Family-owned businesses have occasionally been known for squabbles and hard feelings that can sometimes lead to ugly situations. Operating a family business can be knotty enough without complicating the dynamic by adding other families into the mix. But for Koener Electric and Leman Property Management, that has been the formula for successful business. Although both admit that occasional conflicts can arise, Ryan Koener and Drew Leman believe the benefits of these workers are priceless.
For Ryan Koener, hiring other families was a natural progression. Koener Electric, an electrical contracting company located in Bartonville, was founded in 1984 by his father, Alan, and currently, Ryan and his brother, Justin Ferrill, operate the business. While it may have started small, the business has grown to become one of the largest electrical contracting firms in central Illinois. Koener’s advice for firms: “Make sure that you stick to the ideals of your founder. It is easy to grow and forget that you are still a family business.”
Multiple generations of two other families have made Koener Electric a part of their lives as well. Mike A. Bailliez, project manager, has worked for the company for more than 20 years. His son, Mike D. Bailliez, is also a project manager, and his daughter, Becky Kalkbrenner, is a journeyman wireman. Then there are the Slonnegers—the father, Charlie, is an estimator and project manager, while his son, Ty, is service manager. According to Koener, as the next generation of Bailliez and Slonnegers grew older and became electricians, it was only logical for them to join the company as well.
Part of the appeal of having multiple families working with one another is the level of dedication that they bring to the table. Koener believes that when the business is a part of people’s everyday lives, its survival and success become much more important to them. They have a stake in it—the business’s success becomes their success.
Leman Property Management was founded in 1982. The company manages residential and commercial properties, develops residential subdivisions, and provides build-to-lease office space. Co-founder Bill Leman serves as owner and CEO; his brother, Dave, is president; and his son, Drew, is vice president. All three Lemans followed remarkably similar career paths. Each graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in accounting, earned a CPA designation, and spent several years in the public accounting industry as an auditor-and now they all work under the same roof.
Like Koener Electric, other families play key roles in the Leman organization. Jeanne Trumpy has worked for the company since it began, and her daughter, Ann, began working for the company in the summers as a member of the maintenance crew. After graduating from Ball State University, she came on board full-time, taking over her mother’s position, while Jeanne continued to work for the company in a less strenuous position. Trumpy’s husband, Tom, works on one of the maintenance crews, and their son, Tommy, works as a maintenance supervisor. The other family working for Leman is the Sebrees. Gail Sebree works as an on-site manager, while her husband, George, is a maintenance supervisor.
For Drew Leman, “communication is irreplaceable.” When it comes to managing properties, he believes that employees really need to trust each other. Because the family members have such a long history with one another, he has found that communication problems can be avoided almost entirely.
Many would cringe at the thought of having their mom or dad in the workplace, but Drew would disagree. “There is nothing more satisfying than sharing success with a person you love.” He notes that these family members manage to work together with relatively little conflict. “It’s exciting for us, because just as we have that same enjoyment of working with family, we get to see that with them as well,” he says. iBi