Recently the Les Olson family spoke at our Family Business Roundtable to share how they’ve grown their family business over four generations.

Les and Reva Olson started the company in 1956—servicing machines in their home while their children helped out. Through hard work and perseverance, the company now has four divisions and seven locations in Utah and Nevada. The business continues to grow as they look to take a holistic approach and expand into managed software solutions to provide their customers end-to-end solutions. The second and third generations spoke to the audience about how Les created a business model that helped draw the lines between family and business.

Lisa Thaller and Troy Olson, granddaughter and grandson of Les and Reva, explained when a child is hired on as an employee, they address their relatives by their first names rather than by the family title of dad or aunt. No parent ever manages their own child. This offers the children different perspectives on the business and makes it easier for day-to-day management to take place.

The company is structured in a way that family members can buy shares after 10 years of working there and then become a partner as long as they stay in good standing. Buyout of a partner begins at age 65 in order to keep room for the next generation. The Les Olson Company has nine board members, one of which is a non-family voting member. They do this to make sure there’s a balanced approach when looking at expansion and direction for the company.

Today, Les Olson has 202 employees with the average time at the company being just over 10 years. Of these 200-plus employees, 31 are family members (three second-generation, 17 third-generation, and 11 fourth-generation). The family credits the longevity of employees to the family-like treatment. The Olson family takes time to show appreciation to their employees and ensure they have the right people in the right positions. They promote from within, which means the leadership has strong roots and a better understanding of different aspects of the company.

Les Olson said the relationships and people he met were t