Keeping business in the family proving a challenge

By Natasha Collishaw

When Mark Boushey, owner of Boushey Fruit Market on Elgin Street, was 17, he was unsure of what career to pursue.

His father suggested he join the family business, telling him that he would make “a good living” and that he could “pretty well run the show eventually.”

More than 20 years later, Boushey is co-partner of the specialty grocery store with his brother Peter. The business has been in the family for 60 years.

Boushey says he doesn’t regret the decision, despite facing difficulties competing with the bigger supermarket chains in recent years.

“We can’t always compete with the big boys in terms of price, but 99 per cent of the time we beat them in quality,” he says with a chuckle.

But Boushey is unsure whether the fruit market will remain in his family when he retires. His brother’s twenty-something daughters show no interest in running the business and so far his pre-teen children do not want the job either.

Boushey says he would like the business to remain in the family. “It’s sort of like a Centretown institution.”

The dilemma of who inherits the family business – “succession planning” − may become more pressing as Canada’s baby boomers begin to retire, says Louise Arden, managing director of the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise.

According to the website for the accounting firm Grant Thorton LLP, approximately 30 per cent of Canadian family businesses are taken over by the second generation and only about 10 per cent carry forward to the third generation of family members.

The importance of succession planning in family business is one theme of the Ottawa Business Summit to be held Oct. 17 at the Ottawa Congress Centre.

The Canadian Association of Family Enterprise is partnering with the Ottawa Business Journal to organize the summit in order to give all businesses a place to network and receive practical advice from successful business owners.

The program line-up includes Larry Rosen, chairman and CEO of Harry Rosen Inc., the men’s clothing chain, who will deliver an address about the history of his family’s business, with special emphasis on the need for succession planning.

Rosen has been running the business successfully since his father retired from daily operations in 2005.

Arden says business owners are so busy with day-to-day operations that they often do not think enough about their retirement, or who will succeed them and how to train their successors properly as the Rosens did.

“The biggest issue for family businesses is finding time to plan,” she says.

Boushey says that the long hours are the biggest challenge of running his business.

For him, this means working 60 hours a week, including holidays and weekends.

Ram Shander, owner of the Light of India restaurant on Wylie Avenue, says he has not taken one day off for two years. “No day off. No Canada Day. Nothing.”

“If you don’t want hard work, then don’t work in business,” he advises.

But both business owners say they think often about the future of their businesses.

“Even when I’m not there, I’m thinking about it,” Boushey says.

Shander says he would prefer his business remain in the family, but if he does end up selling it, it will be to someone “nice” and “hardworking.”

In addition to issues specific to family businesses, the summit will include workshops on developing leadership capacity, dealing with generational differences in business and strategies for business success.

“Our goal is to educate, inform and inspire all businesses,” Arden says.

While Boushey had not previously heard about the summit, he says that he might take time out of his busy schedule to attend.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing the different businesses and getting different ideas,” he says. “You can always learn more.”