Dueling Perspectives: Nick Rhomberg and Bill Buchholz Jr.

By Barbara Spector

What NextGens have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nick Rhomberg is Denver district manager at Crescent Electric Supply Co., based in East Dubuque, Ill. In that role, he oversees five locations in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska.

Rhomberg is a fourth-generation member of the Schmid family, which owns the company. He is also a member of the Schmid Family Council and is the only member of G4 working in the family business.

Bill Buchholz Jr. is a third-generation member of the family that founded Buck Services Inc., a West Chicago, Ill.-based cleaning and maintenance company that serves the school and church market.

Buchholz, who serves as human resources manager at Buck Services, works closely with his father.

We asked Rhomberg and Buchholz, who are both in their 30s, What have you learned from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Nick Rhomberg: 

“I’ve learned the importance of family governance and our impact [on] our employee base. As this all started boiling up in March, our family got together and discussed some things that we could do as a family to help the business and our employees throughout that time.

“We implemented some forgoing of dividends to help the business with cash flow, [and] established an employee gift from the family financially during this time, just given the added stress, strain and unusualness of the whole scenario.

“We’re doing a temporary wage reduction. We did that intentionally to avoid layoffs and to avoid any furloughs. Some of our larger competitors have done 15-20% layoffs and things of that nature, so we thought it was best to do what we can to retain our employees.

“The gift has been very positive. Being able to be, I guess you’d say, the face of that has been pretty rewarding, in a lot of ways.

“If things come around to a point where we do have to do layoffs, that pressure will be a little different. But it’s what I signed up for.

“[The pandemic] is going to change our business dramatically, as it will with most other businesses, to be truthful. But I’m quite optimistic as to where our industry is going to change. Some of the old, antiquated ways of doing business will dissolve a bit.

“Streamlining efficiencies, I think, will be a positive thing.”

Bill Buchholz Jr.:

“It came down to the strategy: How are we now, and where are we going to be whenever this is all over?

“It’s really the adaptation to change, and being flexible and working on the team together. You learn that you have to think outside the box. We’re used to word of mouth and referrals. But we were finding that we actually had to put a campaign out there, and actually dig our feet in some unchartered territory.

“The entire team had to take on different roles. We opened our warehouse and we brought in industrial machines and started a sewing company to make masks to donate to the community and to sell to clients. 

“There’s new technology that we had to bring into our company that we hadn’t ever used before. We’ve always done whatever the client wants, but the idea of sanitizing and disinfecting had to be brought up to a whole new level. We had to get our employees and managers trained.

“You’re family and you’re going to do whatever needs to be done, because you want the business to survive. It’s not, ‘Oh, I’m going to put in my eight hours and go home.’ You’re working weekends just to try to keep everything afloat. It’s a different perspective when you’re on the inside.

“My uncles and my boss, who is my father, expected 150% more. They expected me to jump on board and do whatever was necessary. And I knew that going into the family business, but it was really like one of those proving points, the last three or four months. They’ve been able to entrust me with more tasks to be taken care of.

“And they’ve said, ‘You’ve learned more and grown more in this position as a family member in the last four months than you have in the last five years, because you’ve had to adapt and just take charge.’ So there’s a growing process, for sure.”

Copyright 2020 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.    

Article categories: 
September/October 2020

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