Dreaming of and planning for the food production possibilities on The Loop. It was foodie heaven—a large commercial kitchen full of chefs bottling sauces...
Many of us try to keep our work separate from our family life. But for three local families, that isn’t the case. The Rost, Spry, and Kinser families enjoy combining their work with their family members. Not only do these families work alongside their loved ones on a daily basis, but they also run the company together. That suddenly puts a lot of pressure on creating and maintaining a healthy work–life balance. However, these families aren’t new to running a business together. Over the years, they have learned their limits, placed boundaries, and still look forward to working with their loved ones every day.
What started out as a summer job for Tim Rost in 1985 has turned into a successful landscape design–build firm entering its 33rd year of business.
Tim and his wife, Toby, run Rost Inc. with their two children, Allie and Brendan. But it hasn’t always been this way.
When Tim’s landscaping employer went out of business in 1985, Tim found himself finishing up jobs for clients his employer had abandoned. Many of those clients were builders in the area, and with a housing boom hitting Columbia, there was plenty of work. Soon Tim found himself in need of help at the office. Once Toby finished college, she took on meeting with clients and answering phones, providing a personal touch to match Tim’s know-how on the work site.
Toby instilled in their children from a young age that it’s important to treat people kindly and with respect. “I’ve always told my kids, ‘Always be on your best behavior.’” she says. “We want to be good, upstanding citizens that support the town, our clients, and our employees who work for us, because it’s much more than the work and the workplace. It’s about treating people decently and being there for people.”
And while Tim and Toby’s children didn’t see themselves joining the family business when they were growing up, both children have now taken on roles within the company. Allie handles the company’s social media accounts and helps with advertising. Brendan just graduated with a plant science degree and is now on staff.
As for how they divide up the work, Toby explains: “We each have our own divisions, so there’s no stepping on toes. There are boundaries that we set up, and we try very hard to talk about them if we think we need to without necessarily crossing over to the person’s particular part of the job.”
Another boundary the family has added to their lives is not talking about work at home. “That’s really hard to do, but we’ve tried to segment our lives so that it’s not always about talking about work,” says Toby.
The family also invests time and energy into hobbies and separate vacations to allow them time apart from each other since they’re so often together. But Toby wouldn’t change how things are set up. “The joy and the advantages of [working with family] are just magnificent,” she says.
High school sweethearts Brandon and Michele Spry always knew that they wanted to be business owners one day, says Michele, but they didn’t know when that dream would come true.
Brandon was working for an electrical company in Columbia in 2001 when the opportunity presented itself. The electrical company was closing their Columbia branch, and while Brandon looked into the possibility of working for another company, the Sprys eventually decided it was time to go into business themselves. Later that same year, Midway Electric, Inc. opened their doors.
“We’ve built Midway Electric Inc. with purpose and pride,” says Michele, who serves as the company’s president. “We stand behind the work we do, and we try hard to make sure the customer is happy with the service they receive.”
But there is an additional motivator for the company to go above and beyond with their customers. “We want to be more than an electrical contractor — we want to be a resource for our customers,” says Michele.
That philosophy of taking care of customers drives much of the behind-the-scenes work that the couple does. And not only do they make their customers a priority, but they also place a lot of their focus on their employees and their employees’ families.“Family is extremely important because they’re the ones that support you the most and constantly encourage you to be the best you can be,” says Michele. “We are very fortunate to have amazingly loyal customers and dedicated employees. We realize we couldn’t do what we do without our employees and our customers.”
Their employees and customers determine how successful Brandon and Michele feel their business is. If their employees and customers stay with the company for long periods of time, the couple sees that as a success indicator for their business.
Michele says, “having employees that stay with you for a length of time and customers that continue to call anytime they need something is a great feeling.”
Coming up on their 17th year of business and 21st year of marriage, the Sprys have found success in working together as well.
“The most rewarding aspect of running a small business with Brandon is the ability to work alongside my husband and business partner,” Michele says. “It’s a challenge that not many couples can take on, but we actually enjoy it. I like to think we’re a great team, and my weakness is his strength and vice versa.”
It may not be for every couple, but Brandon and Michele Spry have made a successful business and life from it.
Adam Kinser’s name may be the only one listed on the business license for ServiceMaster, but he’s quick to give his wife, Aniceta, credit for running the heart of their business. “She helps make sure that we not only have our customers taken care of, but that we also have enough money to take care of our customers,” he says. “She also helps me with my stress levels by just taking on things that I don’t want to take on or can’t take on at the time and reprimands me appropriately when needed,” he adds while chuckling.
Together they’ve run ServiceMaster, a company that specializes in removal of water, odors, soot, mold, and sewage, since 2002, when they bought the franchise from another couple. “I had been working for another company doing the same thing and was doing [the work] all myself, so I decided to do it on my own,” Adam explains.
He credits the success of his business to hiring good people who perform services in a timely and professional manner and to taking care of his customers by providing them with a concierge-type service. Similar to how a concierge team works at a hotel or resort, Adam wants to ensure that his clients understand what’s going on right now with the service being provided and that they know what they should do for future reference to prevent other disasters.
“If they understand more about what we do and what they’re going through, then they’ll better combat that or deal with that in the future,” he says.
Clients aren’t his only concern, though. Adam and Aniceta also want to care for their employees. “We have our family here that we take care of,” he says. “These people that work for us are our family. We do everything we can to try and help each and every one of them out, and not only them, but their families and, in turn, the community we serve.”
Adam and his wife recognize that they have advantages over larger companies who could pose as competition for them. They’re local, so they’re familiar with the community, common problems their clients have, and how to best address those problems. They’re running a family business not only because Adam and Aniceta work together, but because they’re serving the community, their extended family.