Families working in business together have a long tradition that is evolving into new dynamic partnerships as they discover what it takes to work successfully together, both in the business world and at home.
While the Ma and Pa Corner Store is largely a thing of the past, that doesn’t mean there is a decline in family-owned and -operated businesses. On the contrary, family businesses continue to be important cornerstones of the economy, and that extends to the luxury home industry. Building upon the trust, communication, and core values fostered at home, families are creating businesses that rely not only on these commonalities but also upon each family member’s diverse talents, skills, and training.
90 percent of the nation’s businesses are family-owned or controlled. And family businesses provide half of the jobs in Europe and America.
Statistics speak to the importance of families in business together. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 90 percent of the nation’s businesses are family-owned or controlled. And family businesses provide half of the jobs in Europe and America, according to Ernst & Young. Starting a family business is a daring thing to do, as during the early years family members sacrifice by working for free or at a lower rate than the external job market would pay for similar skills (Jennifer Xue, Silicone Valley Globe). However, as these local Park City businesses say, the rewards of working together are worth the challenges.
Adaptive Design: Lighting Design & Innovation
Glenn Johnson was born into a family of early lighting professionals, and quite literally, he has written the book on lighting design. Since 2013, Glenn and his wife Charlene have made their home in Park City, a long-time dream now realized, and their Park City office is only seven minutes away from their home. Adaptive Design Group, Inc., a full-service design and engineering firm, provides lighting design, lighting control engineering and programming, electrical design, and full electronic systems design (audio, video, security, and secure home networking through a single controller) for large custom luxury home projects throughout the Mountain West and the country. Glenn’s three sons, Chris, Scott, and Matt, have joined the firm and each contributes a specialized skill to mark yet another generation in the business. His wife Charlene joins them in the office and assists with marketing materials.
“My father, Merlin E. Johnson, invited my two brothers and me to join Artistic Lighting & Electric, his electrical contracting and lighting design firm in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Glenn recounts about his early years. “I became a journeyman electrician, and we worked on the most exclusive homes in the area and became early pioneers in lighting design before there was a course of college studies or even a title for the profession. I followed my father to his Palm Springs, California office, and after my marriage, I opened my own business in Los Angeles, Lighting by Design. In eight years, we had projects in the exclusive areas of Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Malibu, and Santa Barbara, and many were for major figures in the entertainment industry. However, a project in Alpine, Utah, made me start thinking of relocating to Utah for its fresh air, four seasons, limited crowds, and great place to raise a family.”
“A project in Alpine, Utah, made me start thinking of relocating to Utah for its fresh air, four seasons, limited crowds, and great place to raise a family.”
–Glenn Johnson, Adaptive Design Group, Inc.
After a stretch of working both in California and the Intermountain region with his own firm, Glenn Johnson joined Spectrum Engineering in Salt Lake as a partner, and during his ten years with Spectrum, the firm grew significantly from 12 to 85 employees. During this time Glenn wrote The Art of Illumination: Residential Lighting Design, a textbook on lighting design used by 25 colleges and universities. He left Spectrum and established Adaptive Design Group, Inc. in 2002.
“In addition to working on exclusive homes across the U.S., I also launched a lecture series through colleges, universities, and trade groups.” Glenn recalls. “About this time, I started thinking about the future of the business, and like my father, I looked to my boys. Family business is a natural progression: my father, his father, and my grandmother’s brothers all had their own businesses of various kinds. Also, there was the issue of loyalty and retention. I have trained so many who have gone out to start their own businesses and ended up competing against me, so I was inspired to put the effort into developing the talents of my sons, instead.”
Christopher, Glenn’s eldest son, eased into the business by studying AutoCad in high school and working after school with Adaptive Design’s designers and engineers and then earned his degree at Boston Architectural College in architectural design. He returned to Utah in 2017 and works with brother Matt on project plans, and he develops lighting plans and final specifications.
Matt, the youngest of the three sons, works with designing the keypad controls and coordinates with contractors in addition to project plans. Matt similarly mastered AutoCad while in high school and worked in the family business before studying physics in college. He is certified in advanced lighting controls.
Scott joined the firm in 2007 and takes charge of the website, social media, and marketing in addition to managing the Merlin Light product, a lighting invention used to illuminate artwork developed by Glenn’s father. Additionally, Glenn and Charlene have two daughters, Carly and Sara, who are just finishing their education and haven’t yet decided on a career path.
The family gets together often to enjoy music, golf, and snowboarding. “They are great activities because we focus on what we are doing and don’t talk business,” says Glenn. However, he admits that it is difficult to leave the business for too long or go too far away.
Glenn finds that clients appreciate the family business nature of Adaptive Designs. “The focus is all about continuing to build the best practice and to provide the best service to clients. No one steps on another’s toes, no one is positioning for the other’s job, and no one is trying to steal clients and start their own firm or to take intellectual properties. Most of our clients are astonished at our ability to work together so well. For me, I can focus on the work and not worry about the dynamics around me, and I find great pleasure in seeing Christopher, Scott, and Matt grow in their proficiencies and take over more and more of the responsibilities.”
“The focus is all about continuing to build the best practice and to provide the best service to clients. No one steps on another’s toes, no one is positioning for the other’s job, and no one is trying to steal clients and start their own firm.”
–Glenn Johnson, Adaptive Design Group, Inc.