Family-owned finishing operation F. M. Callahan & Son (Malden, MA) is celebrating a huge milestone this year. It's been in business for 100 years. And for all 100, it's been in the same family. Eric Jacklin, the fourth generation president of the NADCAP-certified electroplater says that in addition to a talented team of employees, the company has found a niche with its customers in the major aerospace and defense contractors located in the greater Boston area. PF did a feature article with F.M. Callahan in 2008 (check out the article "Process-Focused"). A whopping 100 years in the same family is a significant achievement, though, so we spoke with Jacklin to find out what wisdom he could impart to our readers who operate family-owned finishing shops.
Tell us about your role within the company.
E.J: I'm the fourth generation of my family at the helm of our electroplating business. I became president in 1993, after graduating from Maine Maritime Academy.
What do you believe is your company's secret to staying in business so long?
E.J: Team work and reinvestment! We have on-the-floor involvment with our plating technicians and development engineers to produce efficient plating lines. We are not driving Cadillacs; our fancy cars are in our shop equipment. And we're fortunate to have employess that have been with us for the long haul. Having long term stable employees gives F.M. Callahan & Son a big advantage for success.
What is the greatest challenge the company has overcome since you've been involved?
E.J: F.M. Callahan & Son, Inc. has always been an aerospace supplier in plating, but back in 1993 we were asked to become NADCAP certified. This is a quality systems audit designed for chemical process specific plating shops. At the time, this task seemed to be an impossibility. But we had to make the decision to move forward and take on the challenge. It was a painful and challenging accomplishment, but we achieved it. Seventeen years later, we are still NADCAP certified and a better company because of it.
What is the most rewarding aspect?
E.J: A "Thank you!" from a customer. We've been invited to many customer awards celebrations and have been presented as an extension of their business. We like to solve problems and make a project work. We look at it as just doing our job. Plating is a problem industry, but if you can solve problems you have a lot of personal satisfaction.
What challenges come with working with family members?
E.J: Do you have to ask...? Family is family and business is business. We try to operate this way, but that line is sometimes crossed. In a family, you have long and entangled relationships with one another and this becomes difficult to separate, but also acts as an advantage. We all trust and work well together. We have all have different responsilities within the company and respect each one's specialties. Communication is the hardest challenge within a family organization.
What advice do you have advice to impart to other family businesses?
E.J: Set up planned communication meetings. Have meetings with each other to allow a free flow of communications. Hardened feelings, even of the simplest nature, can destroy a family business.
Do you have anything else to add?
E.J: I'm very proud of our 100-year anniversary. We have met many challenges, from wars to depression, and we are still here. I know there are many more challenges to come, and those are unknown—but we will carry on.