The Zuckerman Group of Boca Raton, Fla., has thrived for some 90 years through four generations: an extremely difficult feat according to statistics from the Family Business Institute, which reports that just 3% of family-owned businesses are still around by the fourth generation.
Here are four secrets this family-owned agency founded in 1924 uses to ensure its continued success.
Secret 1: Stay true to your foundation
Many people have asked The Zuckerman Group’s President Andrew Zuckerman how he, his two brothers Steven and David and his son Ryan run their family-owned agency without infighting and causing detriment to the business. Zuckerman said the family works together, plays together and always has stayed true to its foundation, which is to live by the golden rule his grandfather put into place decades ago.
Zuckerman would accompany his grandfather and company founder, Meyer, to communities the group had developed. He remembers his grandfather talking to everyone involved in every phase of the community, regardless of their position. Zuckerman, who was perplexed by his grandfather’s seemingly meaningless socializing, asked him why. His grandfather told him it was important for him to know what was going on in these people’s lives.
“As I got older, I understood what he was teaching me. If you treat everybody the way you want to be treated, life should be good,” Zuckerman said. “I learned that early on. I think, overall, as a company, that’s what we do. Live by the golden rule. We treat everybody the way they want to be treated, which gives you a good name.”
Secret 2: It’s all in a name
That reputation of the family-owned business’s name is what makes many them either thrive or dive, according to Tom Searcy, CEO of the sales consulting firm Hunt Big Sales.
“When people look at the family name, and they look at the multigenerational members, there are always going to be different members of the family who are contributing in a positive way to the brand, and then there are going to be members who are potentially contributing in a negative way to the brand,” Searcy said.
With social media, bad behavior by family members who aren’t even directly involved in the business can cause any family brand in real estate to take a bad hit.
Secret 3: Respect every generation’s contributions
Another secret to The Zuckerman Group’s success is that each generation is willing to learn from the one before it and the one after it, according to Andrew Zuckerman. One of the advantages of owning a family business is the ability to learn from the successes of early generations and build on to those with modern approaches and ideas.
What’s important, according to Zuckerman, is that the older generations not only teach the younger generations in a company but also let them grow. While Zuckerman and his brothers bring a lot of experience to the table (along with their father, Mel, who still helps out a few days a week), the fourth generation Zuckerman, Ryan, a licensed real estate agent and broker, has reinvented the company so that it operates in a digital age.
“[Ryan] brought to us the digital part [of business], but he’s also learning what the 40 years have taught us,” Zuckerman said.
Secret 4: Adapt, adapt, adapt
Being able to adapt is important for any family business to survive, but adaptability is particularly important in real estate, which is a very fluid industry, Searcy said. The economy, changes in lending rates and other factors that have an impact on the real estate market can cause companies that are stuck in their ways to crumble, he said.
The Zuckerman Group adapts to the topsy-turvy real estate business by evolving and meeting consumer demands. With adaptability comes other important business attributes, according to Zuckerman, including hard work and a good sense of what the market demands.