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Omaha Magazine

Second, Third, Fourth Time's A Charm: Generational Businesses Divulge Secrets to Success

Jul 29, 2021 04:28PM ● By Sara Locke

When a business is built on a foundation of shared missions and values, it finds steady footing in an often-volatile market. For these three dynamic dynasties, success is a family business. This month, B2B connected with president of Signworks Gaby Ryan, president of United Insurance Agencies Heidi Vescio, and owner of Malashock’s Jewelry Bob Malashock to discuss their family secret to success.

B2B: Tell us about your business and who you serve. 

GR: We are a fourth-generation, family-owned-and-operated sign manufacturing company, which I have been a part of for almost 30 years. My sister Mikaela and I are the fourth generation of female owner/operators. We fabricate and install signs for all types of businesses, including banks, the [Henry Doorly] zoo, health care, large developers, and small business owners striking out on their own.

HV: United Insurance Agencies is an independent, family-owned, and woman-led property and casualty insurance agency serving Nebraska and Iowa for over 50 years. I am the second-generation owner and president, succeeding my father in 1997.

BM: The Malashock family has been selling fine jewelry since 1894. I’ve been in the business since 1956. My son and daughter are in the process of taking it over right now. The beauty of it is that we all work together and get along. 

B2B: What is a challenge you or your family has faced in maintaining your business?

GR: All of us at Signworks work very hard to keep our good reputation intact with quality signage and good service; of course the recession was difficult, but we persevered without laying anyone off.

HV: Like any small business, employees are the primary key to our success. When working closely with family, sometimes the lines between personal and professional relationships can get blurred. It’s important to keep the two separate while still recognizing each team member’s strengths, talents, and contributions. Probably the biggest challenge we’ve faced is the need to always be adapting to changes in both the industry and technology. Five decades ago, the insurance business was all about sitting down face-to-face with customers. Today, most people want to work with us via telephone and email. We work diligently to maintain a personal connection with our clients while also offering the speed and efficiency that our 24/7 society demands.

BM: Our biggest challenge currently is online buying. It’s so easy to order anything online today. We definitely saw that even more during the pandemic, but people are finding their way back into the store now. 

B2B: How has your family weathered these kinds of challenges?

GR: Staying focused on the clients and the quality of our signs, as well as making sure our employees know we value them; and we wouldn’t be celebrating 86 years without their dedication to the craft of sign manufacturing.

HV: It’s definitely not the easiest balance to keep when you work with family. The way to manage it has been to set expectations and follow through with them. And after working side by side for many years, we have come to know and acclimate to each other’s working styles. Due to the ever-changing nature of insurance, we do a lot of brainstorming and collaboration as a team. Being a small agency, we are able to pivot quickly and adapt to changes in the marketplace. Communication is the key component in withstanding any number of challenges we’ve faced over the years.

BM: Naturally we all suffered a little due to closing down during the pandemic. We are slowly getting into the online space; we realize that in the future this will be necessary. It’s what the customer wants now.

This article originally appeared in the August/September issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.