At American Solutions for Business, we are so proud to showcase the connections made through the familial bonds of our employees. This month’s feature is the Harman family, a family that exemplifies the American spirit by including the third generation of Harmans in the American salesforce. Husband and wife, Jill and Jay, and daughter Sydney, share the legacy that Jay’s father Jimmy left after his time at American. Read their story below!
How did you meet?
Jill: We met in passing at a conference and back then they were huge, like 500 plus. I migrated to my own group and I was in a group with Larry. I met him at a dinner and we talked briefly.
Jay: There was a dealership out there I was selling to and they needed something, and I asked her to go by there to pick it up.
Jill: And a couple weeks later I got a thing of flowers and that was a really big thank you! May or June of that year we started talking on the phone more.
Jay: We had a long distance relationship for more than a year. Then we drug Sydney along and completed the package.
Sydney: They drug me from the trees to nothing at all.
Jill: She loved the horses out there but now she’s back to being a city girl.
How long have you been together?
Jill: 15 years as of September.
How long have you been with American?
Jill: 20 plus years. I used to work on my own in Las Vegas, then married Jay and brought the family to south of Atlanta. I really do the promo and he does everything else.
Jay: I’ve been in the industry since 1992. Started with a smaller company United Business Forums with my dad for about 9-10 years. Left in 2000 and went to Southern Systems for one year and they filed bankruptcy and that’s how we started looking at all the other companies. Larry flew into Atlanta and we had dinner and the rest is history.
Sydney: A little over a year. I started during COVID and that was an advantage because I was able to spend a lot of time training and getting to know the business.
How did you decide to add Sydney to the team?
Jay: She really wanted to. My dad and I butted heads because we were too much alike and strong willed but strong work ethics. Sydney from the time she could walk, she’s always been vigilant and dedicated and nothing gets in her way. I wish I could say I instilled that in her, but she was born with it.
Jill: We wanted her to to be able to go her own way and go to school. But Jay is right, she’s always been that child that if she says she’s going to do something, she will do it 100%. You have to have that type of resilience in order to be successful.
Jay: We don’t want to give her anything. Seriously. We wanted her to be able to earn it and we wanted her to go work for someone else to see how the real world is. So when Jill said she wanted to join and what I wanted to do, I said nothing. Let’s see if she’s actually serious and if she asks again. I want to teach her the business and don’t just want to be her boss.
Sydney: Actually when I first got out of school and I didn’t want to go straight to working for my parents right after school. So I started working at Data Clover and did a lot of data processing and realized I DID NOT LIKE THAT. I actually liked talking to people. Right before COVID I mentioned to my mom I really like the promotional product industry and seeing it all go through and could just see myself in the business. Being interested in have them if I need anything, but I’m far enough away that I don’t feel claustrophobic.
What’s the hardest part about working with your spouse/child?
Sydney: Knowing the line between “leave it at work” or “bring it home” and that’s not really family time in my opinion. So being able to find that line and stop talking about work and talk about family things.
Jill: I agree. Especially for Jay and I in high stress situations, we tend to bring it home and we don’t know when to disconnect anymore and we’ve gotten a bit better over the years about tryin to switch it off but Jay does not have the type of personality that just switches off. Plus, not everything can be resolved in the moment.
Jay: It’s ridiculous but you’re harder on the ones you love the most. There’s also maintaining your own paths and I’m ten times worse than them and I expect things to be done in a certain way and I expect them to achieve higher standards than everyone else. Running a business is not easy and this industry is very tough because everything is custom. When a mistake falls on one of us, that can be tough some days. I’ve always run the business with the philosophy, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a family member, you’re going to hear it. That took me and Jill a while to get accustom to, especially in our first few years.
What’s the easiest part?
Jay: Trust. Jill might leave for a week’s vacation and it might not be perfect but she knows if she gives me a task, I’m going to do it. And if it doesn’t get handled, I can scream and holler without getting in trouble with HR.
Jill: We always have each others back. And we know what we expect from each other because we know each other so well.
What was it like working with your father directly?
Jay: My dad was hired right out of college and went from customer service to plant manager, he was there three years and was the same age as the president of the company. People think that you can’t come out of manufacturing and be successful in sales. My dad was a perfectionist and workaholic. Every time he made a sale he kept a ledger sheet and was manually typed on a type writer and were faxed, and he would come to you at the end of the month and ask what were your sales. I kept going for 2 years and realized I wanted to learn things from my dad but learn from the bad things that he does as well. He came to me one night at the end of the month and he asked for my sales and I said I don’t’ know and he said what do you mean, where’s your ledger book, and I said I threw it out. He was furious. I told him dad, the more time I spent selling, the better I’ll be and not doing these monotonous thing. And I said I have one more thing I’d like to say to you but I sell more than you do these days. He said “point taken” and he walked out. There was this huge sense of pride in out selling your dad and he was the best that I knew. I can do anything now because that man taught me. He kind of built me without fear.
Jill: Even though I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing jimmy I, I am forever grateful for the man he gave me and the father and business man that he is today.
Why do you recommend working with family?
Jill: Her youth has brought a special thing to us because they has a different outlook on things, business-wise and personally, and that’s refreshing. I’ve never seen anyone work on a computer faster than she can. I’m really looking forward to seeing her grow. It can be extremely stressful some days, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sydney: I think it’s very situational and your relationship with your family, but I would say just because you know who they are as people, so you know what makes them tick and I have a better feel about how they’re going to react to a situation. And it’s easier to be able to talk.
Jay: I would encourage them to work together if they have a desire for it and want to earn the business. I’m very against people giving the business to a family member to keep it in the family. Family can mean more than just blood. You need to look for the people who are going to take it and run with it, and American really embraces working with family, and you can help them be more successful. There’s a sense of pride that goes along with family.
To learn more about American Solutions for Business, visit http://www.americanbus.com.