Generational Change; Growing and Renewing a Family Business


Please find some links and notes from the 2 Regular Guys Podcast. This week we welcome in Erik Mickelson of Northwest Custom Apparel to talk about the changes he has been through while taking more of the reigns of his family business. Started in 1977 by his Father, Jim Mickelson, the company has been part of Erik’s life since he was a kid and has grown to 20 full-time employees to make this thriving embroidery business tick. Erik is now implementing procedures and policies to take the company from managing by “Jim and his Gang” to running a business correctly with procedures and policies. We talk about the trial, tribulations and all the fun stories along the way.

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Generational Change - Growing and Renewing a Family Business

Erich: First and foremost, why don’t you tell us a little about how your shop started and what it was like growing up with the family business? Did you always think you’d take it over?

Terry: Pretty frequently when businesses grow organically from small startups, there can be some old, ‘good enough’ policies that end up sticking around even after a shop becomes established. You wrote in our initial conversations that you wanted your company to move from ‘management by Jim and his Gang’ to running ‘correctly with procedures and policies’. What kind of policies did you find needed changing the most, and what new policies have you put together to get to those correct procedures?

Erich: Policy changes and personnel issues can be tough, especially when there’s a handing over of the reigns; how have existing staffers handled the changes, and what challenges have you faced in putting these changes in place? How is your father reacting to your initiatives? What are you doing to help get folks on-board and to make sure new hires know how to operate?

Terry: Shops can get comfortable, not only in the way they handle their people, but even in production methods and equipment. Have you taken any steps to update your production line, and if so, has it made a difference?

Erich: Production is important, especially with an existing customer base still coming in throughout the process of updating your shop, but when you want to grow, it’s all about marketing. We’ve seen some cool things you are doing with packaging and social media marketing; What have you changed about your marketing, and how has it affected your sales?

Terry: With longstanding businesses like yours, sometimes the customer base is as used to the old practices as everybody inside the shop; have you had to make changes to pricing or customer service procedures? How were the changes received?

Erich: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the process of updating a family shop?  What resources have helped you as you’ve been working on these new goals?

Terry: Thank you for coming on the show, Erik! Where can people find you and Northwest Custom Apparel?

Erik Mickelson is the operations manager at Northwest Custom Apparel and Embroidery with an education in business administration, but you may know him as a frequent contributor in industry social media groups such as Screen Print Marketing, where he’s been sharing his progress in bringing the 41-year-old company started by his father Jim into current and correct procedures and policies.

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