Family Business

All in the Family

Stanley S. Hubbard shares some secrets for family business success.

By Elizabeth Millard


Hubbard Broadcasting Corporation, based in St. Paul, boasts KSTP as its flagship property, and a strong family work ethic behind the scenes. Stanley E. Hubbard founded the business, which Stanley S. joined in 1951. Stanley S. Hubbard shares a few recipes for building a robust family firm:

Set realistic expectations: The first advice I'd give to anyone wanting a successful family business is not to force someone into a business they don't want to be in. That's a mistake. Number two is if they can't live up to the challenge, then don't let them take over the business. In other words, you have to know your family just as well as you know your other employees. I've seen it happen far too often where people have a son or daughter come in and they're not capable or don't care, and what you need to run a business is ability and desire. It never works when you encourage someone to do something they don't want to do. They have to follow their heart.

Understand true ability:  What I'm talking about with ability is a willingness to work, a willingness to learn and a basic business intelligence. There are different kinds of intelligence, so for example, you may have a son or daughter who'd be a great teacher but not a great executive. That's OK. Not everyone will be a CEO or a VP, not everyone is cut out for the same kind of calling, and that's not a negative thing, it's just the truth. I know of one company where the son was brilliant in business school, but kind of an egghead who could never understand human relations, he didn't understand people. They forced this young man into a chief executive role, and it was completely the wrong place for him, and so that plan failed. So, I say, recognize the abilities of your family members, or what they're capable of, and what they're good at.

Present a united front: Another important aspect of family business is the understanding that you all make it together or you all go down together. If you can't be supportive of each other, or if there's any in-fighting, then forget it, it's just not going to work. That also applies to situations where people have different goals. For example, if one person want to build the company whereas other family members just want to milk it for profits, you're not going to have a good situation. Support is so crucial, and the type of unity I'm talking about can extend just beyond the people working at the company and to other family members. For example, we have one daughter that doesn't care to be working here because she wants to stay home and raise her child, and that's great, that's a wonderful decision for her. But she's still involved in the business, she's still totally supportive of the decisions made by her siblings.

Plan for succession: We have five children and they own the biggest share of the business, and when the time comes for me to leave, they'll figure out who does what. I don't think it's smart to try and run a business from the grave--worrying about what's going to happen when you're gone isn't a very productive use of your time. I have absolute confidence that our children will do what's best for the business and what's best for the family without regard to ego, because they're a team. They're supportive of each other, they understand each other, and they all bring high levels of ability to their work. They're smart and honest, and I'd have to say that if there's one thing that's perhaps most important of all in a family business, it's honesty. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself about what your family members can do, and honest with others when any tension or problems arise.