Secrets of success for one family business

Working with family members can be a great idea. The reality, though, of budgeting, scheduling and day-to-day problem-solving alongside siblings and parents doesn’t always translate into a perfect opportunity.

One family in Snohomish County has mastered the art of working as a team and managing a business at the same time.

Jennifer Haffner, 33, is the area manager for Boston’s Restaurant and Sports Bars at Smokey Point, Mill Creek and Bellingham.

While a family friend runs the Bellingham location, Haffner’s brothers, Dustin Haffner, 31, and David Haffner, 29, are general managers at the Mill Creek and Smokey Point restaurants, respectively.

“We are not on our own,” Jennifer Haffner said. “We are in it together.”

When Haffner and her two brothers graduated from college, they all began working in the hospitality industry. Their father, Ronald Haffner, a retired dentist, saw his kids working for other people and realized that maybe they would have a great team if they all worked together.

Since they liked the concept that the Boston’s chain provided — casual family dining and a sports bar — and had one location under their belts in Mission, B.C., the family headed south from British Columbia to start franchises in Washington. Jennifer Haffner’s mother was also involved in the business at that time. She died in 2005.

The process begins with Ronald Haffner, who works on finding good sites for the franchises. The Haffners committed to opening seven Boston’s restaurants within 10 years in their territory, from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to the Canadian border. No other Boston’s can be opened within that area unless the Haffners either give an OK or pass on a site.

As well as seeking out land, Ronald Haffner negotiates the leases and oversees construction and development. He then hands the restaurants over to his daughter and two sons.

“People ask, “How do you guys all work together?” Jennifer Haffner said.

The Haffner family members are practiced at what they do. Although they are all very different from each other, they know what to expect since they had all worked as a team before at their Canadian location.

“Working together prior is a must,” Jennifer Haffner said. “We’ve always been a very close family.”

Jennifer Haffner’s focus is on new restaurants. Months prior to an opening, she completes all the setup. Once the location is ready, she works there for six months and also takes care of budgets and cost control.

Even though older sister Jennifer Haffner is the area manager for both the restaurants her brothers run, David Haffner, the youngest sibling, is still having fun.

“It’s great,” David Haffner said. “Sometimes I forget that this is my sister.”

A staff member at the Smokey Point location recently put two and two together and realized the two were siblings.

“We’d worked together for three months,” David Haffner said.

David Haffner has worked full time with his sister since 2000 and his brother since 2001.

“Me being the baby, I’ve worked under them,” he said.

Bill Hancox, vice president of food services at Boston’s Pizza Restaurants in Dallas, met the Haffner family when they first began the franchise operation in Mission.

“You have to know when it is suitable to bring your family into a business,” Hancox said.

Hancox has seen businesses eat families up. But that’s not the case with the Haffners. They are genuine, honest and kind, as well as being good business people with a professional approach, he said.

“There’s no one-upmanship,” he added.

Once a family business is established, any new member coming into the mix really needs to fit in. David Haffner’s wife and Dustin Haffner’s girlfriend both help with the business.

What they’re doing is clearly working. In 2004 the Haffners were given a systemwide franchise of the year award.

“That speaks to how well the family works together,” Hancox said.

Christina Harper is a Snohomish County freelance writer. She can be reached at harper@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Business

The Safeway store at 4128 Rucker Ave., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Kroger and Albertsons plan to sell these 19 Snohomish County grocers

On Tuesday, the grocery chains released a list of stores included in a deal to avoid anti-competition concerns amid a planned merger.

Helion Energy CEO and co-founder David Kirtley talks to Governor Jay Inslee about Trenta, Helion's 6th fusion prototype, during a tour of their facility on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Inslee energized from visit to Everett fusion firms

Helion Energy and Zap Energy offered state officials a tour of their plants. Both are on a quest to generate carbon-free electricity from fusion.

Awards honor employers who promote workers with disabilities

Nominations are due July 31 for the awards from the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment.

Bruce Hallenbeck, 4, picks out Honeycrisp apples for his family at Swans Trail Farms on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. The farm is now closed for the season. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Study: Washington residents would pay more for homegrown goods

Local online shoppers are on the look out for the made in Washington label.

Aurora Echo, owner of Wildly Beloved Foods, begins making cavatelli pasta with one of her Bottene pasta machine on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Whidbey artisanal pasta maker shares her secrets

For Aurora Echo of Wildly Beloved Foods in Clinton, “sharing food is so ancient; it feels so good.”

Lynnwood
New Jersey auto group purchases Lynnwood Lexus dealership land

Holman, which owns Lexus of Seattle in Lynnwood, bought property on which the dealership resides.

Two couples walk along Hewitt Avenue around lunchtime on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett businesses say it’s time the city had its own Chamber of Commerce

The state’s seventh-largest city hasn’t had a chamber since 2011. After 13 years, businesses are rallying for its return.

Students Mary Chapman, left, and Nano Portugal, right, work together with a fusion splicer and other equipment during a fiber optic technician training demonstration at Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Sno-Isle students on the path to becoming fiber professionals

The state will roll out $1.2 billion to close gaps in internet access. But not enough professionals are working to build the infrastructure.

Washingtonians lost $250M to scammers in 2023

Identity theft, imposter scams and phony online ads were the most common schemes, a new study says.

LETI founder and president Rosario Reyes, left, and LETI director of operations Thomas Laing III, right, pose for a photo at the former Paroba College in Everett, Washington on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Woman brings Latino culture to business education in Snohomish County

Rosario Reyes spent the past 25 years helping other immigrants thrive. Now, she’s focused on sustaining her legacy.

Annie Crawley poses for a photo with her scuba gear at Brackett’s Landing near the Port of Edmonds on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024 in Edmonds, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Edmonds ocean activist to kids: Life is better under the sea

From clownfish to kelp, Annie Crawley has been teaching kids and adults about the ocean’s wonders for three decades.

Reed Macdonald, magniX CEO. Photo: magniX
Everett-based magniX appoints longtime aerospace exec as new CEO

Reed Macdonald will take the helm at a pivotal time for the company that builds electric motors for airplanes.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.