Molding a successful family business, 50 years on

December 14, 2017

Many companies in the plastics processing and mold manufacturing industries are family-owned businesses, which can be the most difficult businesses to operate. Family dynamics often cross over into business operations, creating areas of conflict or disagreement. Can the father be a dad and the president of the company? Can siblings, who often have a birth order in the family, have different roles in the business and maintain their sibling relationship?

There’s a saying in the world of family-owned businesses that the first generation builds it, the second generation kills it. That is true in some cases. However, many family-owned businesses manage to make it work and even successfully incorporate the third generation into the company. In 2018, Industrial Molds Group (Rockford, IL), which includes Pyramid Plastics, a custom injection molding company, will celebrate 50 years in business. That’s quite an accomplishment.

Tim Peterson, Vice President of Industrial Molds Group, likes to jokingly say that the reason his father, Jack Peterson, started Industrial Molds was so that his six sons would have a place to work.

That actually wasn’t a bad idea. While all of the Peterson sons worked in the business at one time or another, two of them, Tim and his brother Eric, have made their careers at the family-owned company and today run the operations at Industrial Molds Group.

Peterson family--Industrial Molds Group
It's a family affair. Pictured are three generations of the Peterson family: (left to right) Andy, Tim, Jack, Eric, Anna and Gunnar.

The third Peterson generation is currently active in the company. Eric has a daughter and son working at the company. Tim’s son, Andrew Peterson, has been with the company for nine years since graduating from college and is a production manager.

Family dynamics are not lost on Andrew, who said it is sometimes challenging trying to meet everyone’s goals and expectations. In a family-owned business, there are not only the expectations of the business but also expectations of the other family members in the business. 

“I’m more aggressive in the things I want to achieve because for me there’s lots of time,” Andrew comments. “Me—if we hit a few foul balls, we still have time to recover. Tim is more visionary and wants to grow the business.”

Operating a family-owned business has specific challenges, such as keeping some separation between business and family matters. There are also unique benefits, says Andrew. “Being part of the family and the business means I get to do more than just the job description,” he says. “I can get involved in more roles because I have a bigger stake in the company’s success.”

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