Family Business Confidential – Chem-Pak/MVS – Two family businesses, one mission of hope

by Allen Esrock | Feb 5, 2024 | Celebrating Family Business

Eric L Goodman
Chem-Pak
G2
MVS
G1
Newport Beach, CA

Can you share your business background?

Terry Goodman, my father, founded Chem-Pak in 1987 and we supplied janitorial and facilities supplies for a variety of industries. I started working for the company when I was 14 years old. My work life began when my father and I went to the Sears and bought our first Apple computer.  We bought cds and downloaded software, so I could set up our first POS system. After that, I worked in the warehouse and became a driver once I got my license. Eventually, I became an outside salesperson.

When I was 21 years old I went to work with one of our customers (MVS, Inc.) that supplied food and medical supplies to support developmentally disabled adults and children in group homes. I was drawn to their mission and wanted to help them grow. The MVS CEO asked me to lead their sales team but they couldn’t hire a full-time person, so I started working for both companies.  After two years, MVS grew to the point where I needed to be there full-time.  I asked my dad about leaving the family business to run MVS’s sales team.  We drafted a five-year plan that outlined my transition to MVS and eventually returning to Chem-Pack.  29 years later, it never happened.

I rose through various roles from Vice President and then President of MVS. When the CEO co-owner passed away in 2013, I became one of the owners and acquired the company outright from my other partners in 2020.  That’s when my family members started working for MVS and we became a family business at MVS.

What was your motivation for acquiring Chem-Pak?

I acquired Chem-Pak in 2023 when my father retired.  The main reason was that I was emotionally attached to the business and didn’t want to see the legacy die.  I approached my parents and told them that I wanted to acquire the company.   Their response was, “Why” you already have a business. The other reason was a business decision because Chem-Pak was an important vendor for MVS and I’d have to find a new vendor to take their place.  If Chem-Pak produced tires (not related to what MVS does) I wouldn’t have made the move, but it made sense to control both companies since we supplied similar products.

Unlike most NxtGens thinking about entering the business, there was a family business when they were young.  What was the process of bringing family members on board?  

We didn’t have a family meeting when I took over where everybody was presented with the opportunity to enter the family business.  The children began to enter the business based on our needs and their skill set. The first member to join the business was my daughter. She had a marketing and design degree from Biola University and joined the business when we needed to hire a marketing person. The same thing occurred with my son, son-in-law, and my wife.  All of them ended up in the family business because they had a skill sets that fit a current need. Of course, because there were family members who would eventually have an opportunity for ownership in the companies, I took full advantage of the family business salary discount.

How have your family dynamics changed since you became a family business?

When we first became a family business, it consumed our entire lives.  We couldn’t have a meal without discussing the businesses, we couldn’t go on a trip without discussing the businesses, and we couldn’t see each other without discussing the businesses. While all family businesses suffer from the family business syndrome at the dinner table, it was new experience for us and we didn’t know how to stop it.  Eventually, we recognized that having our lives revolve solely around the business wasn’t healthy.  Now we try to conduct business only during business hours.  We have regularly scheduled meetings so the family and management team can walk through issues.  If we’re getting together as a family, we try to make sure it’s family time.

Needless to say, it doesn’t always work that way because if one of us has an exciting idea and it’s not during business hours, we’re going to talk about it.  I think that these on-the-fly brainstorming sessions are one of the true joys of a family business.

Since we’re a new family business together, we haven’t implemented many of the features that more mature family businesses have.  We don’t have a family business council, we don’t have a family business board, and we don’t have regular meetings to discuss the next generation.  That will all happen.

Do you think that the next generation will take over the business?

Yes, we’re proud of the fact that we have two companies that are 36 and 37 years old.  I decided to continue the legacy of Chem-Pak and I believe my children feel the same way.  Our family plan is for the kids to work in the business and then convert those hours into “shares”. The more they work, the more they acquire. When I step away from the company, they will assume ownership roles and keep the existing non-familymember managers in place.

Are there any differences with your employees now that they work in a family business?  

No, and I think it’s because I’ve always stressed that we’re part of the same team.  We are always helping each other and we’re always helping the community.  Many members of the management team have been with the companies for over 20-25 years.  We even have one manager who has been with the company for 36 years.  So the management team knows the family members because they’ve watched them grow up.  The family members know the management team so there’s a lot of mutual respect.

What is most surprising about being part of a family business?  What is the best part?  What is the worst part?

That we were a family business 32 years in the making! I didn’t think about my company (MVS) at the time as a family business until family members joined but we had always been a “family in business”. My father and I worked hand in hand for 29 years, each running the two companies. The best part is we all support each other, my family members understand and follow my vision and mission and I listen to their ideas and value their input so we can help support the community we serve.

The worst part is that the business is a huge factor in all our lives and we think about it and talk about it all the time. But we are grateful to have it for ourselves and our ability to help other people. I lead my companies with the same values I lead my life. We have strong values and we give back daily. Our mission is to help others. My faith is what keeps me going and leading the two companies. I am grateful to work with my family and the family owned-business community. Some of my closets friends in business own family businesses.

Short Answer

Most important non-family idol or inspiration? God
What keeps you up at night? Helping more people.
What are you streaming? Nothing
What’s on your turntable or Spotify playlist? Worship music
Godfather I or Godfather II? I
Favorite SoCal Sports team We are an LA Kings family
Favorite SoCal College We are a three generation Biola family
Favorite venue to listen to music. Hollywood Bowl
Quintessential SoCal activity or experience We love to drive PCH weekly!
Desert, Beach or Mountains? Beach (Newport of course)
What do you like most about SoCal? The weather!
What don’t you like about SoCal? The traffic!
Favorite restaurant Family restaurant is Northwoods Inn.
Best junk food  McDonals of course (on the board of directors)
SoCal Social Causes Long list… Ronald McDonald House is top of the list.

 

Allen Esrock is the Founder of NxtGen Nexus, a platform for the next generation of family business owners which is based on his experience of growing up in a family business. Prior to that he started Jitter Fingers, the first safe, social networking website for tween girls and their bffs with Jitter Finger clubs in 12+ countries and 250+ cities in the US.

About the Author

Allen Esrock is the Founder of NxtGen Nexus, a platform for the next generation of family business owners which is based on his experience of growing up in a family business. Prior to that he started Jitter Fingers, the first safe, social networking website for tween girls and their bffs with Jitter Finger clubs in 12+ countries and 250+ cities in the US.