Welcoming the Next Generation

September 10, 2019

At Ozinga, next generation family members have an opportunity to start working in our family business as summer help at the age of 16. Doing so provides a better first-hand view of our company, introduces the generation to our coworkers and helps them align with our purpose and values.

This past summer, two individuals from the fifth generation of the Ozinga family started working at the company. Mikayla (Justin’s daughter) and Marty V (my son) are the oldest of the 32 cousins in their generation, and each one took on different responsibilities. Mikayla worked in the Quality Control Department in the south suburbs and Marty worked in the garage and concrete yard in Chicago.

Recently, Justin and I reflected on how fast the time has gone. Our kids’ experiences reminded us of the experiences we had when we first started in the business. It seems like only yesterday we were in their work boots.

While each generation is comprised of more Ozinga family members and is embedded into a company that has grown since the last generation, one theme has always remained consistent—a sense of welcome and belonging that we all felt.

For all of us—my dad’s generation, my generation, and now our children’s generation—we have been profoundly impacted by the way our coworkers have treated us from the first day we started working at the company as summer help. We have been welcomed, mentored, razzed, pushed and challenged in new ways, both mentally and physically. In many respects, it is the community of Ozinga coworkers who helped us grow up and become who we are.

It’s a humbling realization as a young adult to discover that you are needed and depended upon. Many families are dependent upon us all doing our jobs well. It makes you mature quickly. This only happens when there is mutual respect and trust. It is this sense of respect, trust and belonging that has made each generations’ perspectives evolve from, “What do I get out of this job?” to “What do I get to give to this community? How do I get to uniquely contribute to make this company even better? How can I make a positive impact on the individuals around me?”

The percentage rate of a family business surviving from a third generation to a fourth generation is low single digits and from fourth to fifth is even lower. The key differentiator is a next generation that is very interested in the business. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that there is a correlation between how welcome we have been made to feel by our coworkers and how engaged we are in the business. There is a reciprocal relationship that spirals upward. We need each other.

It is inspiring to see Mikayla, Marty and all of our younger coworkers coming in with excitement and enthusiasm, learning life lessons on the job, and starting to find their unique role in serving others. It fans the flame of passion in me and my generation. It increases the passion for our company, our industry and also the passion for the next generation of our society. Work is such an incredible molder of character, dignity and self-worth. We need young people to learn the value of hard work, to be pushed to places they didn’t know were possible for them, and to be needed by a community larger than themselves. Work is so much more than a paycheck.

I’m grateful to all of our coworkers, our customers and the broader community we are privileged to serve. We’re grateful that you welcomed us and continue to do so and even more grateful that you are welcoming our children. Thank you!

Generational PhotoPictured (from L to R): Justin Ozinga, Mikayla Ozinga, Marty Ozinga III, Marty Ozinga V and Marty Ozinga IV

Marty is the president of Ozinga and the oldest of the fourth generation. He holds a master’s degree in communications from Northwestern University and is actively involved with The Bright Promise Fund for Urban Christian Education.

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