Overcoming Disruption in a Family Run Business

Running a family business has it’s unique challenges. I sat down with Sarah Binder Mehta, President of PianoPiano, a third-generation piano sales/rental company. Sarah and I talked about growing a multi-generational business, overcoming industry disruption, and dealing with family dynamics.

Sarah’s grandfather started the business in the 1930’s as a department store called Binder’s State Street. Sarah’s father worked in the store, managing the furniture department where pianos where being sold. Grandfather wanted to retire and closed Binder’s, leaving piano manufacturers with no presence in the south Jersey region.

Sarah and her father, Jerry Binder

After being approached by a piano manufacturer, Sarah’s dad opened a Hammond piano store in 1959. By 1960 that store was the #1 Hammond distributor in the US. It wasn’t long before the Binders’ chain of piano stores became the #1 US distributor for almost all the major piano brand.

The 1990’s brought disruption and corrections to the piano industry, forcing the Binder patriarch to close most of his 27 stores. A shift to rentals, instead of sales, has kept the company relevant and profitable.

Sarah had this to say about the pressures of running a family business and honoring the legacy of her grandfather and father: “You hear all the stories about how second-generation businesses are more likely to fail. Of course that is a concern, but it’s also super rewarding. My dad has four daughters and I always say that this business is his fifth child. It’s rewarding that he trusts me to steward that.”

While working with family can create freedoms not aways found in a traditional work setting, Sarah reminded me that, “When you are in a family business, you bring your family dynamics to work, every day.”

While working with family has it’s unique set of challenges, a multi-generational business can benefit from the fresh and new outlook brought by younger members of the team. When Sarah introduced e-commerce her parents “they didn’t believe anyone would rent a piano online, but people do it, every day.” Since then, Sarah has digitized their records and introduced a robust CRM, allowing PianoPiano to work more efficiently, effectively, and with more insight in to their customers’ needs and sales trends.

Growing a family business and managing a multi-generational team can be challenging. The one thing Sarah has learned running PianoPiano! is that to be successful you must learn to work through obstacles. “In some ways nothing is ever easy. Every new thing I’ve tried to implement, there’s always been unforeseen bumps. Being able to take those in stride and not drive yourself crazy about it”

Listen to the full interview below. 

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