Ask the Boss

Three CEOs Share Their Strategies for Running a Family Business

Drs. Anne-Marie Chalmers and Bo Martinsen, Brian Hoopingarner and David Dignam weigh in on running a family business.

By Lori Johnston March 14, 2016 Published in the March 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Drs. Anne-Marie Chalmers and Bo Martinsen

Husband-and-wife founders, Omega3 Innovations

“A key thing people respond to with a family business is the personal touch and the credibility of the family who runs it. In other words, don't become a nameless, faceless corporation. Take time to personally connect with your customers. Talk with them on the phone, greet people at the door when you can, meet them at the farmer’s market.”

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Brice Hoopingarner

CEO, Keeton's Office & Art Supply 

“My father-in-law, William ‘Bill’ Keeton, founded our company in 1951. I have been in the business since 1980. We were compatible in our beliefs about how important employees are. If you take care of them, they will take care of the company. I employ over 30 people and more than half have been here more than 10 years. The best ideas and solutions come from getting our employees involved. I call it decisions by committee. It gives them a sense of ownership. I empower people to make judgment calls for what is best for the customer and our company. Making a wrong decision is better than not making a decision at all.”

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David Dignam

Owner/agent and president, Key Agency

“I’m the third generation. My dad, Tom Dignam, and grandfather, George Dignam, told me to be open to new ideas but be respectful of the past. You’ve got to really appreciate and respect your staff. Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t be expected to do. I’m instilling [those values] in my son [Brandon, who now is owner/agent for Key’s office in Englewood]. I told my son, ‘Start at the bottom and work your way up and your staff will respect you.’ When the time is right and I start [leaving a management role] it will be comforting knowing that he will be ready.”

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