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All in the family

Irrigation

Tom and Bob Schaefer give an inside look on how they've been able to run a business as brothers.

Lindsey Getz | February 19, 2013

According to the Small Business Administration, family businesses comprise 90 percent of all business enterprises in North America and 62 percent of total U.S. employment. Hiring family is a common practice in the landscape and irrigation fields, yet many often find that “keeping it in the family” causes tension and struggle. Running a successful business side-by-side with a family member is often a hit-or-miss venture but it’s something that Tom and Bob Schaefer of Schaefer Lawn Sprinklers in the Denver Metro Area have mastered. Bob Schaefer shares why he thinks it works so well.

We’re Best Friends. Simply put: “We like each other,” Schaefer said. That may seem like an obvious role for brothers but the truth is that – when being honest – many family members don’t get along. Before venturing into business with a family member, Schaefer suggests asking yourself if you really do enjoy spending a lot of time together – because that’s what it takes in running a business together. “Tom and I are more than brothers – we’re also best friends,” he said. “Outside of work we archery deer hunt, elk hunt, and backpack together because we genuinely enjoy spending time with each other.”

We Know When to Back Off. Although they’re best friends, the brothers also know when to give each other space. Instead of working together on everything, the brothers have learned that playing off each other’s strengths is the real key to success. “There are things that Tom does best and things that I do best, and we both are able to recognize our own strong points as well as our own weaknesses,” Schaefer said. “As a result we’re not stepping on each other’s toes. We know when to back off and let the other person take the reins.”

We focus on our own area of expertise. With each brother having his own area of expertise, the brothers are not only able to have their “own space” within the company but they also form a stronger team when working together. “Tom is really the innovator of the company,” Schaefer said. “He’s constantly coming up with new ideas and is the one that’s always pushing us toward new technology and staying abreast of all the changes. He’s also great about going out to the job sites and getting jobs going. My strong point has always been meeting with the customers and making new sales. I’m more of a people person and able to connect well with our customers. Together, we make a strong team that fills in all the gaps.”
 

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