Family Businesses

Lessons From a Family Business 5 Generations Strong

"Family business strengthens a family." 

No family business owner has more credibility to say that than John V. Evans, Jr., chief executive officer of D.L. Evans Bank. His great-grandfather started the bank in 1904. John hired his dad and next door neighbor, former Idaho Governor John V. Evans, Sr. They worked together for 26 years until a hip replacement made it difficult to continue. He and his three sons are fourth and fifth generation bankers.

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Today, the Evans bank is Idaho's largest community bank. It survived the Great Depression and all of the economic downturns since. Though Evans family has defied the odds by keeping the business thriving for five generations, John is a humble man who struck me as compassionate about his own family, his banking family and Idaho. Here are some key lessons he shared on how to become a successful business family.

Start your children early.

His three sons, John III, Jim and Richard, grew up in the family bank. John taught them early that hard work and dedication make a family bank successful. Each son had to sweep the parking lot and pull weeds. They collected trash and were promoted to bank tellers during their junior high and high school years.

John warns family businesses to be careful how their children advance in the company. Hiring your children and grandchildren is one of the greatest rewards of owning a family business but you don't want your employees to think that your children are advancing because of their status. His children had to prove themselves and work twice as hard.

Related: Why You Should Hire Your Kids This Summer

Prepare your relationships for business growth.

John and Karen Evans have been married for 43 years. She worked with  him for 10 years, first as a teller and later as a customer representative before eventually leaving the banking business.

John explained that one of the main problems with family business is that it's difficult to stop working. The work spills over into family life at home and that can strain the relationship. John thinks that smaller ventures may not be as difficult to manage. Business growth demands that you work together, all of the time, and that doesn't work for all couples.

Karen continues to play an important role in his success by managing the home, attending functions and motivating him when times get tough.

Have multiple streams of income.

The Evans family owns the Evans Co-op, the oldest continuously-operated department store in Idaho. It used to be a full department store but is now primarily a hardware store. The Evans were also in the cattle business.

John explained that not every business is a home run. If you fail at one business, then you must have the courage to come back and do it again. Having more than one business has played a role in their family business success.

Make dreams come true.

John enjoys financing many community projects and tries to meet as many needs as possible. His view of family business is that it should help people. Throughout the interview he would say, "Bankers are supposed to help people reach their dreams."

Helping families in his community buy houses or cars is his way of helping turn dreams into reality. He finds it rewarding to talk to customers who started with a small loan and are successful today in life or in business.

John V. Evans, Jr. believes that the rewards of a successful family business are tremendous. It can be difficult keeping up when competing against huge banks across the country. His advice to family business owners: Pursue your dreams. Continuous education and hard work are the keys to success.

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