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Episode 88: Successfully Navigating Family Business Dynamics

In this episode of the Family Business Show, host Michael Palumbos engages in a comprehensive discussion with Eric from ECS International, a 40-year-old family enterprise. The dialogue delves into the intricacies of joining and evolving within a family business, the significance of employee relationships, and the vital role of respect and understanding in family business dynamics.

Eric shares his journey, beginning with his initial reluctance to join the family business, followed by his eventual embrace and ascent to the position of President at ECS. He recounts his father's purchase of ECS in 1994 and how, despite not founding the company, his father shaped its legacy. Eric's narrative highlights the importance of experiencing different roles within the company and how these experiences fostered a deep understanding of the business.

A significant portion of the conversation focuses on the culture within ECS, emphasizing respect, trust, and the importance of listening. Eric and Michael discuss the delicate balance of managing disagreements within a family business setting, ensuring such disputes do not affect employee morale or the company culture.

Michael and Eric also touch on the challenges and opportunities in the business landscape, including geopolitical factors and market dynamics, underscoring the necessity of strategic planning and adaptability. Eric expresses his commitment to employee well-being and the company's ethos of treating employees like family, which he believes is fundamental to ECS's success.

Overall, the episode offers valuable insights into the complexities of leadership, succession, and cultural integrity within a family business, providing a relatable and instructive narrative for other family business leaders and stakeholders.

Watch the entire episode!

Episode 88 Transcript


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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Well, welcome everybody to the family business show. I'm your host, Michael Columbus, with family wealth and legacy, and What would be now be smoky, upstate. New York the California wildfires are affecting all of us. but welcome. We have a incredible show. slated for you today. Eric.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I'm sladden from Ecs internationals with us. A 40 year old family business, and we're looking forward to hearing about your story and sharing your wisdom with us. Thanks, Eric.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: So the the tradition on the show is always.

 

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Eric: how did you get involved in the family business first? Kinda you know what was your what was your entrance, you know, pattern into the family business? and tell us about that a little bit. Yeah, sure pretty easy, really. So my dad has been in our industry specifically since. the seventies will say

 

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Eric: ran a couple of other companies, and in 1,994 had the opportunity to buy Ecs. So he did not, in fact, start Ecs. But he did purchase it in 1,994

 

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Eric:  you know. I guess I consider myself that I grew up in the business. I'd come and change light bulbs mo the lawn program some parts here and there, and you know, as I was getting a high school age in college, you'd say, Hey, you know. Think you'd ever want to come work for Ecs. I said, no, I don't want to sell that stuff. You can't make any money doing that stuff.

 

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Eric: I attended college. I took a a job out of school. Great company. not in the industry was actually in the insurance industry. and

 

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Eric: didn't love it. Didn't love the trajectory, and he said, Well, once you come interview with my partner and I.

 

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Eric: So okay, fine, I'll do that. And naturally they decided they wanted to hire me. So I I gave it a shot, and probably the best decision I've ever made. it. It's an incredible industry. And I I'm able to travel the world meet really cool people. And it's it's been a lot of fun

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: that's very cool. That's very cool. How long, how long? Between the college and the other industry before you, you know, before you came into the family business working with. So I I finished up college in 6 and

 

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Eric: I started with Ecs. In January of 8, so I gave it a a good year run, year and a half run at the other company, and Everything's worked out since.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and it's your dad, and it's like I've been around this. I know the business a little bit more than I know. Some of the other things that are out there. Yeah, it it. It's funny. I said exactly the same thing to my father. I took a much longer time to get into to get come back. But you you mentioned, you know you can't make money selling these things, and obviously you know what? That's not the case.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And and and the market for what you do is just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It certainly does. And we'll talk about that in a second. My father, what he did for me was I kept hitting the glass ceiling at the you know the Fortune 500 company that I was working at, and

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I'm like every time I got to a you know, a salary that I'm like, okay. Now I got to make the next step. They changed the territory. It did something else, and I'm like I'm done with this. This is frustrating, and my father says not into the office.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And I go in there, and he's like. Here's my tax return from last year, and I got paid this

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: for helping a lot of people. You get paid for selling something that breaks down and does this and that, and you know, and everybody's been, I'm like, Oh, man, you sucked.

 

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Eric: you know. So I get. I get, you know, interview with you know Dad and his partner, and he's like, sure if we'll take you or not. Well, hopefully, that's awesome. Yup.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: talk about, you know. Ecs is foundation formation, and not so much the formation. But when your dad took it over, what were you selling at the time? What were you doing? What was going on. What inspired your father to say who I want to buy that company?

 

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Eric: Sure.

 

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Eric: that's a big question. the foundation, you know. Sincerely the foundation a gentleman started the company. specifically, our product frequency control. That's what we've done for the entire 43 years we've been in business.

 

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Eric: as I noted my father, Brad, had been actually selling product to Ecs. And the former owner founder said, Hey, I think I'm gonna put this up for sale.

 

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Eric: You think you'd be interested?

 

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Eric: Brad said. Absolutely.

 

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Eric: So that's kind of what got him into into Ecs.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Taking a second and just explaining what that you just said you. This is what we, the formation of what we always sold, what it is for those of us who, you know, might not know what your what that is. Explain it a little bit

 

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Eric: sure. So the the simplest way I can describe it is a lot of us have seen a little green computer circuit board

 

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Eric: that can go in computers. It can go in vehicles, it can go into wearables. It can go into hearing aids. It can go into anything, medical anything, any utilities, any white goods. Right? There's a computer circuit board or multiple computer circuit boards. Well, those circuit boards all have multiple different components on it.

 

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Eric: Yeah, so we will have anywhere from one to 5 or 6 or 7 components on those boards. so you can imagine who our customers may or may not be.

 

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Eric: it it. What we sell is frequency control. It's the timing piece, and it's the heartbeat of the whole circuit a lot of us in the news over the last couple of years, and it's still a hot topic, you know. You hear companies like Nvidia. St. Micro Texas instruments all big chip companies. We follow Lar right along with what they're doing. Our part goes next to their part. So that's the simplest way to explain that that's great.

 

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Eric: Sure. So we we've stuck to that core competency. We've looked at bringing on some other products. Look at manufacturing other products. And and we're we're so darn good at what we do. We've got some of the best engineers when it comes to our technology.

 

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Eric: we don't want to move away from that. you know, we some people have suggested. Well, if you want to continue to grow well, we still feel there's a lot more of the pie that we can capture when it comes just to the product that has been our core for a long, long time.

 

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Eric: That's great. And so your dad bought the business. You said 96, 90, 94, yeah. And his his partner retired at the end of 12

 

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Eric: until the beginning of 2,013, he said, All right, it's time for us to go kick some butt and take names. I said, okay, we'll do that.

 

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Eric: So we started hiring some people that have helped us tremendously. I, i.

 

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Eric: Ecs has the the the best team out there period. we. We made some excellent hires. We've made some good decisions and learn from them. In 2,020 he allowed me to start purchasing into the business. but a little bit more in 2,022.

 

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Eric: And frankly, I'm I'm

 

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Eric: bothering him to buy some more now. but That that's kind of where we're where we're headed.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: let's let go back just a little bit more for me. What were some of the obstacles that your dad, his partner over came through the years. And what are some of the stories that he shared with you? You know that, were his words of wisdom to say, you know we tried this or this happened, or this was going on in the economy. What are some of those things that you remember?

 

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Eric: Sure I I I'll be honest. He was pretty good about not bringing most of it home to the dinner table, if you will. So so the challenges I probably couldn't speak to The few conversations that we may have had regarding any struggles.

 

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Eric: honestly, it was his partner was excellent. She was awesome.

 

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Eric: 2 different personalities. She did one piece of the business. He did the other piece of business, and you know, I guess the way he described it. It's a relationship. It's kind of like a marriage, and you're going to go through some struggle, some disagreements. But you know, we found a way to to talk through it and and come to a

 

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Eric: a satisfactory result?

 

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Eric: from those but but not answering your question of full, simply because he just never really brought that home. I couldn't speak to that

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: cool. That's okay. I would. I would wrote to you that might be a a fun conversation to say, Hey, you know, as I'm buying more and more of this things that kind of tripped you up in the past. The reason why we talk about those is not

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: what's the word I want to use it. It's not to embarrass anybody, or but it's that's how we learn way more from the failures or the mistakes that we made. You know it's like, Oh, I still might tell I am not doing that one again.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: My my most recent was a a a wonderful thing. I no names or anything, hired somebody without going through my traditional hiring process.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I could just share with everybody. It was very expensive, and we have a phenomenal hiring process for our little small team that works great, and I didn't follow it because I had a former relationship. I knew who he was. I'm like, Oh.

 

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Eric: yeah, we I I

 

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Eric: I can I I hear that. And and we do have processes now and here and there we'll go away from a little bit in in.

 

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Eric: We know better.

 

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Eric: We usually find a way to make it work, but if we would. If we would be a throw and sticking to our process, I think we'd be even better than we are.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: so I I appreciate what you were saying there.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: So you and your father tell me about you know, how do you guys interact? The partner's gone? And have you taken that partners slot to be that where you guys, you know, how do you work together?

 

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Eric:  it's just kind of evolved over time.

 

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Eric: you know, I started out inside sales, working with a handful of customers here, there, and working with our reps. Blah blah blah! Frankly learning the business. As I matured a little bit he would expose more to of the business to me. When she was out he would expose more meaning where we're spending our money. What would you know? A lot of the fine details in in, I guess, higher level

 

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Eric: type things that not all employees would be privy to

 

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Eric: And

 

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Eric: as we began hiring people my title changed a little bit more, a little bit more. I was inside sales, and I was. I think I went straight to Vp of sales, and I was Vp of global sales. And then my most recent February of 22, I was named President

 

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Eric:  if we follow the the suggested timeline meeting what he and I have kind of discussed. I should be CEO within 2 to 3 years.

 

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Eric: big title big role.

 

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Eric: but that it's just it's been kind of a a a

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: stepping stone to to get to where we are.

 

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Eric:  roughly

 

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Eric: 15.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And where are you today?

 

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Eric: if we count

 

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Eric: inside, outside and overseas contractors? we're roughly 30.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah. So you've doubled in size double than doubled in head count.

 

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Eric: Revenues have quadruple

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: in in that period of time.

 

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Eric: Yeah, probably more than that. Actually, yeah. So it it's

 

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Eric: it's been a fun ride again. We've made a lot of decisions we've had to learn from. We were forced to learn from. And we've made a lot of really damn good decisions, too.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's awesome. Let's talk about that, because it and I'll share why, Over the last 18 months I've interviewed, along with a couple of other business coaches, about 70 72 different Ceos.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: 48 of the Ceos that we spoke with

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: said their number one priority was growing revenue profit, or the value of the business. So just that. So let's so let's talk about that. You know you you. I think you and your dad, your dad's partner, left. If I heard the story right? And you said, It's go time.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: So walk us through.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know. Kind of that timeline and the evolution, and some of the, if you don't mind sharing some of the you know things that you had to learn from, but all the good decisions, and what what was the what were the things that added up to the success.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know, over that period of time that'd be really helpful. A lot of people.

 

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Eric: It would take me a while to get into everything but trying to keep it. sync.

 

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Eric: we we.

 

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Eric: and not

 

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Eric: more often not opportunities to put in front of us. Okay, somebody's got, hey? I'm available to come work for you.

 

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Eric: hey? I've got this new product that fits into your portfolio. that I think could be really successful in those 2 examples. The first person that we hired

 

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Eric: wasn't the correct hire. However. he was able to bring us some product that has helped us out brought us some relationships that we did not have prior to him joining us.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I'm already getting lost. You you do agree and don't. This is just a conversation. It's just the tool. Now, all good. what were some of the reasons why that person didn't fit for you guys?

 

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Eric: Culture,

 

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Eric: total total

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: culture differences. So I think again, you you you I've been doing this long enough. I know exactly where I want to go with this. I had no idea. That's what you were going to say. But I just was coaching a group yesterday that's about to go through exponential growth. They have a product and a system and a thing that they put together, that I know that you know, these 3 guys that have a business that just started 2 years ago are gonna do incredible, really cool things.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And so we were going through. And they hadn't formed. You know, their their company values. They didn't know what their purpose was, but they were real quick. They, the 3 of them, working together, were real quick to put them together, and one of the things that we talked about was just exactly that. It's time to right now before you bring in. You know, employee number one that's not an owner. You? What are the questions you're going to ask in your interview process

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: to make sure that you're hiring for culture fit.

 

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Eric: Yeah.

 

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Eric: that you know. number one culture is probably more important to me than anything else period, because we've made mistakes that we're not. Culture fits versus where

 

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Eric: the culture fits that we have found

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: exceed our expectations.

 

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Eric: Go ahead, keep going. Well, I I was gonna say, you know, I now that I think about it, I don't believe that we have any direct questions that relate to our culture in the interview process.

 

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Eric: good, better and different. It's, I guess, for Brad and I. We're making high level hires our interviews. Are

 

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Eric: we spend the day with you? We go out and have dinner right? And and you learn to. To me. You learn a lot more about somebody having dinner and having drinks. Should should anybody choose to partake in that? I think you want more in those those individual personal conversations. You can pull more out of people.

 

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Eric: strictly out of curiosity. You get to know the person in, and and it allows you to get a feel. Now, most business coaches, most large companies would say, well, you're crazy. You can't lean only on that. You've got to use other processes, but frankly, it works for us our, our small company, it it it's it's served as well.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's great it we won't hire even an admin position without team members taking them up to lunch.

 

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Eric: Yeah, great idea. I like that

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: because it's you know what we we want to get them surrounded by other people. We want to see how they fit, how they interact. Does it feel natural, or is everything feel?

 

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Eric: Yeah, you know, it's it could be anybody. They don't have to be from our industry. Some of our best hires have been from outside the industry, you know. We can teach them. Is there a learning curve? Certainly there's a big learning curve and what we do. But if they fit the culture, and if if they're the right person for that right role.

 

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Eric: they accelerate, they, they, they, they again. They exceed our expectations. It's it's it's really fun to watch people honestly. when you make the right culture higher.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's great. And it, I would add, one of the things that you said that I really liked is that there was an opportunity to bring somebody in. I'm sure that that person wasn't the only one through this period of growth that you guys have experienced. And and you, I I think that people need to be open to looking to say, I may not have a position right now, but that person adds a level right of

 

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Eric: of of of of a culture fit it. Just gonna take us. Let's figure out how to make that work. You you yep. And again, something else. You just said rings true to us.

 

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Eric: several of our hires weren't because we were looking for somebody.

 

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Eric: They came to us, and we said, You know what you are a culture fit. You could be an asset to the company.

 

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Eric: We'll find a spot for you. and and those may have been our most successful hires.

 

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Eric: So it you get the right people you find a spot, for. That's one thing that that Brad has as said for a long time.

 

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Eric: you know you think about it as sports teams.

 

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Eric: They're always looking to upgrade right? They're always looking to upgrade. You always got to fill the bench right? You've got to have a bench.

 

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Eric: That's kind of the way we look at it. Not that our our team is bad, in fact, they're excellent, but if we can bring somebody else in that's going to help us in one shape or form. Let's do it. Let's do it.

 

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Eric: And sometimes you bring somebody in, and it elevates everybody else on the team because they're like, Oh, wait a minute, this is fun again. We get this injection of some new blood and

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: 100. And I love that you compared business to sports. That is my number one analogy. We are not in the business of whatever we are in a game, and we are playing this to win. And our team, and you know, has it. We we we want to build a scoreboard. I want to show people where we're at compared to our competition. I want them to know where we sit in the arena, and we're gonna go like

 

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back arms and let's go in the fox hole and take on the, you know, when we got out there. I love that.

 

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Eric: Yeah, yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: So what else you? So you and you, you and Brand have the idea. You know, it's like, all right, we're gonna let's go. Let it go. Time. What are some of the steps that you guys thought about? What were some of the planning that went into go time. What did that mean for you guys? Did you do like a strategic initiative? Or did you just say, you take china I'm taking, you know, South America, and we're gonna like, figure it out.

 

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Eric: Great question. I don't know if we knew what that meant when he said it.

 

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Eric:  What he did, is he? He

 

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Eric: injected himself a lot more than he had been in years prior And really, honestly, it was we needed to hire more people, and we needed to hire more big time distributors. We sell most of our product product through distribution. These are multi 1 billion dollar distributors

 

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Eric: that sell the gamut of components. so over the years it took time.

 

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Eric: we we were able to engage with a couple of those in in have have grown. Those relationships have grown that business with each of those distributors. We've been able to add a few more large guys.

 

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Eric:  that's been a big piece of what we're doing. And then again, hiring more people that know how to work really well with those distributors right

 

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Eric: and and coaching us along. And here's what we need to do. And it's it's it's been a a a really fun ride. But

 

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Eric: initially, I don't know if either one of us knew what the hell that looked like, and we said, Let's go

 

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Eric:  in, and you know what that that's kind of the fun of being a small business, not having to answer to anybody. you you

 

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Eric: you can say things, do things, make decisions on the fly. Really

 

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Eric: You don't have a a board of directors breathing down your neck and and saying, Hey, what do you mean? What are you gonna do? When's it going to be done? you know Brad and I joke all the time. There's no way we could work for anybody else any longer. Like I I I could not ever work for anybody else at this point.

 

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Eric: you know, I'm sure there are great bosses out there. But but Having control over

 

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Eric: those decisions, and not having to answer to somebody is is is quite nice.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: agreed on a hundred. I I there's no way I could for for somebody. I I would figure out how to monetize the podcast if that's if I if I lost everything, it started tomorrow like this. And I don't. You know, we just do this because I want as much information out there as possible. You know, we started this because Covid happened. I'm sitting here going.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: People are going to need information faster, more than anything else, and I've got a slew of people that I know can help family businesses. So I just started bringing people in to help people think this. And then they were all webinars. And when my buddies is like, you've got these recordings, why don't you turn into a podcast. Like, what's a po, I'm not doing a pock. I hate podcasts here. We are now now that's how we live, right?

 

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Eric: back back to you. You know what, what.

 

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Eric: what were some of the steps? We didn't have any plan steps when we said, Let's go. We did hire a consultant group.

 

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Eric: They helped us a little bit. They were probably more expensive than than what they're worth was of what their value was to us, but they did get. What kind of things did they get you thinking about? We're looking in the processes, you know, really watching a certain set of Kpis

 

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Eric: getting us to really think about enterprise value

 

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Eric: versus just revenue and profitability. Right? that type of thing. And then both he he actually joined first a a a business group called Vistage. I'm sure many people are familiar with it. And then I ended up joining vistage in a in a different group in in while

 

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Eric: you are flooded with information, and every month you've got a new idea, it it it's very difficult to implement all of those. But we've learned over the years that if there's something that really is going to work for us, we'd be begin to implement it. I would say that this has been a, you know, it's a peer group. specific to business. It can be personal, but it's more specific to business.

 

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Eric: it's it's been a tremendous value to to he. And I.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Good. Yeah, I'm a business member. And so I believe.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I tell you know most of the Ceos that I work with, even if I'm out there coaching you. And you're but I don't coach Ceos. I coach Ceos plus their leadership team when we're out doing this stuff.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and I'm like. But the CEO you're out there on a ledge president of the company. You're out there on a ledge. You just have you and Brad to talk to aside from that. So it is nice to have 12 to 16 other men and women that are in the same position as you are feeling the same things.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know, and not for nothing. But you know I never experienced composture. Send or myself. I never thought that we were, gonna you know. So you got all these other people there, everybody here we we have a member in our group who in 8 years created a 60 million dollar company.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And he's like, I'm not growing fast enough.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: We're all like, do you? Do you understand? You know that most companies you don't even get to 10 million.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah. But to be my people like that is healthy for the Ceos and Presidents.

 

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Eric: Yeah, I it is, you know, taking taking yourself out of the fires that the day to day, and looking at things from a different view. it's

 

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Eric: it's been. It's been great, but that is one piece that I would attribute some of our growth

 

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Eric: to it is being in that that peer group vistage.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah, it. It's so. That is your coaching group.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know. And we talked about sports before. There's not a single spectacular team that ever made it to the pinnacle of whatever their their genre is World series. The super bowl, whatever you know, their thing is without a coach.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: right? Or multiple coaches. And so that's that's why, even though I coach businesses all the time, I'm like guys.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I think that you should also be invested because there's just I'm if you think I I've got a great format, I have a wonderful process. We're gonna really help you. But I can only help you to the level that your brain gets to. And so by being surrounded by these other Ceos. It's like, Oh.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I have more in me. I can reach higher, I can do more. I can stretch, learn that I love that or or or that's an idea that nobody's ever presented to me, and I can actually take that and put you use that in my business right? and that that's the piece. I like a lot of my, wow, that's something I really just never thought about.

 

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Eric: Now, I'm going to think about it. And how can it help the business. Yeah. So so that's really nice. And a CEO round table group, it's non competing businesses. So somebody that's sitting in the property casualty business. It's doing X, y, and Z, and they're having a great business and doing things well. And you hear that. And you're like.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: How would I implement that in my company. Oh, you know what we could. And that really would give us, X plus

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: it's, those those are really really smart things, we don't talk about. This is probably my longest vistage, or CEO Round Table, because it doesn't have to necessarily be vistage, but it has to be a well facilitated good group of peers that are at your level or above

 

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Eric: and not willing to listen and willing to give you input, feedback and honest input and feedback. honestly, that that's that's the piece that you know. If if

 

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Eric: if you're doing something and and call, people have an opinion that that's probably not the way it's supposed to be done. I want to hear that. And I think everybody else in this stage. They want to hear that, because many times we all know this is anybody that may be working for. You could be afraid to tell you that

 

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Eric: I don't. I don't think that's true in our business. I don't believe so. but because we we've made it very clear to our team. If you've got an idea, or we're doing something that you you think could be done better? You tell us you absolutely tell us you're never going to be shot down right? We're going to take a look at it. But but the usage peers can can shoot you straight right? and it's only because they care. They they care, you know. Hey, I've done it this way, and it worked a lot better this way than

 

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Eric: Yup doesn't matter what it is. But I I I really enjoy it for that. In it again

 

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Eric: a peer group we we also have. We have a couple of other mentors. They. They've been tremendous for us. I I was never a believer until I experienced it. And if you get a good one or a good couple.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: it really helps. And I think at the same time it's being careful, make sure that they're not stepping on each other's toes. Because it's like, Yeah, I, if if if there's yeah information overload. And also there's sometimes if they're not collaborative, that's the key word. They need to collaborative and not feel like.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know. They're well you're doing it his way or her way, instead of my way. It it doesn't matter if everybody's collaborative. If they really care about your business, you'll know that, and you'll see I'm I'm working with the an Hr. Professional with one of the companies that we're trying to get them up to as up level. They want to be able to, you know, move to an esop, and it was really interesting.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: He was brought in because they needed some help in that arena and My son was in an accident at the time, and I just was. I was gonna limit the amount of time that his way, so that I was able available. So he stepped in and was really helping them to to go through a lot of

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: really meaningful stuff. When I came back there was like we could feel there was overlap in some of the areas that we did. But he and I just got on the phone. And anytime that there's he has a question about where I'm overlapping, or or I do. We just talk. And we're like, Okay, great. Now we're back on the same page. Let's move forward. How what else can we do to help them?

 

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Eric: Awesome, awesome.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I think it's important for people to really get anybody that's listening to this.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know, if you want to take your business to the next level, join a CEO round table, look for a coach, find a mentor, somebody that can that can help you see the things, the blind spots that you might not be seeing, because you're in there doing it every day.

 

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Eric: Yup. Very well put, and I I couldn't agree anymore with you.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Right?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: how about you and Brad?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Let's talk about that for a second.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: When you know it. It. It's Dad. So I know you call him Brad. I'm gonna call him Dad. And and if they you know, if I get that, I I always struggled with do I call you Marty? Do I call you dad when we were working in the same office, and I just felt really weird calling him Marty. But I just

 

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Eric: I I it. It took me a long adjustment. but it's

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: for me. I I guess it's more of a respect thing, a hundred percent. It's very yeah. I totally get that there is no right or wrong on it. I think that's right. We're out of the doors, and it's the weekends or evenings, or whatever it's that right? So

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: so what's tough

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: about working with dad? And what's awesome about working with dad?

 

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Eric: First of all, I I I have to say, he and I do have a pretty excellent working relationship. what do you attribute that to? Because I think that's I don't want to miss that  Respect

 

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Eric: for one another and for our employees.

 

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Eric: I made the mistake early on

 

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Eric: of when I would disagree with him. I would

 

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Eric: disagree with him in front of people.

 

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Eric: and it may have been a small I'll call it a tip. Wasn't a huge argument, not not not yelling, or anything like that, but irritation.

 

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Eric: And finally one day he said, he said, Come, my office, he said, hey, we can't do that to anybody anymore. It makes them feel weird, he said. If you've got an issue, or you don't agree, or whatever

 

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Eric: we've come, and we'll have a closed door conversation, and since that day

 

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Eric: we do not, we will. We disagree on things and meetings. Yes, but it's

 

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Eric: presented differently. And it's and we we get everybody else involved.

 

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Eric: So we we we've learned to respect one another, and it's it's it's usually clear if he and I don't agree.

 

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Eric: but but it's not. I'm right. You're wrong, right, it's hey. I see it this way. I don't know. I see it this way. Hey, guys, what do you think about this here? It's a healthy conflict, it's

 

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Eric: and and we really, actually. I enjoy the healthy conflict. It's not just he and I,

 

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Eric: all of our guys. And it tells me

 

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Eric: that our team is passionate when some guy goes. No man, this is this, is it, this is it, and somebody else is all right. I hear that.

 

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Eric: But this is how I see it.

 

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Eric: I think this is how we should do it. It it's a collaborative thing. But but yeah, guys, ladies, they will get.

 

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Eric: I'll say, heated. They they'll get very passionate, and I love it.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I love those meetings because it means they care. Yeah, you. We've never gone to a sports game that people weren't get passionate. We never went to a movie where there wasn't some good, healthy conflict. That's what you want, we, you know, and it's, you know, in a football game, and I don't know if you're a football fan or not, but like in a football game when somebody's right in there, and they just took it right to the edge and then pull back. We got have a lot of respect

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: for that, and they might have even gone over the edge. But then, said I, I I I'm off. It's when they go over the edge, and then they last through it. It's like, Come on.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and what you just said about

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: dad, Brad is.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: He's I'm guessing he has a very high degree of emotional intelligence.

 

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Eric: I would agree with that.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I don't think I don't know if you but if you just based on that response, it's not something you sat there and said, Oh, let's think about that. But for him to say, we're making other people feel uncomfortable. That's a high degree of emotional intelligence. That's

 

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Eric: yeah, and that that that has that is stuck with me since the day we had that conversation. That was 1012 years ago. and it's it's been good.

 

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Eric: you know.

 

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Eric: in and further on your original question, what is it relationship to? How does it work?

 

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Eric: we've been. Honestly, we've been complimented by outsiders on how we work together.

 

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Eric: And again, I just I think it comes back to respect. I respect where he came from. He's been the industry way longer than I have. He's been in business way longer than I have. So I get to learn from him.

 

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Eric: I'm younger. I do some things differently. I've learned some things in different ways. I've got different ideas. And he's seen me in front of customers. He's seen me in front of other executives, and I think he's learned to respect that.

 

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Eric: Oh, Eric.

 

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Eric: he he knows what he's doing here, too. Right? So it's you know we we honestly we were just a week or 2 ago with one of our mentors, and I forgot exactly what question he asked, and

 

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Eric: my answer was, and I and I, I said this specific, I said, I'm not tuning my own horn here.

 

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Eric: But we are where we are today because of Brad and I's decisions together.

 

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Eric: Right? I'm not saying we're here because of me. I'm not saying we're here because of him. It's decisions that we've made and the biggest decisions we made honestly are the people we've hired.

 

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Eric: I I can't say enough about the team that we have

 

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Eric: people that care that know what they all they're doing, that know how to take care of the customer. that that has been

 

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Eric: hands down the biggest piece of our success.

 

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Eric: We've made good hiring decisions, and really he and I could stay out of the way.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah, Patrick, Patrick Lencioni would be very, very proud. You built the trust on the team, you handle the healthy conflict, and you may disagree, but you commit to a path going forward. Everybody's accountable, and you pay attention to your numbers. There's the the 5 dysfunction of the team, and you don't have those, and when you do, you talk about them. And how do we pull this together? So a lot of people and a lot of businesses.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: they read that book, and they, you know, and they think about those things, and they're like, I don't get it. They don't get it because they they don't trust each other still. And and I, you know, I've seen 40 million dollar companies that are very, very good at execution.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: They are very poor and having team trust

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: so they could be an 80 million dollar. That's a hundred. You are limiting your your abilities

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: by

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: not trusting and building through those different dysfunctions and getting really good at that. And even like I'm the one I'm thinking of. That comes in my mind right now is they do not have all 8 players on the team.

 

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Eric: so they probably could be a hundred 60 million dollar company if they all a players on the team, because they do happen to have a very secret sauce, and they're being held back because they don't have all players. Thank you very much. Now, I have to have a really tough conversation.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's this is, this is a really good episode. I might even just give them this episode. Say, you might want to listen to this. You might might might hear yourself in here, maybe from from minute 21 to 23. This is.

 

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Eric: I think, that that would really hit home for you.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Are you a reader? Do you read

 

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Eric: not as much as I should.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: How do you learn? Because you're you're definitely a learner, and I know you. So there, there's 2 ways of doing it. You've got coaches. You've got the group that's in there. But there's other stuff that you've learned that you're not getting there. So how do you learn

 

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Eric: kids, schedules, and all that. Right? So I'm making excuses. I I I have read in the past. I intend to do so. My wife actually gives me crap about it. I I continue to buy books because you're going to read them, or they's going to sit there.

 

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Eric: so I I I've read a couple of books more than a couple. I've listened to books. And I'm working out or whatever.

 

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Eric: I'd like podcasts. I really do there's a couple that I I enjoy listening to.

 

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Eric: and my lead is is maybe one of my favorite listens.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Okay.

 

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Eric: Ed Mylett.

 

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Eric: yeah, he he's had a the gamut of people on there. sometimes

 

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Eric: business, sometimes personal, sometimes health, sometimes, you know, it doesn't matter what is, but he's he's a great interviewer.

 

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Eric: and and has. He's built 1 billion dollar business, whatever it is, and from the ground up, I mean, he, you know, self made that type of thing. He's probably my favorite. Listen.

 

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Eric: but but how I learn

 

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Eric: experience just doing it, figuring out, making a mistake. Listening. That that's how I learn. I always have. I gotta get my hands dirty

 

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Eric: And to to me that that that's what I enjoy as well. But that that's how I learn.

 

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Eric: Okay, that's book. Best book I've ever read.

 

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Eric: It was the first message meeting I ever had. His name was Bo. As Ruschwigger

 

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Eric: said, you need to read how to make Friends and influence

 

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Eric: best book. There is

 

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Eric: hands down. I know there are a lot of people that read thousands more books than I have

 

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Eric: for the books that I've read and that I've listened to that is.

 

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Eric: that is the Bible. In my opinion.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I I tell I people that it's it's an annual. Listen, you can go back and you'll pick something up. And and it's just like, Oh, or you'll real remember that you St. You used to do that, and I might not be doing it as much anymore. So it's just a great

 

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Eric: yeah. What? Wasn't it? Wasn't it, Carnegie? That wrote that? Was it, Carnegie? Yeah, Dale Carnegie?

 

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Eric: I don't know if you can. That's where.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah.

 

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Eric: okay, it's not. It's blurry. It's not. It's it's Dale Carnegie's golden book. It sits on my desk.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Love it! I will, you know, one of the ones that was really influential for me recently, and I I I'm an avid reader. Now I don't read like everybody else, I'm an audible guy. I I created a separate audible account.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: so that every book that I had I could. You know I can share with my employees and like here, go listen to this book that way. They don't have to buy them  And the anatomy of peace.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and yeah, it it's I I had either, and somebody recommended it. And so anatomy of peace and leadership and self deception are from the same group and the arbinger group.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and in that written by an individual, was everybody in the the group kind of wrote this?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: they did a really nice job, but just kind of helping.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I think anybody parents, Ceos, but you know what it it's designed for a CEO story, and it's you know, it's I am the boss

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: to. I am the leader of this team.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and it's a big distinction of How do? How am I seeing the people that are working for me as am I seeing them as a problem that they're presenting? Or am I seeing them as a collective of human beings? And you and your your father see them as human beings you could not build trust if you didn't do that stuff, you know.

 

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Eric: I believe that we do. I mean I I since I I tell everybody here all the time

 

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Eric: it's family it it really is as much time as we spend with everybody. You know me personally, I could be better about asking personal questions. You know how as simple as how was your weekend, what you do that type of thing. I'm not great about that. I

 

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Eric: on the work and get my stuff done.

 

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Eric: but we we do treat everybody as humans right. and I I I I'm sure if anybody was to come pull Ecs

 

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Eric: employees, they they would say, no around here at care about us.

 

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Eric: and we do we? We surely, do

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I? I I would agree. A 100% just based on our conversations. Do you guys have a meeting rhythm

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: like what it you know? What is a what is a a week or a month in the life like at Ecs

 

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Eric: or Ecs, you know, just as a whole or management. Yeah, sure. So

 

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Eric: Every Tuesday we have a management meeting, and we go over some of the key metrics. Hey? What? What

 

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Eric: put whatever you need on the table? What do you need help from Eric? What do you need help from anybody else across the table?

 

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Eric:  And that that can be from employees to

 

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Eric: other, you know, hardware needs. It doesn't matter right? It it's just

 

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Eric: that's our management meeting, and everybody's got an idea that gives us a snapshot of where we're at from the previous week. we also every Thursday morning I have a sales meeting. and those are those are the discussions where

 

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Eric: people can get passionate.

 

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Eric: Okay, our business is very

 

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Eric: cross state lines, cross country lines. We, we're global by every sense of them. definition, a lot of the product gets designed here, and it it goes to production over in China, down in Mexico and Europe. It doesn't matter.

 

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Eric: anyway. I I I we have this. These these sales meetings once a week.

 

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Eric: so that everybody can hear what's going on in one of those territories. But then they can talk to each other about. Well, hey? I know this is going to shift over here. You need to go. Look at that. You need to talk to the distributor. Make sure we're going to get to capture that business, whatever

 

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Eric: those are that that's my favorite meeting every week, because I get to here and see what everybody is doing. I don't get to see what they're doing on a day to day basis. They get to bring the the big opportunities up and and

 

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Eric: just general general discussion, but that that's our regular cadence. Those those 2 meetings every week are are set in stone, and we have them. Yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: if you're looking at the next 12 months. What are your top priorities over the next 12 months? And how do you you know

 

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Eric: what it? What? What's most important for Ecs over the next 12 months. well, number one is just kind of whether the storm that we're going through. there is a pull back in our industry. We sell primarily to distribution. Our distributors have more stock than than they need. So it's

 

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Eric: it's difficult getting new orders right now. so weathering the storm watching the geopolitical stuff, you know, if if something happens in Taiwan, it's actually gonna not affect only our business, but anybody who has any sort of electronics, because Taiwan is so significant in manufacturing

 

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Eric: So watching the geopolitical stuff. you know, we've all been through. We got hit with the T of stuff.

 

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Eric: obviously covid shortages. So

 

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Eric: we feel like we can weather any storm. But

 

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Eric: there are. There are things that are on the horizon that are unknowns right?

 

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Eric: and I probably need to make another significant hire or 2.

 

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Eric:  that

 

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Eric: I've not been as active in it today or up to now as I as I should have been. But I need to accelerate that  And and you know.

 

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Eric: managing business and home life. I've got another baby on the way.

 

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Eric: so I've got 2 right now, and I've got the third one that will be due in November. So, keeping the wife happy while she's experiencing her third pregnancy, and

 

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Eric: so so balancing that along along with work, but with work it it's it's weathering the storm.

 

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Eric:  looking at making those hires that we probably need to make

 

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Eric:  and and just really deepening our relationships with our our customers, with our distributors. everybody knows what we're going through is in our industry. And and then the slow down. So

 

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Eric: we're gonna do what we can to

 

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set the groundwork for when things do turn back around, we're ready to go.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Okay?

 

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Eric: So well.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I love it.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC:  I I know one of your pains and frustrations right now is that juggling of, you know. Happy wife, happy life, and home and business, looking just at Ecs as you're thinking about. What are the things that you know. Either keep you, you know, wake you up in the middle of the night, or what are the things that you know you're like? Oh, I wish I could find a solution to this faster.

 

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Eric: Sure.

 

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Eric:  What keeps me up at night?

 

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Eric:  I Brad probably doesn't like this answer, and I've given it before, but

 

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Eric: I think I might be fear driven and in while I know this business would never go away. Tomorrow or this year.

 

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Eric: I feel My duty is to make sure that Ecs continues to have success, so that we can continue to employ the people that we have.

 

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Eric: that's what I guess keeps me up at night.

 

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Eric: I know in my heart of hearts that we're going to be fine, no matter what. Okay? but that that that's the thing that kind of keeps me up at night is.

 

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Eric: wow! If if we take a hit, what do we have to do? You know. I I don't want to do that. I don't like having those conversations, hey? It's time for you to move on.  

 

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Eric: What else keeps you the the the geopolitical stuff. But you know, unfortunately, that's something we've got no control over.

 

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Eric: So we just have to keep an eye on it. And in, you know, you you try to

 

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Eric: spread out your risk. But but in some instances that's tough for us.

 

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Eric: the the way I manufacturing goes way materials are that type of thing. So

 

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Eric: it's probably something we should put a little bit more focus on. But but that is definitely something that

 

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Eric: you know. I don't like watching the news, but I sometimes I have to watch and and understand what really is going on. If we ever get a straight answer out of

 

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Eric: anybody, but that's for another day.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's fair. Did you? here a book you might appreciate. I read Shoe Dog the story of Phil night from Nike. And it's different. So there's a movie out right now, air. You know that that stuff. This is

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: the the the

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: shoe dog is way more early before the movie that they don't spend hardly any time on the topics that we're in the move, you know, in the the Michael Jordan times that was in there, but it wasn't nearly as big, but because shoes were made in Japan. Then he moved them in 2 different countries, dealing with all that kind of stuff was really.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: that's he did a lot of that. So it might be interesting for you to to to look at that.

 

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Eric: It would be

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC:  If you're sitting in front of you know you're on a panel, and you're in a family business forum.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and you've got, you know, other second generations sitting in front of you. What would you say to your top

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: pieces of advice to be successful in a, family, business.

 

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Eric: listen.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: listen.

 

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Eric: take take care of your team.

 

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Eric:  and if it's a family business, you know, if if if you've got multiple generations involved respect and that that goes back to what we talked about earlier is is respect one another.

 

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Eric: and and

 

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Eric: don't make your employees feel awkward, you know, experiencing a discussion right?

 

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Eric:  but but definitely listen.

 

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Eric: listen and learn. But listen.

 

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Eric: take care of your employees.

 

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Eric: and in respect, and that, you know, respect can go across the gamut right? But specifically what I was talking about is is the family that's in the business.

 

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Eric: Don't ever let arguments

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: be seen by the employees.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and that's just the way it's always been but listening. Let take a listen to Eric. It is much more healthy for your employees, and you'll be able to build stronger teams if you don't do that. So if you're in that habit, find yourself a coach

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: that can help you to change that dynamic, because just because it was the way that we've always done things does not mean that it has to be that way and utilize the example that I talked about before where it was. Yup, you're doing 40 million. So yeah, you've got all the success in the world. But, man, you left on on the table

 

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Eric: right?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I'm listening to you, too. Not not here. But it it's family dynamics, you know. You don't know it. It's tough, because we get ingrained with a certain way of doing things, because I was always.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Dad always did it this way and that's how we grew up, and you and brand a guarantee. Let's answer this question. See if I'm right or not. But as a kid growing up.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you guys had a respectful relationship.

 

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Eric: Yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: So I'm just saying so, you guys, it was easy to make that maneuver for families, though, that there was always, you know, yelling as part of how we did things, and right and it's it. It might have been healthy, and you might be. Get along and love each other. It's just not comfortable for everybody else. And so you just

 

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Eric: it. It's a I guess. I the way I look at it is, you know I I travel a lot, you know, and you'll see a couple I don't know.

 

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Eric: and we're we're in a public place, and they're arguing. I feel awkward.

 

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Eric: Right? I I guess I put myself okay. I'm inside the business and the owners. The partners are arguing in front of me. I'm I didn't feel that much more awkward because

 

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Eric: I don't know what to do here.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: agreed. this is bad. I I had no, you know, whenever I do these things, you you you should. It's funny. I keep my show format over here, and I've got my list of questions. I think I hit about 4 of them. so it was just like it was a really fun conversation to go. There's a lot of highlights in here. I can't wait for the we. We've been turning these into snippet reels. I'll probably do a whole thing on Vista just for that community. I think it's

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: so well, and coaching

 

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Eric: anything that I you know you knowing that I'm a a business coach myself, knowing that you know I'm a wealth advisor, and work with family businesses forever. Anything on your mind that you're like. Oh, answer this for me! What what can I do for you? You you put me on the spot.

 

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Eric: Michael. No, I I don't. At the moment I'm sure the second we hang up, I'll I'll come up with something, and if that's case, I'll send you an email, and maybe we can do another one of these. I don't know.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Oh, I let me help, and I just would help them right then in there. It was like they walked away going. That was that was awesome. So I I just know that as a alumni of the show. Now, you can ask any questions anytime brought us.

 

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Eric: Excellent. I appreciate that.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Eric. I really appreciate it. yeah. Ecs international, Eric is the current president. And I'm going. Yeah, the future CEO of the company, you and have done some really cool things together. I cannot wait to see what the next 2030 years looks like a Vcs. And what you guys pull together.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Thank you. My name is Michael Columbus. You've been listening to the family business show. I'm a with Ra. Family wealth and legacy in Rochester, New York, and if you've enjoyed this show, please share it with a friend, that you also think may, you know, get some value out of this, and we look forward to having you on the next episode. Have a great day. Everybody.

 

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Eric: Thanks, Michael.

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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