Focused on family business:
Published: November 6, 2013
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Kane is Able has sprung from modest beginnings in 1930 to become a giant leader in the logistics industry. Kane has grown to become a nationwide logistics leader with seven locations coast to coast.
Hilary Kane entered the family business as a fourth-generation family member and she is proving that she is in it for the long haul. She is Kane is Able’s culture champion. I sat down with proud dad, Dick Kane, Kane’s vice chairman and executive in residence for the Family Business Forum and Hilary to learn more about Kane’s culture and how the company thrives as a family business.
Hilary Kane explains the Kane is Able mission statement: To meet or exceed our
customers’ expectations on time, every time by providing continuous improvement.
She said, “We also live by the Kane Code: 1. Keep safety first — your family, your colleagues and your customers count on you; 2. Sweat the details — if you don’t, customers will find someone who will; 3. Honor your word — never make promises you can’t keep; 4. Avoid surprises — customers hate them. Communicate quickly, whether it be good news or bad; and 5. Treat customers like family, because they are.”
Q. How old were you when you started at Kane and what was your first job?
A. Dick: I was 11 years old. I’d go into work with my father on Saturday morning. It was such an honor and privilege to hang out with dad. I remember my first job in the business was to sweep and to wash the trucks. We had a mechanic that was always bothered that I had to stop his work to get him to move the trucks. He taught me how to drive the trucks when I was 13 because he wanted me to stop bothering him.
A. Hilary: I was 17 years old and I worked the production line for the summer. We packaged goods in the warehouse. In college, I did an internship in human resources and I joined the company full-time at the age of 25, after finishing grad school.
Q. What is the most memorable thing you learned from your father?
A. Hilary: I learned from my dad a strong work ethic and the importance of being honest and ethical in everything that you do. That this always must be on the forefront of everything you do in your life. Just having that work ethic to provide for your family and honor the family business and do what you can to make it successful.
A. Dick: I’d say pretty much the same thing. My father always talked about your word and the importance of honoring your word. He had a tremendous work ethic but he was all about doing the right thing. He always said there was no contract that would be as good as shaking someone’s hand and saying, ‘We have a deal.’”
Q. What is the most memorable thing you learned from your mother?
A. Dick: My mother has always been the glue that held our family together. In our family, there were eight children. My mother always insured there was peace and that everyone got along. She was all about keeping us together as a strong family unit. That is still mom’s job today.
A. Hilary: My mom was a nurse and she focused her attention on us and our relationship as a family — building solid relationship and being kind to everyone you encounter no matter what. She always taught us that you never know what someone is going through in their life and always offer whatever you can.
Q. Who was the greatest inspiration and influence on your life?
A. Hilary: My dad. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I learned about the family business, became interested in human resources and then started to work here — he’s been a great influence. To me, working with my dad is one of the biggest benefits of belonging to a family business. I love reflecting on how far we’ve come and how every employee who has ever worked here and works here now has brought the company to where it is today.
A. Dick: I’d say my father, as well. When I joined the business in 1980, I believe we had 24 associates. My father was my mentor, friend and golf partner. He was a quiet man but had a huge influence on my life.
Q. What is Kane’s greatest success or greatest innovation?
A. Dick: That we have a successful business that is growing. We have expanded into seven states, so we went from a regional business to a national business and we are still planning continued expansions. Innovation with Kane usually comes back to our culture — the biggest difference between Kane and our competitors is that we are so focused on customer satisfaction it is truly part of our DNA and it’s not just the family — it’s our associates and through our whole company.
Q. Name your greatest personal success.
Hilary – being a new mom. It’s the best thing in the world, so rewarding and fun.
A. Dick: Marrying Erin, she is truly my better half. Also having our three beautiful, talented daughters. It’s a tough job being a parent and I am so proud of all the girls and their individual accomplishments. The girls bring me balance.
Q. What is the biggest thing you have contributed to Kane since joining the company?
A. Hilary: Being one of the family members that totally focuses on the company culture. At Kane, you just feel like family no matter what state, our open door policy. We focus on leadership training to insure that every facility and ever associate has the same wonderful experience.
A. Dick: I had the great privilege to be the CEO of Kane for 12 years and that position was elected by the family. We have since brought in an outside CEO and that has been a wonderful experience. The fact that Kane has tripled the business and we have a talented management team and the biggest success our leadership has done is breaking out of the North East into seven different states and profitable growth year after year.
Q. How do you support the community?
A. Hilary: We do a lot for our community. Each summer, we do a food drive for Friends of the Poor. We created groups to go out into the community and do various projects. Some associates volunteered to get involved by walking dogs, painting buildings, cleaning up parks and more. We get so much support from our associates who want to become involved in the community. Kane sponsors Race for the Cure. All our community outreach just works to cement our culture.
A. Dick: Family businesses typically focus on giving back. St Francis soup Kitchen and St. Joseph’s Hospital are just a few of the examples of organizations we support at Kane. We have a strong process in place to review all requests we get for assistance. We would love to support all the great causes — this committee helps us maximize our giving and really gives every request a fair opportunity.
Q. When did you first realize you emerged from your father’s shadows?
A. Hilary: I was really nervous when I first came to work here with the last name of Kane. I was concerned people would have a preconceived notion of who I was before meeting me. Everyone was so welcoming and just treated me like I was another associate. Being the fourth generation, I don’t have the pressure of ownership or stepping into big shoes I can just focus on earning my way.
A. Dick: My father’s presence was so felt here at Kane, people often said he was quiet but when he spoke, people listened. He was always about having others take the spotlight. He was very proud that I became CEO of Kane. Every generation of a company redefines the company. My father’s generation was hard working and had a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Our generation of the family business gets credit for growing the business and making a national footprint.
Q. Do you have any advice for other family business future leaders?
A. Hilary: Find the department or the area of the business that you are interested in and passionate about and learn as much as you can about that area. The more you know the more strategic you can be in your role within the company.
A. Dick: Go out and work for someone else first is a good thing. Coming to work without the feeling of entitlement is crucial. There are many best practices families should take in dealing with the next generation and one of them is a formal guide path into family management that should include working for someone else. You have to earn your stripes in business — you should work harder than anyone else in the business.
Q. What do you consider the best thing about being a family business?
A. Hilary: Well, when my dad was CEO I got to see him every day, you get to see your family. The biggest benefit is understanding our legacy and how far the company has come, I find that so rewarding. It makes me want to work harder for the next generation. Pops (Hilary’s grandfather) always said, “Keep it going, keep it growing.” It’s seeing the evolution of the company that is the best thing about working for our family business.
A. Dick: Working with your family toward our common goals. There is an old saying that the best thing about a family business is family and the worst thing about a family business is family. Our family is lucky enough to get along, it’s a blessing.
Q. What do you see in the future for Kane is Able?
A. Dick: World class customer service, continuing as a family run business, and expanding our geographic footprint.
A. Hilary: Double the business by 2015 and gain new business. This means we will be hiring new talent.
Lanie Jordan is executive director of the Family Business Forum at Wilkes University.