Family Businesses

How a Tightly-Knit Tennessee Family Built a Local Business Empire

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Dan and Pattie Holt have been married for 32 years and own not one, but several family businesses. Dan met Pattie while she was working at the Captain D’s drive-thru window in Shelbyville, Tennessee. The beautiful cashier let him order past closing time, he asked her on a date, and the rest is history. They now own and operate a Captain D’s, as well as three Shoney's Restaurants. They also operate Canteen Lincoln County Vending, a vending franchise system. They run a culinary center that manufactures the foods available for sale in their vending machines. Dan works with all four of his children, Dan, Levi, Holly and Carlie. He offers these words of wisdom for family business success:

Family is a motivator, not a deterrent.

The main reason Dan and Pattie own and operate a family business is to be close to their family. "I may be the luckiest guy in the world because i get to see my kids and grandchildren almost every day. We did it that way," Dan explained.

A typical business day does not end without Dan talking to all of his children. Each of them play a vital role in the business. His son, Dan, supervises the vending route and sales team. Levi oversees the maintenance department and workers. Holly supervises the culinary center, a role her mother Pattie once had. Carlie supervises the office personnel. Dan and Pattie also get to interact with three grandchildren, and there's one more on the way.

"I love my family. I love my kids. I love my wife. It's what motivated me years ago to get up and go to work to make sure I could take care of them. I never dreaded a day of work because I had a mission to take care of my family," said Dan.

Related: How to Manage the Challenges of a Family Business

Business is built around relationships.

Business building is about relationships. The Holts strive to be the type of company that prospects and customers know, like and trust. One way they accomplish their goal being very involved with the community. They make it a point to never turn down requests for donations. For example, their family business paid for scoreboards now used by schools and sports teams in their town. They also help with fundraisers for various organizations. They may not be able to fund organizations at the same level, year after year, but they will support them when asked.

Roles evolve in family business.

Pattie's role has evolved over the years. Her initial role was to count the money from the vending machines. Dan remembers her counting change on the dining room table with their kids underfoot. She did many business activities from home in the early stages because she was also a home-school mom. When the vending company grew to the point where they manufactured their own food, she supervised the culinary center. Her primary job now is babysitter to her grandchildren.

Related: Is Your Business Taking Over Your Marriage?

Never let statictics dictate your mindset.

Dan and Pattie are working hard everyday to defy statistics that show that many second or third generation businesses fail. They want their family to do well and are taking the necessary steps to make sure that their family businesses prosper.

Dan explained, "We are prepared to have our children take the business from us someday by educating ourselves about generational transition and attending seminars on how to do it." Training, combined with a hard work ethic, ensures success. Prioritizing customer satisfaction also helps to maintain a positive mindset. Their customers feels as if they know the family, which creates trust.

Family business is a labor of love for the The Holt family. It gives them the opportunity to build something together and they enjoy being around each other. They go to church together, and dine together. Running a family business has strengthened their family. According to Dan, the secret to their family business success is to keep things in order: "God first, family second and after that is our business."

Related: How to Successfully Exit Your Family Business and Pivot for the Internet Age