By DAVE LENCKUS, who has covered the insurance industry for more than 20 years.
Growing up as the son or daughter of a risk management consultant, there's no guarantee you would be encouraged or even welcomed into the family business.
And for those who decided to follow in a parent's footsteps, many had to prove themselves more than anyone else who had been recruited to work in the family practice.
"It's hard to work in a family business," said Daniel C. Free, president and general counsel at Insurance Audit & Inspection Co. of Indianapolis. Free is the fourth generation of his family to work at the firm, which was founded by his great-grandfather.
"They expect more out of you than a total stranger," Free said, referring to practitioners who hire family. "You come in first, leave last and get paid less. No one gets a free ride."
Even though they were exposed to risk management consulting at an early age, those who have carried on their parents' and grandparents' and even great-grandparents' practices did not grow up envisioning themselves as trusted and valued advisors to insurance and, later, risk managers.
They dreamt of practicing law, teaching or pursing other business ventures. Some even had begun careers in other fields before switching to risk management consulting.
As a child and young adult, "you don't want anything to do with that business, your father's business, and the next thing you know you've made a career out of it," observed Charles H. Cox, president of Aldrich & Cox Inc. in Orchard Park, N.Y. "It gets in your blood."
But after deciding to join a parent's practice, the challenge for consultants' offspring often involved more than learning the business. They also were expected to work harder and longer, and often for less, than anyone else in the practice. There wouldn't be even a hint of nepotism.
At Insurance Audit & Inspection, for example, the daughter of founder Alvin Coate was an assistant law professor at Indiana University when she joined her father's practice in the early 1940s. She came in as the firm's attorney but was paid less than the least experienced secretary there, Free said.
Susan G. Kaufman, president of Leonard R. Friedman Inc. of Great Neck, N.Y., recounted working in her grandfather's practice while growing up.
"He was very strict," she said. "I had to call him Mr. Friedman."
After she decided to join her father, Leonard Friedman, in his consulting practice, she found he was a "taskmaster."
To maintain a good personal relationship with him, Kaufman worked as much as possible on projects outside of her father's office.
Some consultants who didn't encourage their children to join the business didn't discourage it, either.
"I liked my dad's approach," said Richard C. Betterley, president of Betterley Risk Consultants Inc. in Sterling, Mass.
His father, Delbert, never approached him about joining his practice. The younger Betterley approached his father a couple years after finishing college after having worked for an insurer and HR consultant.
It's the same approach he has taken with his sons. "I never want it to be something they were expected to do," he said.
However, some consultants did encourage their children to work beside them, and some continue to do so.
His sights had been set on becoming an attorney specializing in social work, but Barron S. Wall changed his mind after his father encouraged him to join the elder Wall's practice. Wall, now managing associate at ICA Risk Management Consultants in Mahwah, N.J., works alongside his stepson and hopes a younger son will join the team after he finishes college.
Kaufman thinks her daughter, who works on Wall St., would be a "terrific" consultant. But even though her son-in-law agrees, Kaufman's daughter has spurned her mother so far. Kaufman said her daughter has expressed a few concerns about joining the family business.
"It's not as glamorous," Kaufman said.
In addition, "she'd expect me to be tough," Kaufman said. "She's right, but I think I learned some things from my father. I'd be different."
October 15, 2011
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