Todd Moore: Balancing tradition and innovation in a family business

Following his recent guest lecture at NEWTON, we spoke with Todd Moore about his experiences and challenges running his family’s business, Weir's Furniture. As a third-generation member of the company, Todd shares his journey, emphasizing the importance of innovation and balancing tradition with growth. His wife, Kristen, a teacher who once worked in the family business, also joined us for the interview to offer her perspective on supporting the company while maintaining her own career. Their candid responses provide valuable lessons for those involved in or preparing to take over a family business.

Hi Todd, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. In your family, is there an expectation that everyone will join the company, or can they choose a different path?

There is an expectation that we will join the company, but it’s not mandatory. Over time, the focus has shifted to finding the right fit for each person. If someone is passionate about an area outside of retail, like arts or marketing, we encourage and financially support them to explore those interests. The goal is to invest in their future, even if it leads them away from the family business.

What was your story? Were you excited to start working for the company, or did you have doubts?

I had doubts. When I first started, my wife and I agreed that if there were any issues between us, we would leave the company. Eventually, we did, and I pursued my own entrepreneurial passions in North Carolina. We raised a family there and enjoyed it. However, my 97-year-old grandfather begged me to take his board seat. I declined twice, but after the third request, I attended a board meeting, and very quickly found myself chairman of the board.

Do you feel a lot of responsibility because it’s your family’s company?

Yes, there is a sense of pressure to maintain and steward a large business, including various land holdings. It’s a significant challenge.

Do you have a plan for integrating family members into the company? For example, are they supposed to study at a particular school? How was it for you?

Well, I studied accounting. At that time, there were no formal criteria for family members joining the company. Now, as we've grown and matured, we have formalized the process. We have specific criteria and job descriptions, and family members are hired based on those, not just because they are family.

As a university, we value education highly. What is your view on this?

Education is very important. It broadens your perspective and exposes you to new ideas. Universities foster innovation by bringing together young minds and experienced professors. Integrating these different ways of thinking helps us stay relevant. It's a give and take—we learn from new perspectives while they learn from our experience. This exchange is crucial in retail and business.

How do you foster innovation in a family-owned business, given its strong traditions? New ideas can often face resistance. How do you handle this?

We try to always listen to new hires, even if they’re young. Tradition can cloud our vision, but fresh perspectives help us see more clearly. We purposefully bring in new talent—for example, we've hired several graduates from the University of North Texas. Their excitement and vitality has been infectious, and they’ve brought new ideas and strategies that have invigorated us and kept us innovative.

Does having long-term employees alongside new hires create any issues or obstacles?

Initially, our focus was always on the customer. Over time, as the company got older, we began focusing inward on self-preservation, which is dangerous. It shifts attention away from the customer and leads to decline. We must always think about how to reach new customers, including younger people who may currently prefer IKEA but aspire to higher-quality furniture as they advance in life. Making sure we’re hiring people from that demographic is crucial—it helps us keep our focus on the customer, preventing stagnation and ensuring growth.

Many of our students aim to run or set up businesses, often family businesses. What are your top three pieces of advice from your experience?

First, appreciate the history and the people who built the company. Understanding the past is crucial.

Second, focus on growth and innovation. Respect traditions, but be ready to propel the business forward with new ideas and collaboration.

Third, avoid entitlement. Earn your place and respect the hard work of previous generations. They invested and sacrificed to build the company, so contribute to its growth rather than just taking from it. Remember, if you're not growing, you're dying.

Do you have children, and do you expect them to take over the family business?

Yes, I have three children and great-grandchildren. It's entirely their choice if they want to join the family business. I believe each person has unique gifts and should pursue what excites them, whether that's within the family business or not.

What if there's no one left in the family to take over the business?

We focus on the "why" of our business—why we exist and the culture we maintain. It's not just about making money. We believe our family is called to this business. But, a family member isn’t enthusiastic about it, we respect their passions and help them pursue their paths, even if outside the business. Forcing someone to join can lead to resentment. It's crucial that they genuinely want to be part of it.

Thank you, Todd. My last couple of questions are for your wife. Kristen, do you also work in the company?

Kristen: I do not. I met my husband while working for his family's company, but now I am actually a teacher.

How do you balance your own career with supporting the family business?

Kristen: I have my own career as a teacher, and while I support Todd and understand the family business dynamics, having a separate career has been good for us. It allows me to contribute in a different way.

Todd: Family business can be consuming. Even vacations often feel like we're just working in a different location. My sister often asks if we can avoid talking about business, but it's a part of our lives. We've learned to maintain some work boundaries to prevent being entirely consumed by it.

I imagine it can be overwhelming when everything revolves around the business. You need time off as well, right? How do you manage that?

Kristen: Exactly. I started as an employee in the family business, which is how I met Todd. I loved being around his family, especially his grandfather, who was an amazing man and very supportive. For over 20 years, we vacationed with the whole family, often discussing business even on vacation. It was hard at times, but Todd and I eventually learned to set boundaries to ensure we had breaks from the business. It takes intention to avoid being consumed by it.

Todd: It's important not to let your identity be solely tied to the family business, especially with a well-known company. I want people to know me for who I am, not just as part of the Weir family. We've learned to create boundaries to maintain a healthy balance.

Well, it looks like you've done really well. Congratulations and thank you so much for answering my questions.

Todd and Kristen: Yes, thank you for having us. Those were great questions.

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Todd Moore: Balancing tradition and innovation in a family business

Todd Moore, a third-generation member of Weir's Furniture, shared his experiences balancing tradition and innovation in the family business during a guest lecture at NEWTON.