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Keeping business in the family
by Sarah Cooper
Apr 29, 2010 | 1278 views | 1 1 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Fiannaca family left to right:  Tony Jr., Andy, Tony Sr., Gracie, Mike and Lori McCamant. Photo by Tony Fiannaca Jr.
The Fiannaca family left to right: Tony Jr., Andy, Tony Sr., Gracie, Mike and Lori McCamant. Photo by Tony Fiannaca Jr.
SPARKS –– Nationally, fewer than 70 percent of all small businesses will stay family owned and operated through more than one generation, according to Family Business Advisers, an East Coast group seeking to keep businesses in the family. The group’s study also states that 90 percent of all businesses will not make it to the third generation.

The multi generational team at Sparks Florist, however, is breaking that mold.

Founder Tony Fiannaca is now slowly handing over the reins of day-to-day business to his son Mike and daughter Lorie. Bucking a trend even further, Mike’s sons, Tony Jr. and Andy, are also working in the shop. Sparks Florist recently celebrated its 50-year anniversary.

“It is a wonderful thing,” Tony said. “I don’t know that you see a lot of that today. When you can have your family all become a part of it, it is very special.”

According to Tony, offering a family-owned, multi-generational business to the community is invaluable. “Having a multi-generational business is a huge benefit,” Tony said. “They (the children) are immersed, they understand the business and the message we have as it relates to customer service. … They know the customers and the customers know them as well.”

However, keeping business in the family is an endeavor with many unknowns. When will a family member take over? Will they already have a career of their own by the time retirement rolls around? Most importantly, will the next generation even be interested in running the business?

For most families, it is a shot in the dark.

“That is one of the more unfortunate things that happen in business,” Tony said of having to sell your startup when retirement comes knocking at the door. “If you sell it, the new owners put their own stamp on things and change it in their own way. I guess you can just retire, you could just close it up and walk away. I never really thought about it.”

For Tony, timing and a little bit of love meant everything.

The Fiannaca children grew up amid the flowers, sometimes even being placed in the old, empty flower boxes so they didn’t run around. Then, when they were old enough, they swept the floors and did deliveries.

However, when the children grew up, they each went their own ways and left the family flower business. Lorie went to Kansas and found success in the flower design field. Mike earned a geology degree from the University of Nevada, Reno and went on to work in the gold business for the next 20 years. But something brought him back to the flower shop.

“The main thing was I wanted to work for myself and have some sense of independence,” Mike said. “I grew up in the business so it was familiar to me. Making a transition back into it was very, very easy.”

According to Tony, the jump back into the flower business came one day when Mike asked him to go to lunch.

“He asked ‘Can I come into the business and work with you?’ ” Tony said, adding to the story that, of course, he said yes.

According to Tony, both of the children came back on their own.

“They left on their own and came back on their own,” Tony said. “I never pushed them because I didn’t think it was a good idea anyway. I assumed once they were in their careers, they would continue.”

But as Sparks Florist enters its 50th year, it will still be run by Fiannacas. Maintain the trust associated with the name and keeping in touch with the concerns of the customers through multiple generations, however, will still probably remain a business trait that is rare.

“I feel very, very fortunate,” Mike said of his sons wanting to work with him.

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Raul Ramirez
May 11, 2010
Great people, great business. God bless them.
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