Goals — It is imperative for a business to have goals. And, not just goals in general buy clear, achievable, understandable goals. We have a meeting every quarter to go over our three-month, one-year, three-year and five-year goals. We all agree on these goals, which ensures that we have the same vision and are all working toward the same thing. We are very clear and open about what these goals are and the steps needed to achieve them. By having such transparency with our goals, it allows us to always work toward the same thing as a family and a management team. When we look back over the last few years, we are able to see so many things we have accomplished by having these clear and concise benchmarks.
As a part of our series about 5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business, I had the pleasure of interviewing sisters Jessica Lozano and Shawna Edwards of Primal.
A Colorado Native, Shawna Edwards currently resides in Englewood, CO, with her one-year-old son, Jaylen. She has the privilege and challenge of working with her two best friends: her sister and her dad, at Primal, a family-owned, cycling apparel business. She has a passion for the outdoor industry and loves to run.
Shawna’s sister, Jessica Lozano, lives in Denver with her husband, three-year-old daughter, and two dogs. She has been working in sales at Primal since shortly after beginning her journey there in 2008. Her passions include riding bikes, reading, and laughing at her own jokes.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Shawna Edwards: My dad always told my sister and I that one day we would be “running” his company, and I honestly used to laugh about it. I had no desire to work with my dad and never even thought it was a possibility. Once I turned 18, I found myself a little lost and like I didn’t really have a path. I asked my dad if I could work for him part time just to figure out my next chapter, and he agreed to let me fold t-shirts in the warehouse at Primal. I did that for about four months before he told me there was an opening on the administrative side if I wanted to try it out. Once I started doing admin work at Primal and learning more about the company, I knew I wanted to stay. The company was small at the time (only five employees!) so I had the opportunity to work on a little bit of everything, which gave me the experience I needed to really understand what I wanted to do in the long run. I knew within just a few short months that I had found my calling.
Can you tell us a bit about your family business and your role in it?
Shawna Edwards: Primal offers cycling apparel as well as custom, branded pieces, indoor spinning apparel, and the best-in-class face masks. We blend the best in design, craftsmanship, and service to create extraordinary cycling apparel. Cycling is our passion; apparel is our craft. Giving back has become our way of life.
My dad started Primal in our basement when I was five years old. He and one of his friends were getting into mountain biking. Together on their rides they talked about starting a company with mountain biking-themed t-shirts, and one day they decided to finally do it. They travelled to trade shows all over the country and slowly became more well known in the cycling industry. Fast-forward 13 years and Primal was deep in cycling apparel with a solid foundation. I joined the team and have been involved in production, marketing, admin, accounting, logistics, purchasing, you name it. I am now in charge of all finance as the CFO, but I also have a heavy hand in e-commerce and overall business development.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
Jessica Lozano: The most interesting thing happened to me since joining Primal is I’ve gotten into cycling!
Growing up in the industry, I was used to people walking around in spandex, and I had a taste for Power Bars after spending many weekends attending cycling and outdoor expos. But, I never really had an interest in riding myself until a couple years after I began my own Primal journey. I finally got a road bike and fell in love with it. I was riding almost every day trying to get better to be able to handle more miles and elevation.
In April, we went to an event in Monterrey, CA. We brought our bikes and rode to the event each day. On the way home on the third day, the sun was setting as I was speeding down a hill. I unfortunately didn’t see a gate at the bottom of that hill, and I wrecked right into it, flew over it, and ended up pretty banged up. My bike was broken in half, and I found myself in the Emergency Room after just a few short months of riding. The strange thing is: I couldn’t wait to get back on my bike! The fear of the crash didn’t hold me back from riding at all.
I think that is the best thing about cycling; it is a therapeutic addiction of sorts. You get out there and you are free from emails, phone calls, and the problems or stress of your day. I am now on my third road bike — the second two have luckily lasted longer than a few months — and continue riding whenever I can.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Jessica Lozano: I worked in banking before coming to work for my dad at Primal, and I really had no idea how this business was run. Inventory, purchasing and part numbers were all completely foreign concepts to me, but one of my first projects was ordering inventory of a few products for us to sell on our website. Many of the “part numbers” are fairly similar to each other, and I ended up ordering 500 pairs of youth shorts in the complete wrong color! We ended up selling the shorts for next to nothing (and I’m sure losing a bit of money on them), although it is something that we laugh about now. I had to learn very quickly that every mistake costs the company valuable money and resources, and it is incredibly important to be confident in the work that you are doing. I started asking questions about EVERYTHING after that!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Shawna Edwards: We have seven values that we live by every single day. We went through an exercise in which we identified our strongest employees and what made them assets to the company. Those top characteristics are now what make up our seven values: “who we are” as a company. One that stands out, which I think is clear to anyone who has worked with us, is that we care. We truly care. We built really solid relationships with so many great people and organizations and have had the opportunity to give back to causes that we feel strongly about. We care about what we do, who we are, and about the people we work with, and that makes the whole thing a lot more meaningful.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Jessica Lozano: Primal is in the process of making some big strides to reduce our carbon footprint. We also plan to start offering sustainable fabrics and biodegradable bags in the upcoming months. Across the world, we are all being called to change the way we live in order to make it a better place for future generations, and at Primal, we feel a responsibility to take action for the greater good.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Shawna Edwards: Definitely my dad! He worked 12- to 15-hour days for most of my childhood to bring Primal to where it is today. He always taught us what hard work looked like, and when my sister and I became a part of his company, that work ethic was already instilled into us. From the day I started with Primal, my dad was clear that when it came to the company, I was like any other employee and I would have to work hard and prove myself if I ever wanted to move up. He was hard on my sister and I and did not give any free passes. In the end, it made me work harder and appreciate every single thing I earned and where I am today.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Jessica Lozano: Our dad has always said that success doesn’t mean anything unless you use it to make the world a better place. We partner with many organizations who set out to do just that, and our partnerships enable us to give back to their causes. For example, we started producing masks at the beginning of COVID and wanted to give back through the sales of these masks. We began donating a portion of every mask sale to Feeding America and have been able to donate 150,000 dollars to them in less than a year! That is something we have been really proud of, particularly as a small business that saw a significant decrease in sales in 2020 related to the pandemic.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main parts of our interview. How do you define a family business? How is a family business different from a regular business?
Shawna Edwards: To me, a family business is one that is started from the ground up by an individual, which then relies on multiple family members to keep it going. Family businesses are so different from other companies, as there is the very personal and complicated aspect of family and relationships. Most people have their “business life” and their “family life,” and the two are completely separate. But, when those get intermingled, it can both be incredibly difficult but also one of the most rewarding experiences. It’s a true privilege to work with the people I care about the most every single day.
In your opinion or experience, what are the unique advantages that family owned businesses have?
Shawna Edwards: There are so many! We all have a very similar outlook on life and the same work ethic, which makes us extremely compatible when it comes to things that really matter most. At the core, we usually see eye-to-eye on what is really important as well as on our long-term goals. I think sometimes when people go into business together, they may see differently on some of those really important core issues, but I find that for us we are almost always aligned. Plus, there’s the trust. There is no one in the world I trust more than my family.
What are the unique drawbacks or blindspots that family owned businesses have?
Shawna Edwards: Just as we all have the same outlook on a lot of core issues, we realize it is extremely beneficial to get an outside perspective as much as possible. Our management team is made up of three family members and three non-family members, which has been a really great balance for Primal. As a family, we always have a say in decisions being made, but there is a really healthy balance of family input vs. nonfamily input.
What are some of the common mistakes you have seen family businesses make? What would you recommend to avoid those errors?
Jessica Lozano: I’ve seen family businesses struggle with trusting people outside of their family. And, this causes a big blind spot where the family might not be able to see or manage every aspect. At Primal, we’ve made sure that our management team is balanced with leaders outside of our family. We have a strict “Open and Honest” policy within the management group to ensure we’re constantly pushing forward and being the best we can.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders of family businesses to help their employees to thrive?
Jessica Lozano: Give your employees a voice! Include everyone as a part of the team, and make it fun while you’re at it. We have done happy hours, outings, activities and even have a beer fridge in the office. Employees should know they are integral to the company. They should feel comfortable to challenge you on process or policy, and it really can make all the difference in the customer experience, the efficiency of the company, and your overall success.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean with a story or example?
Shawna Edwards: Leadership is leading by example. It is one thing to manage a team of people and make sure the work gets done, but to truly be a leader you really need to have that mutual respect and always have an open line of communication. I will be the first to admit I am a creature of habit, which is why it is even more important for me to listen to my team, use their feedback, and make sure everyone feels heard and appreciated.
Here is our main question. What are the “5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Defined Roles — This is something we became aware of very early on in working together as a family. Having clearly defined roles creates boundaries that prevents a lot of “toe stepping.” In a small family business, often times you wear many hats, but it is important that two people are not trying to wear the same hat (particularly at the same time) because that is where tension can be created. I started at Primal a couple years before my sister did, so by the time she joined the team, I was pretty comfortable in my roles in admin and accounting. She came in doing sales, which kept everything completely separate, and I think that gave us a really strong foundation for working together as a team. We had a chance to get used to working under the same roof without working too closely together that it could have caused an issue. As time went on, we both became more involved in larger company decisions, and it was really helpful to always know that she was bringing a sales perspective when I was bringing an accounting perspective. We both knew from the beginning where the line was on each other’s work.
- Trust — This one, to me, is a given and probably the most important aspect of a family business. Trust must be a top factor, from decisions, to money, to new hires and company policies. We can’t all have control over every single thing in the business, and because of that, we have to trust that the other members of the family are making the right decisions. The best thing about a family business is that the trust is already there, so we don’t have to jump through other hurdles that maybe other companies do to build that foundation. When I first started with Primal, I had very little experience with spending money, borrowing money, owing vendors, and so on. I have always been really conservative when it comes to finances, and I brought that with me into the company. My dad, on the other hand, is the risk taker and the one who would max out credit cards to do whatever needed to happen for the business. A couple years after I started with Primal, my dad made the decision to buy his business partner out, and for me that was terrifying. We had to borrow money to pay his business partner, and I worried how we would make it all work. My dad told me over and over again that the business would not have made it without him taking many risks throughout the years. I trusted him with that decision, and everything ended up working out just the way it was supposed to.
- Communication — Communication is one of the most important things in any business, but it particularly comes into focus with a family business. Since there are multiple people making decisions for the company, it is so important to openly include every family member in those discussions and communication. Whether it is about new projects or current challenges within the company, talking about what is happening within the business is key to being successful. A couple years ago, we became aware of a new operating system that we could be using. After some research and meetings, we started using this system, and it completely changed how we communicate with each other. We now have weekly meetings, and we work our way down a list of topics, putting both short- and long-term goals into place and being aware of what everyone on the management team is currently engaged in.
- Conflict — Ironically enough, the word “conflict” likely isn’t something people expect to see on a list of five things you need to run a business. But, conflict is inevitable, and it also is important. Conflict can very well be what moves us all forward! Typically conflict comes from everyone being completely transparent about their opinion on certain subjects, and it is really crucial that each person is able to comfortably voice his or her opinion or perspective, even if everyone else doesn’t agree. As long as there is trust and communication, the resolution is almost always something that everyone walks away feeling comfortable with. Conflict is a part of business and being able to work through it and come to a solution that works for everyone is really imperative to the success of the company. Going back to our first meeting with the new operating system a few years ago, I remember being in the room with the whole management team as well as the moderator, and my dad and I disagreed on something. It ended up being a long and very tense conversation that was likely uncomfortable for everyone in the room. But, we figured it out. And, after that day we started having tough conversations about things we don’t necessarily agree on because we knew we could talk through them. Conflict is how decisions are made and how we know what direction to go in as a company.
- Goals — It is imperative for a business to have goals. And, not just goals in general buy clear, achievable, understandable goals. We have a meeting every quarter to go over our three-month, one-year, three-year and five-year goals. We all agree on these goals, which ensures that we have the same vision and are all working toward the same thing. We are very clear and open about what these goals are and the steps needed to achieve them. By having such transparency with our goals, it allows us to always work toward the same thing as a family and a management team. When we look back over the last few years, we are able to see so many things we have accomplished by having these clear and concise benchmarks.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Jessica Lozano: “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”
It’s empowering once you realize that we choose what defines us: it can either be the problem or it can be the way we handle it. I try to always remember this when facing challenges, both personally and professionally, and react accordingly.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Jessica Lozano: Michelle Obama! I truly believe that there is nothing this woman cannot do, no challenge she isn’t willing to face head-on. The future of so many people in the world are better because of her passion to improve healthcare and create opportunities for people in underprivileged communities. She is also professionally a total badass as well as an awesome mom.
You are both people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Jessica Lozano: I recently heard a statistic that there are around 600,000 cancer deaths each year in the US. I think that number really gets put into perspective after a devastating year of COVID deaths and is quite frankly pretty scary. I would love to see a big focus put on research, prevention campaigns, and hopefully finding a cure in the coming years.
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And online at https://www.primalwear.com
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.