Founders: John and Mary Ann Short.
Headquarters: Macedon, N.Y.
Key family members active in the company: John J. Short, Jr., president; Peter J. Short, chief financial officer.
What it does: J.J. Short Associates manufactures custom molded rubber parts and assemblies, rubber covered rollers, lathe cut and die cut parts.
Markets served: Any and all.
What are the strengths of a family owned business? In our case each family member has his strengths—John handles more of the operational side of the business, while Peter handles the financial and administrative. We feel an order for one part is as important as a larger order for hundreds or thousands.
We respond quickly and provide and meet quick lead times. We deal with customers openly and honestly, and we take pride in our work as our family name is associated with each order fulfilled.
What are the challenges of a family owned business? Being a small business can present its challenges in dealing with financing and compliance regulations. Succession planning is always a difficult topic as entrepreneurs tend not to foresee a time when they will not be involved with the business. Fortunately for us, our parents preferred the view from their Finger Lakes home over the office, and our transition to the second generation was very smooth.
As for disagreements, I think our parents instilled in us a common set of core values that guide the business, so sticking true to those versus individual wants and needs tends to lessen conflict and common ground is easily found.
Do non-family members hold any executive or ownership roles? No, but our employees are all very tenured and members of our extended family in that we seek their counsel in tackling job issues, and we base our decisions on what is best for the company as a whole, not just the Short family.
How much does the younger generation of family members influence decisions? Our father was more comfortable out in the plant. Mom handled the books and kept the business on track. John joined in the early 1980s and expanded sales efforts and streamlined operations under one roof. Peter joined in 2000 and established a web presence and upgraded the back office systems. Like any family, each person has a role and works for the common good.
Something you might not know about the company: We are a niche business—filling a space where the larger rubber manufacturer cannot or will not operate. One such niche started for us back in 2012 when we received a call about recoating a typewriter platen. We had never done one mainly because there was a longtime supplier that serviced that industry for decades. What we learned is that business abruptly shut its doors, leaving a void in the marketplace. We quickly got up to speed on what was needed as far as rubber type and hardness, and working with our prospective customers did about a dozen platens sending them off for trial. We figured we would probably see a few dozen platens a year—as we thought the typewriter had gone the way of the buggy whip. Have we been pleasantly surprised. We easily have a dozen to two dozen platens in each week, and this has been from mid-2012 through today. We have expanded to coating feed rollers and teletype machine platens. We get inquiries from all over the world and receive numerous accolades in the typewriter blogosphere.
What advice would you offer a young entrepreneur who wants to start a family run business? Work for someone else first. Our parents insisted we work outside the company before cementing our decision to return—and it was OK if we did not return. John worked in the solar industry after graduate school and “interned” at Home Rubber Co. before returning to the company.
Peter spent 11 years in public accounting working as an auditor focusing on small manufacturing business and then was involved in human resources before returning. You need to learn from others—both what to do and what not to do plus you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, which is more readily gleamed from others outside your family.
And another thing: Being in a family business requires discipline and fortitude. It can provide terrific freedoms and flexibility, but there also will be frustrations and fretting. Our employees are part of our family—our parents instilled in us the thought that we not only are responsible for our family but more importantly for the families of our employees and if necessary we need to be willing to make sacrifices in our family to make sure the company endures for the benefit of all the families who rely on the company's success.