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Following in Dad's footsteps


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Some children who join the family business or follow in their father’s footsteps in choosing a career forge a unique connection with their dad.

It’s a bond that becomes even stronger with the addition of common interests and work goals.

On this day set aside to honor fathers, these employees are also honoring their boss, mentor or co-worker.

Here’s a look at three local families where fathers share their work life with their children.

We asked them to talk about working together on a daily basis and how a father-child relationship changes when the guy who has always been the supervisor at home becomes the boss in the workplace.

Force Construction is very much a family affair.

Donald Force founded the Columbus company in 1946 and two years later married Vera, who began working for the company in September of that year.

Donald died in 1980 after battling leukemia, but Vera has remained prominent in the business, and the Force family legacy lives on.

In 1974, Harold Force, Donald and Vera’s son, joined the company and is now president and CEO. Harold’s brother, David Force, joined the company in 1981 and is co-owner.

Clayton Force, Harold’s son, also went into the construction business after obtaining a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from Purdue University in 2003, just as his father had in 1974. However, Clayton worked for a few firms in Chicago before returning to Columbus to join the family business in 2011.

Harold said his father was hardworking, fair and demanding but gave him lot of rope, and he is still guided by those values.

“You have to be able to keep those dual positions in perspective but also be able to leave work behind if you are together on the weekend or something like that,” Harold said. “Now the work is never too far behind, but you have to be able to have a father-son relationship as well as a workplace relationship.”

Clayton said he always hoped to return to the family business.

“I moved to Chicago and worked in construction and engineering because I thought it was important to gain an outside perspective in the industry and be out-of-market in a noncompeting company,” Clayton said. “I chose companies that I thought would give me a solid foundation for what I thought would be the career path I wanted to go down.”

Clayton, the company’s project engineering manager, said the relationship between father and son changed when he returned to Columbus.

“It’s important to separate, as best you can, the personal from professional, but there is an accountability that comes amongst other co-workers,” Clayton said. “I certainly try to let the work quality and my experience speak for itself, but there is a certain level of undeniable accountability and responsibility that comes with the position and the name.”

Harold and Clayton both worked in the family business growing up and bring different skill sets to the company.

“I had educational experiences that my dad did not have the advantage of, but he had rich work experiences, and he was a very smart guy,” Harold said.

“With Clayton having had eight years of experience out-of-market, he brings skills and knowledge to the company that is unique and helps meet our customers needs. We have all contributed in our own way.”

Attorney John Stroh did not foresee his daughter following in his footsteps by practicing law.

“That was a surprise to me,” he said. “I didn’t encourage it, but I was very pleased.”

Mary Stroh, now a partner with at Sharpnack, Bigley, Stroh and Washburn LLP, knew for years that she might pursue a career in law. She also knew exactly where she wanted to work.

“I had thought it was something I had been interested in for a long time,” she said. “I knew that if that’s what I was going to do, this is where I was going to do it.”

When his daughter joined the firm, John found it somewhat difficult to treat her as another co-worker and not as family. However, reminding himself how he approaches other new attorneys has helped him in that area.

“It has been helpful for me to look at how we train young attorneys because I found that I had been doing things differently with her,” he said.

Both John and Mary have made it clear that, aside from urgent matters at work that need to be addressed, work life and family life are two separate areas.

“When we are at work, it’s work,” Mary said.

She also said that working with her father allows her to have access to an experienced attorney who she knows will always candidly give her advice.

“I can always ask questions, and he will be upfront and honest with me,” Mary said.

John said working with his daughter has been even better than he expected.

“I did not anticipate it being as fun as it has been,” he said. “It has been extremely enjoyable.”

Mary echoed her father’s excitement.

“It’s a pleasure, and I have really enjoyed the opportunity,” she said.

Bob Haddad Sr. started Columbus Container in 1975 and has seen considerable growth, including the addition of family members, in his 39 years of owning and operating the company.

The addition of family to his business has made his balancing act between boss and father a delicate one.

Haddad’s daughter, Tammy Burton, works in the business’s administrative department. Burton’s husband, Bobby Burton, recently retired after 32 years of service with the company.

Tammy and Bobby Burton’s son, and Haddad’s grandson, Brandon Burton, also works for Columbus Container. And Haddad’s son, Bob Jr., spent more than 10 years with the company.

Tammy Burton began working for her father a month after the company began and has continued to work for him in various capacities ever since.

“I’ve worked just about every position in the building,” she said.

She has maintained a “really good working relationship” with her father throughout the years, Tammy Burton added.

She said this is because she has been held to a high standard during her time with the company and understood the relationship with her dad while at work.

Haddad Sr. said he expects all family employees to earn his trust and respect, just as he does with non-family employees.

“I can’t give family employees respect if they don’t earn it,” he said. “Trust is earned, not given.”

Haddad Sr. said he has had conversations with his grandson about the dynamic of their work relationship and that he makes sure to specify whether he is speaking as a boss or as a grandfather.

Family and non-family employees are held to the same standard, Haddad Sr. said, but family members do have some privilege.

“I think you are going to have that privilege, but you’re also going to have higher expectations,” Tammy Burton said.

“Family is family,” Haddad Sr. said, referring to the creed he expects himself and his employees to follow.

“Your church and your family come before business,” he said. “But we (Columbus Container) demand third place.”

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