Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Deciding to join the family business

Peter Blommer counts his family's business, Blommer Chocolate Co., as a success story. But when Blommer, now 50, was a young man, about to embark on his career, he had no intention of joining the company. Now he's the president and chief operating officer. What happened?

Deciding to join the family business

Brothers Stephen and Peter Blommer, right, both executives at Blommer Chocolate Co., now being run by the third generation of Blommers.
Brothers Stephen and Peter Blommer, right, both executives at Blommer Chocolate Co., now being run by the third generation of Blommers.

Peter Blommer counts his family's business, Blommer Chocolate Co., as a success story. But when Blommer, now 50, was a young man, about to embark on his career, he had no intention of joining the company, now in its 75th year. Now he's the president and chief operating officer, running the company with other members of the third generation. What happened?

"All of us – I grew up with seven kids in the family -- spent time in the business because  we wanted to earn money for school and because my father thought it was good hard work and he wanted us to have an appreciation for that.

"So I ran the presses and the refiners. Usually, I had the hottest, hardest, dirtiest jobs, which is what any family member ought to have to do. Eventually, I progressed to driving trucks, and in fact drove locally and eventually drove them cross-country. I think I was illegal doing that – but I think the statute of limitations has passed. I was 17, doing interstate trucking, which was fascinating. I worked in sales a little bit."

But when it came to choosing a career, Blommer wanted no part of the chocolate business. "I had an appreciation of the business," he said,  "but I had no intention of working in the business."

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Joining the family business: How to prepare

Blommer grew up in California, where his father ran the Chicago-based company's Union City plant. Blommer came east to attend Georgetown University, where he majored in government and economics.

"I thought about law and politics until I went to work for a congressman and decided that’s not what I wanted to do," he said. "I realized what I was really interested in was business of some kind."

At some point in this story, Blommer went Harvard University for his master's in business administration.

"I worked on Wall Street and I realized that I wanted to be involved with a company beyond the balance sheet and the income statement. I wanted a product, a tangible product. I knew I wanted a conventional business and not finance.

"I ended up going to work for the Dole Food Co., working in the strategic planning and analysis group which was interesting. It helped develop my analytical skills around assessing business opportunities and big business investment and decisions. About three years into my career at Dole, I was talking to my father who was looking to buy out a side of the family in the business. I thought that sounded like an interesting inflection point of the family."

He signed on, hoping his Harvard MBA skills would help. "I probably thought I knew more than I did," he said.

As you may have read in my Leadership Agenda interview, published in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer, it didn't quite work out that way. Blommer joined his family's business in 1991. A year later, they learned the other side of the family had sold its shares, 50 percent of the company, to an outside firm. In 1994, Peter Blommer's branch of the family regained control.

He now is based at Blommer's East Greenville plant, one of the two company's two largest.

Monday's blog: What to consider if you are thinking about joining your family's business.

In Sunday's Inquirer: Blommer Chocolate Co. fights to protect the cocoa crop.


Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
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