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Training the second generation

Have you planned for the future? 

Never in my life for one did I think I would ever be asked to write articles and number two I would have never guessed in a million years that my children would want to not only learn the family business, but eventually take it over. Articles like this I think can be some of the most important ones for all of us to read, because no one really talks about planning for the future enough.
Let’s go back in time for a bit about our family business. I went to Proctor High School and had taken a design class which then led to me going to BOCES a local vocational school during high school for two years for designs, and during my senior year of high school I had bridged over to Mohawk Valley Community College to take design courses and worked on my two-year degree from them. I always knew in my heart I wanted to do something with art and my dream was always to own a graphic based business.
Fast forward to after my wife and I got married we started A&P Master Images from our home in 2003 more less as a hobby for me to be creative since we both had very good full-time jobs.
The business grew year after year naturally, but a bolder had hit us. One of our children became very ill with a very rare disease. At the time I was only 25 and my wife was only 22 years old.
Once we seen the care our child needed how much time it could require, I made the decision with my wife to double time it, working close to 100 hours per week for at least three years to get the company off the ground to take it on full time. We barely saw each other during that time, but we both knew it had to be done. My wife not only worked full time, but she made sure our home was taken care of inside and out, so I could focus on work. I was working midnights and working the business during the day, and my wife worked during the day and would help me run orders after she got out of work.
All during that time our children were very little growing up watching us work and got to be
around us all during the time we were working with customers coming in the house, us
delivering orders. We even had her dad Clayton Baker and her sister Rachel Nitti helping us run machines at a certain point off and on. It was great having other family members that were willing to help along the way.
So, as our children got older, they have always helped off and on in the business. We never
forced it on them, but we told them. You want money? You have to work for it. You can pick up hours at the shop, but you have to take it seriously. I remember at times bring test print shirts home for my daughter to cut up in her room, so we could save cost on buying rags and recycling at the same time or my son coming in to help clean screens for screen printing. So, they have always been around it.

Fast forward to now. Our daughter Angelena Potter who is now 20 years old has been
managing our shipping slash receiving department since she was 17 years old. She knows how to help in customer service, embroidery, sewing, heat pressing, and much more. She has really grown into the position and taken the lead on it which has been a massive help to our companies’ growth. Our 17-year-old son Ayden over the past few years has truly acquired the hunger for production as he knows how clean screens, produce them, operate manual and automated screen-printing presses along with running our new direct to film printer and much more.

So, the point of all of this? My son a few weeks ago told me next year when he graduates high school, he wants to come on full time to learn to become the production manager to help me and to help back up all managers in our company. I asked him why since that was never my wife or my plan to have the kids work full time in the business. He gave the best answer I could have ever wanted to hear! “Dad, I do not want anyone else who is not family running or owning our company”.

The following week my daughter and son approach my wife and me. It is never good when they both show up wanting to talk… They basically had both wanted to talk about the
future of the company and how they both wanted to both take it over together to keep it going, Which to be honest had my wife and I caught by surprise. We would have never guessed that they wanted in at all of for the long haul ever since they have always watched how hard my wife and I work the business to keep up with the success and growth.
When your kids or any family members come to you with that type of conversation it really
starts to make you think about life and putting everything into perspective for the long haul. My wife and I sat down and talked about the future and what it entails for both of us. Immediately, we had our living will be revised to where everything in equal shares goes to our children except how the business is set up. My son will take over my shares and my daughter will take over her mother’s share of the company since we are a NYSWBE certified company and everything else will be put into a trust for them until they are 25 years old.

That was part one to help protect them financially and to ensure the company stays into the hands of family. Part two is now working over the next two years to train both kids on finances, buying product, teaching them how to develop pricing, maximize buying power, and more so that way they learn everything now. By doing this it not only prepares them for the future, but will also help us ramp up our growth since we know both kids care about the company as much as my wife and I do.

As business owners each day we are focused on growth, day to day operation, and simply just keeping the lights on in a nutshell and we never truly think about what happens for retirement or who will take over or own our company one day. I am truly thankful for my children wanting to be in the business and to take it over. It was never the plan, but it does make me proud that my wife and I have built something that they truly want to take over for all of the right reasons.


originally published in “Graphics Pro” August, 2023. Re-printed with the permission of the author

Howard Potter
Howard Potter
Howard Potter is the co-owner and CEO of A&P Master Images, LLC; an advertising promotions company that offers screen-printing, embroidery, graphic design, vinyl graphics, sublimation, direct to film, laser and promotional products in Utica New York. Howard manages production, marketing, and his own sales portfolio.

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