- Author: Carol Wirth
It’s a small business nation out there. Correction: It’s a family-owned business (FOB) nation out there in which 90 percent of businesses in the U.S. are family owned or controlled, according U.S. Census data.
Those range from corporations like Walmart and Ford to small businesses with under 500 employees. That is a surprising number when the success rate for family businesses decreases by the generation.
The success rate for family-owned businesses, researched and reported in the Family Business Review, is:
• One third survive into the second generation,
• Of the remaining, only half pass on to the third generation,
• And 3% of all family businesses operate at the fourth generation level and beyond.
Growing up in the business helps to know the business, inside and out.
Clayton Thurlow, of the third generation who runs Curbie today, worked his way up in the company. He started out cleaning the pickup trucks, to riding on the back of trucks collecting garbage cans, to driving the trucks. He still remembers a very angry guard dog from his route. Clay said that the experience helps because he has gained the perspective first hand of the employees.
Younger generations adapt to grow with the times.
Hanging above the entrance of Curbie Sanitation’s office is a sign for Allison grocery, which was the original building of Clay’s great-grandfather Johnny Allison’s store. The sign marks more than history, it marks the beginning of generations of the family business adapting to changing times.
Clay’s grandfather (Edward Boaen) and grandmother (Joan, daughter of Johnny Allison) moved in with her family next to the store after they married, but the Boaens didn’t carry on the grocery business.
They bought a trash business instead, which was called Boaen’s Sanitary Service. The Boaen’s daughter, Allison (and Clay’s mother), grew up in the business and worked every job from in the office to picking up trash. The Boaen’s stayed active in day-to-day operations, while passing on the business to Allison. Then Allison passed it on to her son Clay who now operates the business with the help of his wife, Jennifer.
To reflect the company of this day and age, Clay re-branded. He changed the business name to Curbie Sanitation to signify the convenience of curbside pick-up, he worked with designers to formulate a company logo with clean lines, and he purchased new quiet white trucks that he keeps spotless every day. And for that the community appreciates him.
Customers have a long-established trust in the company.
At the end of Ferguson Avenue, where it dead ends into Shipyard Road in the Montgomery community of unincorporated Savannah, you will find the location of Curbie Sanitation where the family has lived since the early 1900s.
Many of Curbie’s customers drop bill payments in the freestanding mailbox on their way to work, without ever getting out of the car. Family members are always at the location and approachable in the community. People know who they are doing business with, and that makes a difference.
Customers can depend on the family culture at Curbie, which gives the family business a personality and a sense of commitment to its customers.
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