The Pappas family had just moved from a party line to their own phone number when they set up business at their kitchen table decades ago. All six siblings worked before school in the morning, illegally driving themselves to junior high in order to make it to class on time.
Now the family’s business holdings outnumber the siblings, with their flagship company Roofers Supply boasting six locations. Hard work and family life went hand-in-hand for the Pappas clan, who shared some lessons learned at the recent Family Business Roundtable.
“It’s given us a perspective and a culture that we want to carry on with our new business family,” said Dino Pappas.
Work at whatever is needed
The siblings grew up doing building demolition to reclaim brick and steel, and eventually branched out into trucking and delivery before setting up shop as Roofers Supply in 1994. To this day, the siblings maintain their commercial drivers licenses so they can hop into the cab of a truck and haul a load of shingles to a work site if needed.
Keep everyone involved
Though only four of the six Pappas siblings remain involved with the family’s business holdings, everyone still participates in the family business breakfast meeting every Tuesday at 6 a.m. Younger generations and spouses are also invited. At the meeting, the siblings discuss options and make decisions for the business. Disagreement is allowed, but never disrespect.
Equality is key
All the siblings involved in the business are paid equally, and the financials and profit sharing are shared with the entire company. Family members start on the sales floor or in a delivery truck and have to work their way up the ranks if they want to advance in the company.
Play to people’s strengths
For many years the Pappas siblings didn’t even have job titles on their business cards. When a mentor finally convinced them to add them, the siblings sat down and created titles based on their individual strengths. They continue to look at the strengths of their employees and play to those when promoting and hiring.
Talk. A lot. Then defer to the expert.
Everyone is entitled to give their opinion in family business decisions, and every opinion is given weight. Once everyone has given their input, they defer to the person who has expertise in that area or will be heading up the project.
Succeed or fail, but do it together
“We always heard the mantra from Mom and Dad ‘You kids stick together. You kids look after each other, have each other’s backs,'” said Stephanie Pappas. The family has learned to put the needs of the group before any individual.
Plan for the future
The siblings are currently working on a succession plan for their family of companies, which may or may not involve the younger generations. Education is important to the family, and while most kids work at one of the companies at some point while they are in school, they start at the bottom when they come into the business.
The family business continues to grow, and the Pappas siblings plan to continue the business traditions started by their parents.
“We had no money,” George Pappas remembers, “but we had a lot of drive, a lot of hope and a lot of vision.”