Mark Warshaw
Mark Warshaw

Too often, people don’t give family-owned companies the credit they deserve. Here are some numbers to back that up: Two-thirds of all companies worldwide are family-run, says John Davis of the Harvard Business School – and some place that number even higher. The Family Firm Institute in Boston reports that an estimated 70- to 90 percent of global GDP annually is created by family businesses. And 50- to 80 percent of jobs in the majority of countries are being created by – you guessed it – family firms.

I could go on about the advantages and joys of working in a family business, but let’s hear directly from someone who’s experiencing it. Mark Warshaw, vice president of sales and marketing at Bel-Aqua Pool Supply Inc., is a third-generation family member at the New Rochelle, N.Y.-based distributorship. He describes growing up in the business, and the influence his mentor uncle has had on his career:

“A person who has been a mentor in my professional life is Martin Silver, my uncle and the president/owner of Bel-Aqua Pool Supply. I’m 48 and Bel-Aqua is 60 this year, so needless to say, I was born and raised in the family business. As a kid, all I knew was that my family always worked: My mother, Sue Wisan, also one of the principals of Bel-Aqua, my uncle, and my grandparents (the original owners) seemed to be at Bel-Aqua all hours of the day and often seven days a week. As a teen and into my college years, I started to also work summers, weekends and even after school side by side with my uncle and my family. And it all started to make sense -- the time and dedication you have to put into a family business for it to grow and be successful. When I graduated from college and was deciding on a career almost 27 years ago, I remember well a conversation one day I had with my Uncle “Marty,” as most know him. We were sitting on a couch in his basement and we talked about his vision for the future and growth of Bel-Aqua. He talked about how Bel-Aqua is customer focused and how he saw a good fit for me to come on board and be a part of the family business.

 “Marty always instilled in me and others that we must take care of our customers and always be “a man of your word.” That is how you succeed and stay ethical and relevant in the industry. I think anyone who knows Marty has the highest respect for him personally and professionally.

He has a background and degree in accounting and is a “numbers guy.” I will never have his ability to see financials as he does, but over the years he has instilled in me an important concept of how to look at the numbers of our business. Daily I can hear Marty’s thoughts in my head with “does this make sense” and “you need to watch and know what is going on.” Marty’s mentoring and training has given me the confidence to make important business decisions daily. Allocating resources properly by investing in our employees and infrastructure, focusing on inventory levels to offer the best possible customer experience and reliability, and also evolving with the industry as the economic climate changes are so important to the “health” of our family business. Without Marty’s influence and direction, we would not be as successful as we are today.

 “Today I, along with my cousin Scott Silver and other family members, run much of the day-to-day operations, but Marty is still the “Boss.” Although Marty works every day, he has earned the right to not have to put in the same hours he used to, but his dedication and work ethic have carried over to Scott and me. Knowing that he has the trust and confidence in us to run the business that he has built makes me proud to say I am part of the Silver family.”