Nature vs. Nurture – Family Business NxtGens and Poodles

by Allen Esrock | Nov 10, 2023 | Lifestyle

A large gold colored standard poodle laying down on a patio

A couple of months ago, we started fostering Bella, a two-year old, 60 lb. standard poodle with thoughts of potentially adopting her. Helena, from Hope for China Dogs, told us that Bella was rescued after being abandoned on a construction site in China.  That sounded internet scam iffy.  Since there was no financial commitment involved with fostering Bella, we decided to bring her home.

Two months into The Bella Experiment, there is absolutely no doubt that Helena’s story was true:

  • She is a food-motivated menace with a scavenger’s guile and a cast iron stomach. Standing five-foot tall on her hind legs, Bella’s devoured sticks of butter, bags of avocados, and a plate of chocolate brownies that would send any other dog to the animal hospital.  Her most impressive theft was snatching a one-pound slab of Jarlsberg cheese while four people were chatting at the table drinking cocktails.
  • Half the homes in our neighborhood are being renovated and Bella stops at each one and tries to go through the fence.
  • Whenever she sees someone who is Chinese, Bella bolts straight towards them. When it happened the first couple of times, my wife and I thought we were being weirdly prejudiced.  Not a chance.

Unless there’s a breed of cheese stealing, Chinese loving standard poodles, it’s pretty safe to say that Bella’s behavior ended up on the nurture side of the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

Family business NxtGens are also clearly in the nurture category.  They share a number of interests that are deeply meaningful to them because they grew up in a family business.


For family businesses, family and legacy are inextricably linked and powered by a strong desire to continue their legacy across the generations. One way to achieve this objective is by sharing and maintaining traditions, milestones, personal histories and the family’s beliefs and principles.  Legacy is truly the connective cord that holds families together.

Earlier this year, El Cholo  restaurant celebrated their 100th anniversary and was honored by the City of Los Angeles.   During the ceremony, Ron Salisbury, 3G President and Owner of El Cholo shared the story that “All seven of my children, at one time in their lives as a rite of passage, have made Green Corn Tamales for El Cholo guests during their summer vacations!”.

Our family business was Big Men Shops which sold big and tall men’s clothing.  For most retailers, holiday shopping accounted for 30%+ of yearly sales.  My father, who barely spoke to us anyway, was even less communicative during this crucial time of year.  However, on Christmas Eve, when holiday shopping was over, we would go to the same Italian restaurant to celebrate the end of Christmas shopping season.  Santa Claus, not the real Santa Claus but the man who worked at the restaurant, was one of our customers so he always gave us extra stockings.  It’s these traditions and milestones that build the family business legacy.

While legacy is incredibly important within the family, family businesses’ deep-seated relationships with their employees are almost as important.  Chrys Chrys of Papa Cristo’s in Los Angeles talks with pride about taking care of his employees some of whom have worked for the company for over 30-years.  Chrys said that some restaurants will send their employees home early when business is slow.  Chrys won’t do that because his family restaurant is supporting their families.  El Cholo’s 100th anniversary was filled with press and local dignitaries.  Ron Salisbury called out one of the most significant group of attendees — the remarkably loyal El Cholo Restaurant Managers and staff members, many of whom have put in 20-50 years of continuous service!

Social media has given NxtGen family members the opportunity to not only share the legacy within the family, but also to a global community of family business members and non-family business members.  This sharing compounds the pride of the family business and deepens relationships inside and outside the family.


“Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” describes the inability of grandchildren to manage the wealth passed down to them from their grandparents and parents. Less than 10% of family wealth survives the transition to the third generation.

While the above holds true for ultra-high net worth families, family businesses have a different mindset. Worldwide, 75% of entrepreneurs and 81% of established business owners are entrepreneurs, co-owning or managing their businesses with family members, according to the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Family Entrepreneurship Report, co-sponsored by Babson College.

Family business entrepreneurship takes two different forms: 1) create new businesses based on the NxtGens’ interests; and 2) develop new businesses which the entrepreneur harnesses prevailing resources and transforms their idea into a new business, division, product or foundation.

One of our favorite stories is about Emily and Jessica Leung Hey Lady: Twins’ Shoe Dreams Come True.  In the article, the twins talked about the influence of their entrepreneurial parents.  Their parents started a number of businesses including a donut shop, ocean oil clean up product and finally spending the last 25 years in the real estate development business.

Hey Lady was started in 2009 when, after a usual night of partying it up in Los Angeles, Emily and Jessica were talking with other girlfriends about how unfortunate it was that women had to wear incredibly uncomfortable heels while dancing the night away.  Fast forward through three weddings in six-months, passing out from too much dancing, drinking and wearing a pair of gold Christian Louboutin 4-inch platforms, and a company was formed.

Did the fact that the girls had absolutely no experience in the fashion business deter their dreams?  Absolutely not, because more important than industry knowledge was understanding how to be successful in a family run business and having the support of their parents.

The other type of family business entrepreneur is an intrapreneur.  An intrepreneurial NxtGen creates a new business out of the existing family business.

Recently, we shared the story about Alex Cantor and the extraordinary journey of Canter’s Deli and Ordermark.  Due to the proliferation of food order apps, Canter’s was overwhelmed with to-go orders, each of which used its own proprietary platform.  Alex and a team of technologists created a system which funneled all the orders together.  After stress testing at the deli, he raised $150M and rolled out Ordermark to 1000s of global restaurants.  While Alex funded the business outside the family, it was his deep institutional knowledge of the family’s restaurant business and the experience of growing up in a family business that enabled him to create a product that redefined the industry.


Family businesses have always played an enormous role in their local community.  While it’s not as pronounced as The Hershey Company in Hershey, PA, they provide the emotional and philanthropic engine in their communities.

Anton CleanersClose-up of black teenager with glasses wearing a black formal dress with a unfocused shot of ballgowns in the background, a third-generation cleaner in Boston and surrounding areas has two wonderful programs that touch members of the community Coats for Kids and Families has one simple mission: Anyone who needs a coat will have one.  Since the program started 29-years ago, Anton Cleaners and their partners have collected, cleaned, and locally distributed 1,212,369 coats.  Belle of the Ball cleans and distributes prom dresses to high school students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend their school’s prom.  The program started in 2005 and they’ve collected and cleaned 76,669 prom gowns.

El Cholo, In support of their 100th Anniversary in Los Angeles, is leading a multi-million-dollar Charitable Gift Campaign Benefitting Pediatric Cancer Research which will be donated to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and to Orange County’s Children’s Hospital / CHOC Foundation.  Other leading family business participants include Lawry’s, Langer’s Delicatessen Restaurant, The Musso & Frank Grill, Pink’s Hot Dogs, Phillippe French Dip, and The Original Pantry Café.

Nobody is saying that only family business NxtGens care about impact.  It’s just the opposite.  According to Prospects, a career site for graduates, “The majority (91%) of more than 1,000 graduates who responded to the survey reported that it was important that their job enables them to make a difference in people’s lives. A further 86% said it was vital that the company they work for has a positive environmental impact and 85% said it was important that a company has sustainable practices.  91-percent-of-graduates-want-to-make-a-difference-in-their-job.  The biggest difference is that family business provides NxtGens a platform so that they can create partnerships and implement impact plans for the benefit of the community.

On the “nature vs. nurture” debate, growing up in a family business creates a specific group of interests regarding Family Legacy, Entrepreneurship, and Impact the importance of legacy.  These interests are the same for family business NxtGens around the world.

For the record, we adopted Bella and to celebrate, she ate an entire Costco chicken including the bones.  Thank heavens for pet insurance.

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.