Entrepreneurs are frequently labeled workaholics, and probably rightfully so. Owning and operating a business requires thick skin, hard work, and usually, long hours. During episode 46 of the Business Rescue Roadmap Podcast with Stacy Tuschl, Frigibar President Oletzky was asked what is “work-life balance,” is it possible, and how she defines it. “It depends on how you define balance. What does balance mean to you? For me, balance means doing the things that are most important,” Oletzky said, which is exactly what she’s doing. “I’m working, but I’m with my friends…as long as I’m accomplishing what’s more important to me at that particular juncture, then I feel balanced,” she continued.
Shuly’s path to entrepreneurship is as unique as the niche luxury marine refrigeration units Frigibar manufactures. “This business, Frigibar Industries, has been our family business since 1971. My father (Sheldon Oletzky), was diagnosed in late 2009 with ALS, and unfortunately, we didn’t have a plan in place. As his health started to decline, and it was fairly rapid, someone had to step in. I started to help out part-time while we figured out what to do,” explained Oletzky. In 2011, she became President of Frigibar Industries full-time.
Shuly was new to the position and had plenty of innovative ideas and things she wanted to add to the business, the company had an established brand, loyal customer base, and served a specific purpose in the industry. “When I took over the business, it had a personality already. I didn’t have the luxury of creating my brand — it existed. I had to work within what our customers already knew about us and the reputation and brand presence we had, and find a way to intertwine my personality and the things that I wanted to see the brand and business become. It took a little bit of time to find that message and how to get that message across. I think we’re finally there and we have a great foundation,” Oletzky said.
The difficulty Oletzky faced when learning to lead the business taught her many lessons, including how to build great relationships. “I love people. I find that the process I had to go through when taking over the business and trying to learn things — I had to reach out to a lot of people,” said Oletzky. She also stated that making and building relationships has been “critical” to Frigibar’s continued success. “You’re (entrepreneurs are) in the people business, and you need to make sure you’re building those relationships and nurturing them,” Tuschl added.
One of the most important types of relationships entrepreneurs have to create and build are employer-employee relationships.
When taking over Frigibar in late 2010, not only the industry, but the entire U.S. economy was in a major recession. Employees were worried about their jobs and how many hours they would get a week. To help them focus on the business and helping her instead of understandably worrying about their financial stability, Shuly made the decision to guarantee their hours. It was a bold move that helped earn trust and showed the employees that she was looking out for them. “I work for my employees as much as they work for me, because if I don’t do my job, they don’t have one,” Shuly said.
When Stacy Tuschl asked Shuly about financial mistakes made in the past, Shuly said the biggest mistake made in the company’s past was not having a succession plan in place. “Most people don’t think of it (failing to plan for succession) as a financial mistake, but it really is,” said Shuly. “If you have a family business and children…you want to make a plan!” Although Shuly ended up taking over the business, her father, not wanting to put pressure on her, never told her that he wanted her to take over the business. After he had passed, Shuly was told by a family friend that Sheldon Oletzky, Shuly’s father, did indeed hope she took over the business.
Succession planning is a subject of passion for Shuly. This June, she will share her experience and how entrepreneurs can prepare for succession with over 100 business owners at the 2016 Small Giants Summit in Denver, Colorado. For more from Shuly Oletzky, visit her blog at ShareIdeaswithPurpose.com.