“My family founded this company in 1813, by William Buckley, my namesake from a long time back. It has been passed down from generation to generation for over 200 years and we hope to continue producing and selling leather goods another 200 years.”
The meeting went on for another 45 minutes and that was that, time to get the New Year started.
At home that evening William said to the family, “You kids are all adults now, legally at least...”
“Ha-ha Dad”, interrupted Nicholas, the son, and middle of the three kids.
“Yeah, you’re a real crack-up”, said Skye, one of the two daughters, and the youngest in the family.
“...and I’m getting on in my years, so it’s time we talk about the future of the business.”
Lindsey, the oldest of the three, said, “Dad, you’re not even close to old enough to be talking about that stuff yet.”
Annette broke in, “Just listen to him, kids. Yes, you’re right, he’s not that old, yet, but we want to be sure we’re all on the same page with something as important as the family business.”
“That’s right. You guys must understand that this business is our family, our heritage, and your birthright. You guys will carry on the family business, take it to new heights in a bright future. You know the new technology much better than I do. Without you guys, we can’t move into the second half of the 21st century.”
“But, Dad, what if we, or I, have something else in mind?” asked Nicholas.
“Something else? Seriously? What else could there be? You know the business inside and out. There’s nobody better suited to taking care of it than you, Nicky.”
“Daddy, I was just thinking...” Lindsey was thinking about her brother Nicholas and his desire to do something other than the family business, which their father was not aware of, yet.
“No, that is something that will be limited to the family business.”
“Dad, I was thinking of maybe doing something else,” Nicholas blurted out.
“Like what? If I’m going to send you to a university it will be for preparing you to take care of the business.”
“But, what if...”
“I don’t think so, young man. Anyway, that is best left for another conversation. I just want you guys to be aware of the fact that the family business has been handed down from generation to generation for over 200 years. And you’re the next generation. It will be your responsibility to keep it running for many years to come. Then you guys will pass it on to your kids. That’s the way it is. Understand?”
“Yes,” said Nicholas, but a bit quietly.
“Yeah, of course.”
“Good. Finish your dinner.”
Nicholas was a musician. He loved the keyboards of any kind and had collected several, all used and mostly older models and some old ones, but that didn’t matter to him. There was an old Korg PE1000 for analog orchestra strings, a classic Moog System 55, the granddaddy of synths with its many patch cables to connect its various modules together to create sounds from nothing, as well as a couple of digital pianos. His hope, which he hadn’t spoken to his parents about, was to go to Berkeley School of Music and get a Master’s and then work in Las Angeles in the recording industry. He was afraid of what his dad would say because one, it’s not the family business, and two, Las Angeles is a long way from home. But, he figured, what the hell the girls can take on the family business, they don’t need me to help them. They know more about than I do, anyway.
The next few months passed, and the kids were enrolled in universities to study subjects that would prepare them for taking on the family business. For the girls, this was fine. They were okay with this plan, but Nicholas, not so much.
He finished his first 2 years of courses and then...
“Dad, can we talk?” Nicholas asked his father.
“We can, but right now I’m a bit busy with this. Can it wait a while?”
“Yeah, I suppose”.
The next night was the same. Finally, three days later, Nicholas could bring up the dreaded conversation.
“Dad, um, here, let me freshen up your coffee.”
“Thanks, son. What is it you want to talk about?”
“Well, you know I’ve now finished my lower courses and am ready to start on the major.”
“Yes, and you’re doing very well, I’m proud of you”.
“Thanks. Hmm, this isn’t easy, Dad.”
“What’s not easy?”
“Okay, well, here it is, I don’t want to continue working in the family business. I want to work in the music industry. I want to produce music, CDs.”
“What? Are you serious? How can you do this to me? To the family? I’ve paid your university tuition so you can be prepared to run the business, just as I have, and your grandfather, and your great grandfather. Now, after two years of university, you tell me you want to produce music? No! No, son, you’re going to be the next in line to run our company. Don’t you understand this?”
“Yes, I understand, Dad, I do. I just want to produce music. That’s where my heart is. It’s not in business classes.”
“You’re going to finish your master’s degree in business and you’re going to run the family business just as I have. Do you hear me? That’s all there is to it!” He stood up from the table and stormed off into the garage.
Skye walked around the corner from the living room and said, “Well, brother, that didn’t go so well. But then, I didn’t expect it would.” She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table with her brother.
“What am I going to do? I knew it would be difficult, but I was hoping he would be a little more understanding.”
“Seriously? Dad? Understanding? That business is everything to him. To our family. What you want to do is like a sword to his heart. Didn’t you think about that?”
“I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. After all, you and Lindsey are still going to run the business. You guys know it better than I do.”
“Nicky, sweetie, as smart as you are, you sure have a lot to learn,” replied Skye as she got up from the table and left the kitchen.
Nicholas sat alone with his thoughts, torn between doing what he wanted to do and what his father wanted him to do.
The next year came and went with the girls and Nicholas all taking classes related to their majors and their future work running the family business. But Nicholas was not doing so well, and his grades showed it. His heart just wasn’t in it.
His mother, Annette, had noticed that he wasn’t doing as well as the girls and decided she should talk to William.
“Sweetheart, have you noticed the grades your son has been getting this year?”
“Sorry, but no, I’ve been very busy with the business. I haven’t time for that. How’s he doing?”
“Not so well. Oh, he’s passing the classes, but only barely.”
“What do you mean, only barely? What’s wrong with him? He’s going to be running the company someday, so he needs to concentrate on that one goal. What’s his problem? Girls? I spoke to him about not getting involved while also working on a master’s degree. But apparently, he didn’t listen to me.”
“No, darling, it’s not girls. And, yes, he listened to you on that point. Do you remember a conversation you two had last year?”
“What conversation? We’ve had many.”
“Well, not really, but, anyway, there was one particular conversation that got you angry.”
“Oh. Oh, yeah, I remember, he some nonsense about going into the music industry and not the family business. I squashed that right away.”
“Yeah, that’s the problem. Listen, sweetie, what do you hear?”
“Some stuff those kids call music these days. I don’t know how they can listen to that stuff. It’s hardly musical at all. And, you know what? Most of that stuff, those aren’t even bands, they’re just some singer with a bunch of dancers singing to some karaoke tracks.”
Laughing at her husband, Annette said, “It’s not that bad. You should go up there and talk to your son. Listen to what he has to say. Listen to his work. Did you know he has already produced two CDs? For local bands.”
“I didn’t know that. I’ve been very busy, you know. Two CDs, huh?”
“Yes, and they’re doing quite well. They’re just local bands selling to local fans, but that’s where it all starts, right? The business started small, in a shed. Look at us now, over 150 employees.”
“Darling, I need him to run the business after I’m gone, you know that. What would happen to the family business without him?”
“Well, the girls are both looking forward to running the business and I’m sure they would do a wonderful job with it. I’ve talked to both of them and they have some great ideas.”
“Great ideas? Okay, I suppose we could use a little updating in some respects. But, in my place, I need Nicholas.”
“Why only him? Oh, I know, because he’s a man and you can’t have a woman at the top.”
“That’s not fair. That’s not it at all.”
“Really? Then what is it?”
“Well, it’s...never mind. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to go up there and talk to Nicholas, and not about the business.”
William looked at her, then at the table in front of him.
“Okay, okay. I want him running the business,” said William under his breath as he walked away from the table.
William arrived at the door of Nicholas’ room, stopped, and listened for a minute before he knocked on the door. He could hear the music that he said was nothing more than karaoke music. He still didn’t like it. But, he knocked on the door.
Nicholas opened the door, “Hey, Dad! Cool! Come in,” he removed some stuff from a chair and said, “Sit down. Hey, check this out, it’s going to be a new cd for the band Wooden Nails.”
“Wooden Nails? What kind of name is that for a band?” William asked as he looked at the pre-production cover art.
“It’s just the band name, that’s all”.
“Is it a proper band?”
“Of course. What do you mean, a proper band?”
“Do they play guitars, bass guitars, drums, keyboards? You know, a proper band.”
“They use keyboards to create tracks, so yes, they’re a band. Dad, get with the times.”
From that point, they continued talking about their differences of opinions about what makes up a proper band, or proper music, and what even proper music is.
Almost two hours after entering Nicholas’ room, William left and went downstairs. He said at the kitchen table, thinking, “He really does know what he’s talking about, and the CDs are good, even if I don’t like the style of music. And, he obviously puts his heart into his work. What do I do?”
William spoke to Annette about Nicholas, and his music career, and they came to a decision. They decided they would let him pursue this career, but he would have to do a second major in business management.
“Here’s my proposal, Nicholas,” William started one night at dinner. Everyone stopped eating so they could listen. “You can go ahead with music production as your major...”
“Yes! Thanks, Dad! Thanks!”
“But, you have to do a second major - business management. That way, in the years ahead, you can come back home to run the family business. But first, you go ahead and do your career in music, just never forget where you came from and where you are needed.”
Everyone smiled and laughed and had a great dinner and great conversation. Nicholas went on to work in Las Angeles producing music for the next 22 years while his sisters took care of the family business.
Their father passed the business down when he turned 70 and retired. Nicholas came home and took over running the business as promised and eventually passed it down to his kids.