Ben Grossman - Co-President Siblings Stewarding a 111 Year Old Family Business


12 April 2021

50 mins 43 secs

Season 1

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode

Grossman Marketing Group was founded as Massachusetts Envelope Company in 1910 by Maxwell Grossman, whose lifelong dream was to own his own business.

Now, 111 years since its founding, Ben Grossman, along with his brother, David, are the 4th generation of family leadership. Today, the company is a full-service resource helping clients with a broad range of traditional and digital marketing needs.

Ben Grossman holds a BA from Princeton University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. Prior to Columbia, Ben worked as a strategy consultant to Fortune 500 clients, as well as started and sold a sportswear and marketing firm.

Ben is also deeply involved in sustainability and how it relates to business, and writes and speaks frequently on the topic.

Standout Quotes:

  • "Our prices make friends and our service keeps them" - [Ben]
  • "What he was really saying was that life is made up 3 things; Family, Career, and Community, and education has always been of critical importance to our family" - [Ben]
  • "Find a way to generate revenue as soon as possible because numbers speak for themselves and no one will ever question your existence at the organization if you generate sales and gross profit" - [Ben]
  • "Learn the business, understand exactly what's going on in the business, so when you speak up you know what you're talking about, and you're right!" - [Ben]
  • "What our grandfather and our father tried to impart in us is that although business is incredibly important, nothing in business is important enough to ever risk jeopardizing your family relationships" - [Ben]
  • "That sort of value of just 'try and treat people the way you'd want your family to be treated' has been passed down from generation to generation" - [Ben]
  • "Regardless of how successful you are, or your family's been over the years, you need to recognize that markets can change and you must always remain responsive to customers' needs" - [Ben]
  • "Ultimately, we have to be willing to evolve because if we don't evolve, we will get left behind" - [Ben]
  • "Always do right, this will gratify some people and astonish the rest" - [Ben]

Key Takeaways:

  • The company has always had a service-driven culture and this has kept the business going for over 110 years.
  • Ben explains that the company had initially started as an envelope company and had also bought up different companies during its growth, with the investment in promotional products being the most notable that boosted growth.
  • Following his education, Ben had decided to step out and gain some experience although he was passionate about finally going back to join the family business.
  • Ben explains that based on lessons from his great grandfather, Life is made up of 3 things, Family, Career, and Community. Education has always been of critical importance to the family.
  • The "Start, Stop, Continue" Review Method: Ben had asked workers to review the company's methods to identify processes that needed to be implemented, stopped, or continued for better productivity.
  • Ben shares that following political engagements, his father moved on from the family business and is fully engaged in public service. He adds that working harmoniously with his brother is aided by the understanding that every win is for the company and not the individual, and also their roles tend to be complementary to each other.
  • Understanding that it was necessary to establish credibility by generating profits immediately after joining the family business, Ben reached out to some prospects and started to achieve his goal within a month.
  • One of the critical values imparted by their grandfather was the understanding that business should never jeopardize family relationships.
  • Another key value learned was the importance of treating colleagues the way family would be treated in a workplace.
  • You need to be willing to adapt to ever-changing business environments and conditions. Ben remembers how the family had always focused on the customer, and that what differentiated their company was the incredible customer service.
  • Highlighting the involvements of different family members in service to the community, Ben explains that service to the community is one of the values that have been passed down each generation beginning from the Founder.
  • Considering the future, the most meaningful investment made in recent times has been expanding into e-commerce.
  • Ben shares he would give his children the same advice he got from his grandparents regarding joining the business, and this is to do what their heart wants to do, follow their career path, and not be constrained to join the business based on the financial implications.
  • From Ben to his kids: Always do right, this will gratify some people and astonish the rest

Episode Timeline:

  • [00:49] Introducing today's guest Ben Grossman, and Grossman Marketing Group, the Massachusetts envelope company.
  • [01:40] The history of the Grossman family business.
  • [07:05] Ben narrates how he and his brother joined the business.
  • [11:52] As brothers, how do you get along and what roles do you each play today in the business?
  • [21:54] A listening tour: Using the "Start, Stop, Continue" Review Method.
  • [25:36] Do you have any apparent failures that have set you up for later success?
  • [32:15] Ben describes the family history of service to the community.
  • [37:58] Has the family been intentional about documenting its history?
  • [39:30] How do you pivot and evolve a marketing group like yours into the 21st century and beyond?
  • [43:43] Are you nurturing your children to be the 5th generation of the business or leaving it to them to find their path?
  • [48:35] A letter to Ben's Kids.

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