's really been like as we've grown I think there's been more confidence and each generation or each member in the business that we're all here to help each other out and help our extended families which our employees on the floor.

 

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colby clark: That we don't need to talk about a 24 seven because.

 

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colby clark: You know film or equipment isn't going to define me as an individual it's not going to define Jennifer as an individual.

 

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colby clark: it's not going to define other family members and other businesses as an individual what what's going to define you as how your how you are outside of work and we like to fly under the radar a little bit as well.

 

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colby clark: If you caught us you can't miss it caught me on a weak moment.

 

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Michael Palumbos: i'm talk about it real quick going back to family your favorite family tradition.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: called we mentioned it going to camp.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Go to Canada pick me up in the adirondacks our grandparents purchase this old wrestling camp or sports camp in the adirondacks with a vision and.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: To this day, corey mentioned it, we go there and all of our family goes there for the summertime every weekend, even though we work together day in, day out, we choose to spend the weekends together at this.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: candle slaughter imax it's rustic it's not a second home it's a rustic place.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And, but that's where the memories are made, we don't have cell phones we don't have TVs we truly spend time with each other on the water and enjoying enjoying time with each other and that's that's my family favorite tradition.

 

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colby clark: You know that.

 

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colby clark: that's my favorite as well you know because again if really get that next generation used to hard work, and I remember going up there and spend a half time underneath can try to fix the plumbing with my grandfather well now my son does that with with my father.

 

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colby clark: You know, so you you're starting to get those next generations to understand family understand work ethic.

 

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colby clark: it's almost like a sports team right in a sports team, you always bring them to a camp, and you know you go off on your own and you develop teamwork.

 

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colby clark: And that's.

 

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colby clark: kind of what this family camp is done for all of us.

 

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Michael Palumbos: amazing and.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: If you haven't had a steak.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: cooked on the open would fire or grilled vegetables cooked on our open would fire at our camp, you have not eaten.

 

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colby clark: Yet haven't eaten and it takes it takes about six months to grow, the hair on your arms back.

 

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Michael Palumbos: that's awesome um what is the family's vision for the future, right now, do you mind shift do you have is that something that you can talk about sure yeah.

 

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what's your vision.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Our vision or I can speak to my vision, at least, but I think colby and I share a lot of the same.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Again we choose called me and I choose to talk to each other on daily basis, about our visions for the future and our vision is continue to grow.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: But that growth is strategic we want to be very purposeful in our actions we're taking every day.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: But our vision is a futures, to continue to provide a place for our family and our extended family our employees and develop the best products that we can put forth whether we diversify or not and continue throughout the rest of time.

 

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colby clark: They mean, I think, the key is.

 

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colby clark: We don't want to do what we've always done, you know we always want to get better at what we're doing.

 

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colby clark: I always say.

 

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colby clark: You know, every decision that we make, we have to understand what that effect is on everybody else right.

 

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colby clark: So Jenny I we sit there and we talk we figure out what we want to do in a facility, whether it be a little falls, whether it be an Alabama island.

 

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colby clark: And what do we want to do we've actually just or in the process of finishing a any thousand square foot addition in our little falls facility to provide to that community.

 

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colby clark: we're looking at that next step we're looking at bringing new equipment, and so our vision is to do strategic growth but do it the right way.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Nice.

 

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Michael Palumbos: What are the obstacles to that strategic growth, right now, what are you know, do you mind sharing, what do you to look at and say, these are the obstacles we're kind of juggling right, you know that over the next five to 10 years.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: yeah without stating the obvious about the pandemic and you know, certainly, we have a lot of employment struggles and.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: There are a lot of things and Kobe can share a little bit more about production and all those other things, but.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: A lot has changed in the last three years, a lot of teams to the world.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And those challenges we are starting to realize aren't going to go away so we're looking at the fact that, how are we adapting how are we taking our strategic plan.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: and using that as an opportunity to change it shift it think outside the box, maybe bring in some automation if we need it and you know just innovate.

 

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colby clark: And the other one the other really large absolutely we're trying to overcome now supply chain.

 

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colby clark: yeah and the supply chain is difficult, you know we were lucky enough that again we're vertically integrated, so we do a lot ourselves on.

 

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colby clark: However, the to get a lot of the raw materials is difficult, you know we.

 

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colby clark: We actually purchase enough material, the last six months, but what's going to happen in the next six months right um so supply chain is very, very difficult Jenny touched on employment, employment is is difficult, as well.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So yeah no as a matter of fact, I just you know how to attract and retain employees in this in this gentleman, you know.

 

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Michael Palumbos: pandemic world endemic world wherever we are now it's it's tough and I just read an article that there was there's you know way more jobs out there than there is unemployment, right now.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And so that's you know I think a lot of people that were in that 55 to 75 years old, that we're still working when the pandemic happened, you know they were the managers and the leaders within the companies just said.

 

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Michael Palumbos: i'm done i'm out, so the right resignation wasn't so much that you know our age or whatnot everybody was Alex we still need to work, but it was it causes this vacuum, because people like That said, I do have enough close enough and they're all.

 

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colby clark: season will you lose their as you lose that knowledge base.

 

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colby clark: yeah you got that younger generation, now that are coming through in roles that they're not necessarily ready for.

 

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colby clark: And so there's a lot of growing pains that happen there.

 

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colby clark: yep.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So, if I remember walking through your facility don't you have like a felled Meyer university kind of thing isn't that then they see something about that.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: we've done some cool training programs where we've and we look a lot at different high schools and different.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Trade schools in the industry here in our local communities and all of our locations in the US and how to.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: build that workforce from an early age, so a lot of tours we do a lot of different training opportunities and, but we do spend a lot of time, because we know that that knowledge is something you have to start building at an early age and get that interest.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Great what is the you know, do you guys have a succession plan in place right now, are you still working on that.

 

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colby clark: we're we're in the process again because of you know, some of the changes in the family dynamics and things like that we're right now we're working on a succession plan you know and the goal is.

 

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colby clark: You know this this this business was built for the employees in the family, so we want to ensure that.

 

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colby clark: However, the plan is set up that there's a strong nucleus, we can't lose the value right we can't lose the innovation.

 

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colby clark: You know, and we want, we want to make sure that the succession is set up somewhere even stronger down the road.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Great.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And from your perspective if you're talking to other family business owners.

 

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Michael Palumbos: or people that are just working in a family business or family members that may not be owners Whatever the case may be, if you're working in a family business, what are the one or two pieces of advice that you would want to bestow on others.

 

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colby clark: I got an easy one.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Go ahead.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Not an easy one.

 

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colby clark: don't take it personally.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I was just.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I have a.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I have a poster in my office, it just says shake it off.

 

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colby clark: don't take a person because, again, and a family business there's a lot of emotion.

 

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colby clark: Right there's a lot of emotion.

 

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colby clark: That you things are said, things are done but remember at the end of the day, you all, are doing this thing for a common goal, and the other one is you can't over communicate.

 

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colby clark: you've got to communicate let people know where it's at.

 

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colby clark: Because, at the end of the day, they do trust you but they don't trust you.

 

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colby clark: Right, I mean they've they've built the business, to a certain point.

 

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colby clark: They want to ensure that you're still carry on those values, so they those two for me go hand in in Canada Canadian don't take it personally okay great.

 

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Michael Palumbos: um last question when it comes to business and you may you may not be readers but favorite book.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Good to great.

 

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colby clark: Great and I tell you I you know.

 

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colby clark: i'm beginning into some some audiobooks from driving and stuff like that the Matthew mcconaughey audio book was just out of this world.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Very cool good to know, thank you.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Jennifer.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: So i'm not a reader.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: hundred percent.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: admit it.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I don't like to read.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: But I did make a commitment 2021 to read more books and.

 

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colby clark: 2022 now.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: I know, but I did it in.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: 2021 you may have already read a book in 2022 yeah not of myself um but the i've.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: One of my favorite books is the home edit or organization books and it's not necessarily about the organization tips that come in the books but it's how to compartmentalize your thinking.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Okay, and so i've i've taken that and.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: You know.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And the home edit.

 

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Michael Palumbos: The home at it okay I love, I have not heard that conversation before and as someone who might not have a great time and easily compartmentalize things I think i'm going to grab that book.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Or maybe i'm just trying to find silver linings and books.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: But in forcing myself to read, but I am trying to take the fact that I need some organization in my life and learning how to compartmentalize your thinking and realize what you're good at and focusing on those things.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: And it's something that I found when those book that was organization books great.

 

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colby clark: I can't compartmentalize I just got it I just go.

 

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Michael Palumbos: that's me.

 

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Michael Palumbos: i'll share with you Jennifer and inside of the human resources, you know area and just as a family business just one of the books that we always talked about on the show is Patrick once the owners, the five dysfunctions of a team.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Just a great as you're building teams and putting things together, I think it's a.

 

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Michael Palumbos: phenomenal book and I shared another one with you, when we met, but I don't think I had copies of the book then there's a book by Shannon Cisco called.

 

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Michael Palumbos: metro nomics, and so one of the things that I found and we just did a book club with it had a great discussion.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Just recently about metronomic so we do a family business book club and one of the things that we found through the book was just that.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know the Patrick lens cod's book and good to great and the great game of business, they all have tons and tons of ideas and then they are really good you know there's you know the but.

 

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Michael Palumbos: How to implement them day to day week to week month to month quarter to quarter year to year inside of the business is sometimes hard to say where do these things fit.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And Shannon built.

 

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Michael Palumbos: This book to give you the recipe to walk through all of those pieces and know where to integrate Jim Collins where to integrate pat where to integrate top grading and.

 

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Michael Palumbos: All the other great business books that are out there, so that you're keeping balance within your business I highly recommend to both of you that's one of my favorite books nowadays.

 

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Michael Palumbos: and probably not going to change anytime soon you're talking to somebody who's read every business, not everyone, but obviously but hundreds of business books through the years.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And what Shannon did was like a light bulb, for me it was like.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Oh that's how you put these pieces together and you just keep building, you know block on top of blocks, so that you're getting stronger and building that foundation really well so there's my little bit of gift to you, to the two of you.

 

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colby clark: How do you find time.

 

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Michael Palumbos: i'm same way you just talked about the audio books so because you know I have clients all throughout upstate New York.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And then we have a small client base but it's i'm traveling elmira cortland or watertown and Syracuse and now that our two hour drive out back that's four hours that if i'm not doing you know if i'm not on the phone, I want to be have a you know something popping into my head.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So that's kind of how that works.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Well, thank you, thank you to both of you really appreciate your time and joining us and telling us and teaching us a little bit more about fell Meyer.

 

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Michael Palumbos: equipment about the family and how you guys, you know have pulled together through the years, you know as a family and to run an incredible business really appreciate your time today.

 

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and

 

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colby clark: Hopefully you know again.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Absolutely well, thank you, everybody for joining us, this has been the family biz show i'm Michael Columbus from family wealth and legacy in Rochester New York.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And we just want to say remember to hit that subscribe button, so that you can get all of your future episodes of the family business show have a great day, everybody.

 

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Jennifer Donahoe: Thank you, thank you.

If you’re a family business or a family business consultant and want to be on the show, share your story and help other family businesses, send us an email to producer@thefamilybizshow.com or fill out a contact form here!

*not affiliated with Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.

Michael Palumbos is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Family Wealth & Legacy, LLC is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a legal or tax advisor regarding any legal or tax information as it relates to your personal circumstances.

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