Blazers plan to take part in their family's business

March 16, 2005, midnight | By Katherine Duncan | 15 years, 10 months ago

The bell rings at 10:47 a.m. signaling the start of 5A lunch. Instead of joining the throngs of students munching warm fries in the SAC or the crowds of people chatting along Blair Boulevard, senior Jordan Gross gathers his belongings and leaves school for the day.

He is off to work at his father's business, Wall to Wall Carpeting, a business that he plans to take over one day.

While Gross's family-owned business is one of only a select few at Blair, family businesses make up 80 to 90 percent of all business enterprises in North America, according to a 1996 issue of Family Business Review. Though limiting children's' choices about their future could cause unhappiness and resentment, according to psychologist Maurine Kelly, being part of a family business can also be a rewarding experience. Blazers who are preordained to take over their family's business forgo the typical high school route and opt for the sense of security they feel by knowing that their futures are already decided.

Staying alive

The task of running and maintaining a family-owned business, however, is challenging in and of itself, seeing as only 40 percent of family-owned businesses survive to the second generation, according to a May 2003 article in the Boston Globe, indicating a high potential for failure.

While Wall to Wall Carpeting has been up and running for 33 years, it is still being run by Gross's father and has not yet reached the second generation. "My Dad wants to keep the business in the family, but if no one in the family takes it over then he will sell it," says Gross.

Gross does not want to see this happen and is willing to work hard to help his father with the business, hoping to be the "second generation" that continues to run the business after he attends Montgomery College.

Even more burdensome than keeping a family-owned business afloat, however, is the struggle to start the business in the first place. Gross's father quit school when he was 13 and became a carpet installer. Through his work in carpeting, he became more knowledgeable about the business and was able to open his own store a few years later. "He built the business out of nothing," says Gross. "He came out of the gutter and built something, raised 8 kids, no mother. He was doing everything on his own."

Freshman Linda Li's father went through an equally arduous experience to start his business, Han Won Inc., which delivers food and supplies to Chinese restaurants. Li's father watched longingly as many of his friends successfully started their own food warehouse and food wholesale businesses while he was stuck at his job at Farm Depot in Washington, D.C. It was then, about four years ago, that Li's father decided to start his own business. He saved money over the course of a few months and then bought the resources and supplies he needed to start his own food delivery service.

Taking Over

Taking pride in his business, Li's father only trusts leaving it in the hands of a reliable family member, preferably Li's eighth-grade brother, Kenny. While this decision limits his future, Kenny still plans to go to college to study business and to subsequently work at Han Won Inc. to please his father. "I'm relieved to know that I already have a job when I graduate college and that I won't have the stress of finding work," Kenny says. "But I also might want to do something else at some point."

Having this type of predetermined future can be conflicting for teenagers who want to satisfy their parents, but also pursue other opportunities, says Kelly. "If they have no choice, they could be very unhappy," she says.

Such melancholy and inner-conflict has never been a problem for Gross, who holds deep respect for his father and his business. "He tells me to do something and I do it. No questions asked," says Gross. "Just got to do it."

His steadfast dedication, however, takes up a lot of his free time that was previously spent with friends. "I don't get to do what I used to be able to do. Just hanging out with friends and not having to always worry about working," Gross says. He currently works Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., leaving little time for more frivolous, pleasurable activities.

Despite this minor drawback, Gross's employment at his father's business in Prince George's County has ultimately been a positive experience, allowing him to receive the On the Job training credits (OJT) he needs to graduate high school. "I talked to my counselor, and I wasn't going to be able to graduate unless I did this," Gross says. Having helped at Wall to Wall Carpeting since sixth grade, working there for long hours was familiar for Gross, who immediately jumped at the opportunity so that he would be able to graduate on time.

Gross also embraces the fact that his future is secured and is happy that he will not have to face the anxieties that encompass searching for a job. "It's good to know that I've got a job lined up," he says. "I've always got that to fall back on."

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Katherine Duncan. Katherine Duncan is beyond excited to be in her senior year of high school. A perpetually tired, slightly spaztic girl, Katherine enjoys many things--including hanging out with her friends, going shopping and being lazy. Though she is still license-less, she has a permit (finally) and … More »

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