Business of being dad
Early on, Buzz Matheson taught his children not to look at their watches while working.
“He said ‘The more you look at your watch, the more you worry about time and the quality of your work suffers,'” explained Jesse Matheson. “You realize when you have a business that sometimes eight hours a day isn’t enough.”
Like other area business owners, Jesse and his sister, Cindy Matheson, attribute much of their work ethic and business success to lessons they learned from their dad.
“My brother and I started working for our dad in high school. When he retired in 1987, we took over and we’ve been running it ever since,” said Cindy.
But, she added, 30 years later, “(Buzz) still has his fingers in it.”
Buzz was about 9 years old when he built his first alarm that signaled when mice were getting into the pantry of the business located beneath his family’s apartment.
“I truly believe it was in the cards for him, even back then,” she said.
A retired Howland police officer, he started Howland Alarm Co. in 1969 as a sideline business. He built the company, with help from his wife, Pat, during his off time from his full-time job, including weekends.
“He taught us not to use a cookie cutter approach, but to make sure each issue is addressed on an individual basis, that each system is custom built to meet the needs of the individual customer, each situation,” said Cindy. There are 28 million small businesses in the country and about one million in Ohio, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA says more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business and those firms create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.
More than 95 percent of the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber’s nearly 2,700 members are small businesses with less than 30 employees, the organization reported.
Howland Alarm is among hundreds of locally based, family-owned businesses in the Mahoning Valley. Most are small firms, meaning they have fewer than 500 employees, and many are handed down from one generation to the next.
The extended list of longstanding family businesses in the area includes, but is not limited to, Cole Valley auto dealers, which marked 100 years in 2014, the Dairy Queen on Elm Road in Warren, which marked 65 years this spring, Do-Cut Sales and Service, which recently celebrated 70 years, James Funeral Home in Newton Falls, Vasilio’s Family Restaurant in Cortland, Bob and Chuck Eddy auto dealers, Sims Buick GMC and Greenwood Chevrolet.
Many second-, third-, even fourth-generation owners, operators or employees at area family business attribute much of what they learned about being successful to their fathers, grandfathers, possibly great-grandfathers.
“It says a lot when you are able to keep a business going as long as my dad, and others like him in the area have,” said Irene Manios-Buccino, a pharmacist at Franklin Pharmacy & Health Care, the Warren business her father and longtime pharmacist Frank Manios started more than 50 years ago.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says between 75 and 80 percent of small businesses continue operating into the second year after being established. About half of all new establishments survive five years or more and one-third survive 10 years or more, with the rate of success dropping for many each consecutive year.
“The pharmacy business is sort of tough, especially these days when you’re up against bigger players,” said Manios-Buccino. “My dad taught my brother and me that you have to put in the work. But more important is to always be kind and fair to people, not only the people you work with, but each and every person who comes through that door. They’re more than customers, they’re individuals who are coming to us because they need help and guidance. Many of them are not feeling well. He taught us to be gracious and kind, and to listen.
Lisa Miller, president/treasurer of Do-Cut Sales and Service, said her father taught his six children perseverance.
“You just have to work hard and keep going. He told us no matter what to always do right by our customers,” she said.
Miller’s father, Tony Terzigni, started the Warren business in 1947, sharpening chain saws and reel — non-motorized — push mowers in the garage behind the family’s home on Charles Street while he was working as a tool and dye maker at Packard Electric.
Paul Tambures, along with his brothers, George and Kris, will soon be taking over Vasilio’s Family Restaurant in Cortland their father, Chris Tambures, started 35 years ago. Paul Tambures said his father taught his sons to be consistent – with the food and the service.
“People come back for a reason. They expect to have the same experience, the quality food and good service they enjoyed the first time and each time after that,” he said. “Consistent in who you are and what you do. And always treat people right.”
Regina Mitchell, president of Warren Fabricating and Machine Corp., said her father, John Rebhan, stressed the importance of learning the business “from the bottom up. No one will respect you if you don’t.”
She and her brother, Eric Rebhan, took over co-ownership of Warren Fab and Ohio Steel Sheet and Plate after their father, who started both companies. unexpectedly suffered a fatal heart attack in late 2008.
“I have done every job from payroll to selling steel to quality control inspections to internal auditing. I am also following this advice with my own son who is working full time in the businesses now. He is unloading rail cars and running crane,” Mitchell said.
Her company has 135 full-time employees. Mitchell said her father also told her to “‘Play hard, just make sure you work harder. You will eventually have to make some difficult and unpopular decisions. If you are not ready to make them, then you are not ready to lead.'”
Jesse Matheson said he was in 6th grade when he started helping his Dad pull wire, long before there were many alarm companies in the area. One of the first jobs they did together was for Howland Schools in the 1970s after several break-ins.
“I started installing on my own when I was 16 or 17. When I got my driver’s license, I showed my dad and said ‘Great. Here’s a pager. You’re on call.’
“That was my dad. Work hard, take care of business and the business will take care of you.”