Moms Take Daughters into Family Business
As women increase role in commerce, the female dynasty gets less unusual.
By Susan Sherman Fadem
Globe-Democrat Staff Writer
To a world long accustomed to sons following dads straight to the family business, a new phenomenon has been added: savvy daughters sharing budget proposals and clout with mom, the company president.
At one time such female, corporate-style swapping would have been a rarity. Even a generation ago, it was unusual for many mothers to work outside the home, let alone run businesses where daughters' names could be added to the letterhead.
But today, all that may be changing. With an all-time high of more than 50 percent of women in the labor force, Internal Revenue Service reports a record 2.8 million female-owned businesses. Women constitute the fastest growing group of new entrepreneurs in the county. Undoubtedly, some of those women are working with daughters, or planning to someday.
Already, the mother-daughter business trend has some scratching their heads. "As far as I know, there's nothing about it in the literature because it's still so unusual," says Jayne Stake, associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.
To help find out, a group of St. Louisans agreed to share their experiences. These are women who know the nitty-gritty of mother-daughter businesses because they're in the vanguard.
Reluctant Employee Turned into Partner
Nine years ago, Ruth Lurie was desperate. Her husband, Robert, an amateur showman and a world traveler, was too ill to continue working in the travel business he'd founded in 1957. And ones of the airlines was on strike, creating hours of re-scheduling headaches for Ruth and her staff at Brentwood Travel Service.
Distraught, Ruth pleaded with her daughter, Stephanie Turner, to help her. Stephanie was reluctant.
A former teacher, organization president and jewelry salesman, Stephanie had long avoided the family business. While others imagined the glamours of travel, she saw the work as "an office job and I thought office work was boring." Besides, the mother of three had a strong relationship with her parents and saw no reason to jeopardize tranquility by working for them.
In the end, Ruth won out. For the going rate of $2.50 an hour, Stephanie was hired to work three days a week. Years earlier, Ruth had come into the business under similar circumstances. That time it was Robert who needed help. He'd pleaded. A dedicated golfer, she'd resisted. But before long, Ruth was leading cruises.
With Stephanie, history repeated himself. Today the 39-year-old has a full-time career and a partnership in 6-year-old Brentwood Travel Chesterfield. Stephanie has 11 employees. Sixty-two-year-old Ruth employs 10 at her Richmond Heights office.
The women insist they're markedly different in corporate styles. Ruth says she's conservative. Stephanie thinks she's progressive.
Still, coming in on a successful parent's coattails can have drawbacks. "To prove myself, I felt I had to work five times harder than everyone else," Stephanie says. "I put money into the partnership. At the Chesterfield office, I feel the successes are mine."
But what about supposed mother-daughter rivalries, augmented by competing sales figured from two different staffs? "A little competition is a good thing," Ruth emphasizes.
For years, strong motivation has been one of Ruth's chief tools. Since 1970, when Robert moved into a nursing home, she's been paying his bills and supporting herself.
The same determination seems to percolate through Stephanie. "Mother has shown me that business is survival," she says. "I can't live anymore thinking that if something happened to my husband, I'd have to change my lifestyle."
Ruth and Stephanie are the first mother-daughter duo in the area to become Certified Travel Counselors, the equivalent of a master's degree in travel.
About each other. the two are unreserved in their praise. "Stephanie is full of ideas," says Ruth.
"She trained me," adds Stephanie. "I had the best teacher in the business."