Father’s Day is here.
For Dads (and Granddads) everywhere, it’s an opportunity for them to reflect on how lucky they are to have loving, supportive families who appreciate them.
Another sure bet is that Dads, Granddads and kids who are lucky enough to own and run businesses together think about the support they give each other each day to make their operations successful.
That certainly is the case for Wesley Brorsen of Perry, who operates Brorsen Ranch LLC with his 85-year-old grandfather, Bart Brorsen.
“Being in a family business, for me, is a privilege,” said Wesley, 28. ”When you look at my granddad and the hard times he endured, it took a lot of grit … to even get his business to a place where someone my age could help.
“So, I am very grateful for everything he’s done just to allow me the opportunity.”
Brorsen Ranch LLC buys heifers from Wyoming and Montana and raises them every winter on wheat. After the heifers are bred with bulls, the operation sells them to other ranchers who are replacing cows they’ve sent to market.
Brorsen Ranch also raises wheat and alfalfa.
Wesley said cattle and grain markets are ever-changing and challenging.
“But he (Bart) has been at it for so long, if we ever have a conflict of any type, I just decide to side with experience and move on,” Wesley said, laughing.
“It works pretty good. We don’t often butt heads, anyway. So, it generally works out.”
For his part, Bart said he’s enjoyed a long career that’s included working both with his son, Verl Brorsen, who now has his own operations, and Wesley.
Bart said nobody can get a start in farming without initial assets, and added he was happy to help both his son and now his grandson get started in their careers.
Bart said he fully expects Wesley to start his own business one day.
“We raise our children to be independent,” Bart said. “To me, being independent means having your own operation. I think it is a very positive thing.”
Wesley, a new father himself, said the accomplishments of both his father and grandfather mean a lot to him.
”For my grandfather and my father to have farmed and ranched for as long as they have, and for me to have an opportunity to be a fifth-generation agriculturalist in Noble County, that’s special. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”
For nearly 90 years, the Beutlers have been providing livestock for rodeos across the country, and they continue to do so in 2017 as Beutler & Son Rodeo Co., a name that’s been familiar on the rodeo circuit for decades.
These days, the “Beutler” of the business is Bennie, and the “Son” is his boy Rhett, who became co-owner of the company in 2000.
Bennie said he learned the rodeo production business by working with his father, Jiggs, and his grandfather, Elra, adding he’s been blessed to have had the chance to pass along his knowledge to Rhett.
Bennie observed perspective changes, over time.
“When I was young, I didn’t think he knew anything,” Bennie said about his father, who died in a tractor accident when Bennie was 29 years old. “But I never forgot what my dad would tell me, and sure enough, whatever he had said, came about … just like he’d planned it all out. So, I always had a lot of respect for my dad.”
As for working with his son, “we have a lot of fun,” Bennie said.
Rhett, of course, grew up around the business, too, working rodeos when he could as he pursued a business management degree at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
“It’s a cool deal, working with my dad,” said Rhett, 40. “I learn something different from him every day, even after I think I have done and seen it all.”
Rhett said some of his friends who feud with their bosses often kid him about working with his dad, telling him he’s into something they don’t have to endure.
But Rhett, the father of 13-year-old Taylor, a daughter, and 10-year-old son Jake, said he treasures the experience.
“You just can’t put a price or value on the life lessons you are taught daily,” he said.
“Some of my friends? They don’t have that with their jobs.”
A family pipeline
When J.C. Goodson started Rainmaker polyethylene pipeline systems distribution company in Shawnee in 1999, he vowed never again to work directly with family.
J.C., 62, grew up working in a family business. His grandfather was a gas distribution engineer for Oklahoma Natural Gas and his father, John Goodson, in 1970 started Wayne Manufacturing to supply fittings for polyethylene pipes to ONG and other oil and gas and municipal water and gas distribution companies.
After Wayne was bought by a Finnish pipe manufacturer, J.C. decided to get back into the business, this time buying, stocking, selling and distributing pipes, valves and fittings as a total leak-free system.
“My vow to not hire family rolled off the tongue pretty easily at the time,” said J.C., who initially operated the business from his home. He bought a Freightliner truck, made deliveries himself and took orders on a Candybar phone that only got reception from the top of an oil tank.
Dismissing his vow, J.C., within a year into opening Rainmaker, had his wife, Linda, helping him. A few years later, his son Josh, a hotel-restaurant graduate of Oklahoma State University, joined the business followed shortly by his younger son Jake, who studied sports broadcasting at OSU. His dad, John, worked as a salesman for Rainmaker until his death in 2008.
“It’s been a great run with everyone helping to make Rainmaker what it is today,” J.C. said. “There’s no way I could be prouder of Josh and Jake and the contributions they have made in the business,” he said.
Depending on the season, Rainmaker employs 17 to 20. The company, which promises same-day shipping, serves a 300-mile area, which includes from Dallas north, the Texas panhandle, Arkansas and Kansas.
Earlier this year, Josh and Jake bought significant shares of the business, making them co-owners with their parents. Annual sales average $30 million.
Said Josh, 37, “I spent my childhood running around a manufacturing facility. Polyethylene got in my blood, and I always wanted to work with my dad and late grandfather.”
His grandfather taught him the importance of unmatched customer service, he said, and his father, what it takes for a company to be profitable.
“It can definitely be a challenge working with family,” he said. “We have our ups and downs just like everyone,” he said.
It helps that family members have defined roles, he said. J.C. quotes pipes and manages the trucks. Josh oversees purchasing and marketing, and Jake manages the company’s McElroy Rental Fleet and sells and services those machines that fuse the pipe together.
Added Jake, 36, “I cherished the times on the road working with my grandfather, and have learned how to develop relationships, by listening to and watching my dad. I love working alongside him toward a common goal and most of all, our early-morning talks when we’re the only ones here.”
The family’s plans for Father’s Day? “All 10 of us — my parents, our wives, my three young children and Jake’s 7-year-old daughter — will get together Sunday,” Josh said.
“I love to cook; maybe love to eat more like it,” he said. “I’ll put something on the smoker, we’ll watch the kids swim … maybe wet a line. We probably won’t talk much about work, but unwind — and give thanks.”
Generations in jewels
Coleman Clark learned about his family’s jewelry business by watching his dad.
Coleman, president of B.C. Clark Jewelers, said some of his fondest memories working with his father, Jim Clark, come from his earlier days after joining the family business. He learned a lot on business trips with his dad when they’d have time to talk on the plane or at dinner, he said. Coleman also learned by watching his father’s interaction with the company’s vendors on these trips.
“That’s probably the thing that I have the fondest memories of working with my dad, and kind of just seeing some of the interaction with our vendors,” he said.
He also learned by sitting back and watching his father and grandfather work with customers. Coleman worked with his grandfather, B.C. Clark Jr., for the first 15 or so years of his career.
The jewelry company was founded by B.C. Clark Sr. in Purcell in 1892 and, since then, the business has stayed in the family. Today Coleman, along with his dad and brother — Jim and Mitchell Clark respectively — run the store as the third and fourth generations of the family.
Coleman said he cleaned showcase glass and wrapped gifts during the Christmas season when he was a child.
“It was always just part of our family life,” he said.
Friends and adults would ask him if he was going to enter the family business, but he never felt pressure from his parents to do so. He said it’s been a blessing to work with his family and that they’ve worked well together.
“We’re all pretty like-minded as far as business philosophies and those sorts of things so we never had any major conflicts as to how to run the business or you know ways to go about things,” he said.
Coleman said it can be hard for him and his father to separate business time and family time, though, because he and his father don’t always have a lot of time to talk when they’re in the store. When they’re at home for a holiday, they have time to talk about their business.
”We get in trouble sometimes with the wives for talking about business in those settings, but we try to balance it,” he said.