Steve Schnute says he had a life-long dream to learn electricity and work with his dad. Although the two of them have been working together now for more than 20 years, Steve says it all began when he tagged along with his dad as a boy to help family and friends.
Jerry Schnute, the patriarch of the Schnute family, worked 35 years for Detroit Edison (now known as DTE Energy). When he retired, he pursued his long-time goal of earning his master’s license as an electrician, as well as a contractor’s license. Equipped with these credentials, Jerry and Steve started working together in 1997. Scott, Steve’s older brother, joined them one year later. All admit to having a passion for the building and remodeling trades focused in the area of electricity.
Initially, the Schnutes formed a 50/50 business association with another electrician, but about 10 years ago they started a new company of their own known as Tri-Star Electrical. Although all the Schnute men are proficient in working with electricity, they admit that running a business of their own is something entirely different. Jerry remarks, “Administration is not my strong suit,” but offers that Scott has shown ability in this area. Steve concentrates his energy in other areas of the business.
All are “out in the field” for a portion of almost every day. They confess to “growing pains” in learning the business side of electrical contracting but also point to the impressive growth they’ve experienced in the last few years. Two of Scott’s sons and one of Steve’s now work in the family business, apprenticed by Jerry. Scott and Steve also agree they need to hire more people because of the growth they’ve experienced.
What’s the Best Thing about Working Together?
Scott says the best thing about working together with his dad is the “generational knowledge” being passed along with the practical instruction necessary in becoming an accomplished electrician. He notes that his sons are seeing the value of their elders and being taken into their hearts. He adds, “We cherish these times and are so thankful for them. We know many don’t have this dynamic.”
Steve emphasizes the importance of relationships, as well, stating that it’s great to have a relationship with his dad that is not boss to employee. “You can ask dumb questions and it is okay. Dad is a mentor.”
Jerry notes that our society and culture was once agrarian, which meant children working alongside their parents. “Today’s society,” he says, “doesn’t recognize the strength of the family, resulting in degenerating family relationships.” Given this common dynamic, he sees the relationships they’ve developed with each other in the family business as a “big blessing.”
What are Some of the Challenges?
The Schnute men are realistic about the challenges of a family business. For instance, while all of them were skilled as electricians, none of them really had business experience.
Scott offers, “None of us had business experience. We had to learn by experience how to function in our market. We had to learn how to find the right employees. This means understanding our limitations and obtaining the knowledge we need.”
“There’s family business, as well as business and family. We’re not ‘socially separated’ so when we’re all together it can be hard to leave business behind,” explains Steve. “This was especially difficult in 2008 during the recession.”
The Lighter Side of a Family Business
Talk with Jerry, Scott, and Steve and you’ll know they love to laugh and find the humor in things. Because they’re family and have worked together for so long, they have a number of “inside jokes” that bring levity into their day. They admit to having their own lexicon of words and phrases to bring laughter to an otherwise serious moment. Scott’s artistic and satirical skills have also contributed to the development of a number of cartoons which they keep in a “funny file.”
Steve says, “We like to have fun, laugh, and tease each other. We have many good memories.”
Family Business vs. Family Picnic
While they greatly value the opportunity to work together, they do have words of caution suggesting those interested in forming a family business remember it’s a family business, not a family picnic. As one of the founders and elder statesman of the group, Jerry offers the following advice:
“Be prepared to recognize and deal with weaknesses you may not have previously recognized in your family members. Weaknesses are magnified in a business setting. Be ready to deal with it.”
Scott concurs with his dad and urges, “Take time to learn each other’s strengths. Let people work in their strengths. Encourage them.”
Steve emphasizes, “Cherish one another and the opportunity to work together. Value people over money.”
It’s hard to know just how much Tri-Star Electrical will grow in the years to come, but I think it’s safe to say the Schnutes will continue to value the connection they have with each other and their customers. In terms of father-child relationships, they are easily an inspiration to many.
Jerry Schnute is married to Margo. They have four children—two boys and two girls.
Scott Schnute is married to Melanie. They have eight children—four boys and four girls.
Steve Schnute is married to Julia. They have four children – two boys and two girls.
They can be reached for question or comment through their office manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Hinex describes himself as “a pretty simplistic guy,” driving for Prime with a goal of earning enough money to help his daughter, Jakeisha, who is in college pursuing a degree in a law-related field. Larry also has two sons, Larry and R.J., who are out on their own. He was born and raised in Oklahoma City. The day we spoke with him he was driving a flatbed truck loaded with water pipes somewhere in southern Texas.
Larry has been driving for Prime for nearly two years—his first experience as an over-the-road driver. He claims his Uncle Rick was his inspiration for truck driving. When he was a boy, his uncle took Larry and his dad along with him on a trip to Dallas. He recalls watching his uncle on that trip and thinking how “cool” he was talking on the CB and handling his rig. From that time on, he says, he had a secret desire to drive a truck. Finally, years later, with encouragement from a friend he overcame his fears and pursued his dream.
You might not expect someone who was once a personal trainer to choose driving an 18-wheeler as an occupation, but Larry says it’s possible to stay physically fit and he works hard to have a healthy lifestyle while on the road. Sometimes this means exercise he does by himself at a truck stop. Other times, it means parking near a gym or fitness club and taking advantage of the various machines and activities offered there. In fact, Larry reports finding his “sanity” and “peace of mind” in the gym. He acknowledges that even though he loves driving, it can sometimes be a lonely job. This is why he believes it’s so important for a driver to take care of himself physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally.
Maintaining a good relationship with his kids is also important to Larry. He’s home for a week about once a month. When he’s home, Larry enjoys hanging out with his kids watching a movie, going to the beach, or traveling to see things. One of his favorite memories occurred when his children were young and his daughter hooked a 70 lb. catfish near the Panama Canal. He still laughs thinking about that event. “Being former Navy,” he says, “I’m used to living in a lot of places. I don’t know how to sit down.”
When he’s on the road Larry frequently uses social media to help him to stay connected with his family. Even though his kids are grown and out on their own, he wants to be supportive of them. He sees cell phones, FaceTime, texting and Facebook Messenger as being critical to staying in touch with all of them.
When asked how he tries to be a good dad over the road, Larry responded, “Stay engaged. Stay Engaged. Stay engaged.” He also gave the following suggestions for maintaining overall well-being.
1) Find your peace while on the road. Do your best to stay physically fit. Make time to work out at your truck or in the gym if at all possible.
2) Read books. Larry recommends reading the Bible, among others.
3) Listen to YouTube. There are lots of interesting things to learn about.
4) When possible, attend a “Truck Driver Church.”
5) Hold yourself accountable to the goals you set for yourself and the kind of man you want to be.
I recently read a statistic, where the number of families with kids under 18, headed by a single-parent, increased from 8.2% to almost 32% from 1960 to 2015. Between 2000 and 2015 the share of two-parent families declined by nearly 5%.
When I married my spouse in 2010, she already had two children. We quickly added our third. I was a stay at home father, while my wife, Emily, worked full time. For the first year with our infant son, Emily was able to work from home and take some of the pressure off this first time father.
Over the years, Emily and I did a fantastic job of raising these 3 wonderful children. I was there to roughhouse, teach them how to play sports, card games, and fish. Emily was there to nurture them, tend to the boo-boos, show them how to cook and bake, tie their shoes and brush their teeth.
In November 2015, I almost became part of that single-parent statistic. My wife was involved in a car accident and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. I was informed by doctors, that Emily might not survive, and if she did, she may live in a vegetative state. At that time, the boys were 4 and 11, and our daughter, Leah, was 12 going on 16. If ever there was a period in life, where a girl needs her Mom, it was then.
Thankfully, my wife survived, and made a remarkable recovery, however, over the course of the two years that followed her accident, I was that single father. This “Good Dad”, had to also learn to be that patient, nurturing “Good Mom” as well. Looking back on that period, all I can remember is how exhausted I was, all of the time.
Today, Emily has settled back into her motherly role. I can now be the “bad guy” from time to time, and the kids have her to run to. My daughter, now almost 15, has someone to shop and do hair and makeup with. The boys love playing games and reading with her.
I know I was a pretty good Dad as our family went through such a terrible event, but I’m positive that I’m at my best, with a “Good Mom” by my side.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
Brian Fogle claims he had three theories about how to raise children before he had three. Now he has none! Even without theories, Brian is the proud and happy father of three young adults—two daughters and a son. Although they live in various locations, Brian says they stay connected via cellphone plans and texting. When they do get together in one place, his group loves “hanging out,” laughing, joking and eating together.
Brian grew up in Aurora, Missouri where his parents had little concern for his safety and well-being.
“My parents let me play and be a kid. I was outdoors all the time and had a lot of independence and freedom. It was a small town with much less ‘class distinction.’ There was a vibrant community life and we didn’t really know or much care about who had what kind of money or resources.”
At the same time, since the community was small, Brian admits to experiencing a shared accountability, in that other adults who saw you misbehave would likely talk to you and/or report your wrong-doing to your parents.
“The last thing I wanted was for my parents to be contacted. I think that’s changed today.”
Raising His Kids
Brian is the youngest of three boys, so he had little experience with women other than his mother and wife. Raising girls, he found, can be quite different than raising boys.
“I found myself raising my ‘volume,’ (speaking of his voice) when my girls were teenagers, but it didn’t work very well. I discovered it’s important to avoid riding the rollercoaster of adolescence with them.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a teenager than a little logic and reason won’t aggravate,” he quipped philosophically. Brian notes that he tended to be conflict-averse, but found parenting required he learn to lays to approach and manage it, rather than avoid it.
These days Brian says he really enjoys the young adults his children have become. He explains that he and his wife come from large, close families with lots of inside jokes. “Sometimes,” he says, “when we’re all together, I just like to watch the interactions and laugh.”
Encouragement to Other Dads
Avoid idle threats. Say what you mean; mean what you say, and do what you say you will do.
Be fair and consistent in a friendly tone of voice. Avoid being punitive. Allow your child to experience the natural and logical consequences of their behavior whenever possible.
Reinforce what you mean by repeating what you said. Be a calm authority. There’s no need to defend yourself and explain.
Delay the discussion of consequences until you’re well rested.
Love and devotion to your kids overcome a lot of the mistakes we make. None of us are perfect parents, but when our kids know we are devoted to their well-being, that helps a lot.
Brian Fogle is a Springfield dad and the President of the Community Foundation.