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Family Business Owners Long for Time Off

Strong succession planning helped ensure continuity when tragedy hit Troy Belting and Supply. Former owner George Smith presciently began developing a plan in the early 1990s with advice from an estate-planning lawyer. When he died unexpectedly in 2003, the documents were in place for his wife and son to take the reins.

"Admitting you're going to die someday is not fun, but it's a reality," says Jason Smith, vice president of the company. The company now reviews its succession plan at least annually, in order to keep current with regulations. "The laws are always changing."

With regard to communication issues, 56% of respondents said they make a point to resolve conflicts at work. "You should never leave the building mad," Smith says. Thirty-one percent said they discuss conflicts after work. With husband-wife teams, this is a way to keep nosy employees from assuming that a work conflict is a marital dispute.

Among the participants, 49% said "being passionate for the business" was key to success. Jason Smith started working at Troy Belting at age 12 and says he never considered anything else. Kabessa says his eight-year-old daughter already has invented two of the company's products, including a giant sticky note pad. "She was born with products in her brain," he says.

In the end, owners say that passion helps makes up for the lack of work/life balance. "In this business, it's a fine line where work ends and pleasure begins," says Bruce Shulman, one of the founding members of the Environmental Technology Center, an electronics systems integrator in Boston, who works with his son Dave. "When your customers invite you to their New Year's Eve party, Super Bowl party and family functions, is that work or personal time? If it's work, we enjoy it."

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston
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