Lessons from the not-so-silent generation

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on print

The House of LaRose. Iacomini’s Restaurants. Tommy Bruno’s Café. Through my life, I have been surrounded by family businesses owned and operated by immigrant entrepreneurs.
Specifically, these are Italian immigrants who came to the Rubber City, circa 1925, not to build tires, but instead to start their own business as a means of opportunity and, more important, economic survival. This isn’t all that unusual. Immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Americans to become entrepreneurs. In fact, of the 2019 Fortune 500 companies, nearly half were founded by immigrants or their children. 
For nearly a century in Northeast Ohio, my family has been in business, and these family patriarchs at the helm share many competencies and traits. Their insights have offered me, and perhaps you, as well, valuable guidance over these years. 

  •   Attack the problem, not the person. My grandfather, Joe Iacomini, had a very loud and intimidating bark, which he used often with staff, food purveyors and especially his family. Typically, while addressing an issue, his passion-filled voice would confront the issue head on, but he never made it about you. Strangely, you were terrified, but conversely, the episode ended quickly and, importantly, as a teachable moment.
  •   Hire for the long haul. My great uncle, Pete LaRose, along with his brothers, believed in hiring good people, thoroughly training them, compensating well and then allowing them to do the job. This simple HR philosophy continues today at The House of LaRose. And when it comes to conflicts or disputes between family members in the business, never, ever be combative in front of the staff. It’s very disruptive to the health of the organization. In fact, they would go to the Rubber Bowl parking lot to sort out their differences.
  •   Show the human side of the boss. For 42 years, my grandfather owned and operated Tommy Bruno’s Café on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls. And in that time, he mastered the skill of genuinely pleasing people. He did this by managing his staff and interacting with customers, not as a series of mechanical tasks but a set of human interactions. You had his full attention. He was very aware of his natural charisma, which transferred as authentic, leading to intense loyalty in his customers and long-time employees.

These men are my heroes. I deeply admire their grit and the fact that they perpetually were swimming against the current and against heavy odds, especially through the Great Depression. But more important, they taught all of us the value of a strong work ethic and to always have integrity with customers and employees.

Through their influence, I have learned to face the enormous challenges of being a leader, making difficult decisions and making no excuse for failure. It has been these immigrants and so many others bringing their drive for success, resilience and diversity from abroad who have, and continue to make, fundamental contributions in virtually all areas of business.

Tommy Bruno is general manager, executive director at WAPS 91.3FM The Summit