Coping with Calamity

It can happen to any family business: the unexpected illness, injury, or death of the owner/manager. The sudden removal of the dynamo at the heart of the business—the leader who makes financial decisions and is the key contact for vendors and customers—can leave a void that's not easily filled. What does a family business do? Who takes over? How does the store hold on to customers and prevent the crisis from overwhelming the business? Tom Cook Jeweler, a successful, $2 million, family-owned business in Daytona Beach, Fla., faced this problem not once but twice within four years. The story of how the firm weathered two unexpected storms provides lessons that can help other family jewelers cope with such a crisis. Current company president Sheryl Cook shared that story with JCK. We also got some advice from the experts: Deborah Taylor and John Gardner, wealth management advisors

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