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

More in Herald Business Journal

FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, a worker walks near a mural of a Boeing 777 airplane at the company's manufacturing facility in Everett, Wash., north of Seattle. Beginning in 2024, some 737 planes will be built in Everett, the company announced to workers on Monday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
With 747 out, Boeing to open new 737 Max line at Everett’s Paine Field

Since the last 747 rolled out of the factory, speculation has been rife that Boeing might move some 737 Max production to Everett.

IonQ will open a new quantum computing manufacturing and research center at 3755 Monte Villa Parkway in Bothell. (Photo courtesy of IonQ)
Quantum computing firm IonQ to open Bothell R&D center

IonQ says quantum computing systems are key to addressing climate change, energy and transportation.

Nathanael Engen, founder of Black Forest Mushrooms, sits in the lobby of Think Tank Cowork with his 9-year-old dog, Bruce Wayne, on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Growing green mushrooms in downtown Everett

The founder of Black Forest Mushrooms plans to grow gourmet mushrooms locally, reducing their carbon footprint.

Barb Lamoureux, 78, poses for a photo at her office at 1904 Wetmore Ave in Everett, Washington on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Lamoureux, who founded Lamoureux Real Estate in 2004, is retiring after 33 years. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Barb Lamoureux, ‘North Everett’s Real Estate Agent’ retires

A longtime supporter of Housing Hope, Lamoureux helped launch the Windermere Foundation Golf Tournament.

Bothell
AGC Biologics in Bothell to produce new diabetes treatment

The contract drug manufacturer paired with drug developer Provention Bio to bring the new therapy to market.

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, March 11, 2019, rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The number of deaths in major air crashes around the globe fell by more than half in 2019 according to a report released Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020, by the aviation consultancy To70, revealing the worst crash for the year was an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX on March 10 that lost 157 lives. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, FILE)
US board says Boeing Max likely hit a bird before 2019 crash

U.S. accident investigators disagree with Ethiopian authorities over the cause of a 2019 Boeing 737 Max crash.

Store owner Jay Behar, 50, left, and store manager Dan Boston, 60, right, work to help unload a truck of recliners at Behar's Furniture on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. Behar's Furniture on Broadway in Everett is closing up shop after 60 years in business. The family-owned furniture store opened in 1963, when mid-century model styles were all the rage. Second-generation owner, Jay Behar says it's time to move on. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Behar’s Furniture in Everett closing after 60 years

“It’s time to move on.” The small family-owned store opened in 1963 and grew to cover an entire city block.

Katy Woods, a Licensed Coach, Branch Manager, and experienced Banker at Coastal Community Bank.
Coastal Community Bank Offers Classes for Businesses

To support local business owners and their teams, Coastal offers complimentary Money… Continue reading

Innovative Salon Products online fulfillment employees, from left, Stephanie Wallem, Bethany Fulcher, Isela Ramirez and Gretchen House, work to get orders put together on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at the company’s facility in Monroe, Washington. The company began including pay, benefits and perks to its job listings over a year ago, well ahead of the new statewide mandate to include a pay range on job postings at companies with over 15 employees. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New state law requires employers to give pay range in job postings

Washington’s new pay transparency law aims to narrow wage gaps based on race or gender — though some companies may seek loopholes.

Paddywack co-owner Shane Somerville with the 24-hour pet food pantry built by a local Girl Scout troop outside of her store on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
An out-paw-ring of support: Mill Creek pantry feeds pets, day or night

With help from local Girl Scouts, the Mill Creek pet food store Paddywack is meeting the need for pet supplies in a pinch.

Kelly Cameron is the woodworker behind Clinton-based business Turnco Wood Goods. (David Welton)
Whidbey woodworkers turn local lumber into art

In the “Slab Room” at Madrona Supply Co., customers can find hunks of wood native to the south end of Whidbey Island.

Siblings Barbara Reed and Eric Minnig, who, co-own their parent’s old business Ken’s Camera along with their brother Bryan, stand outside the Evergreen Way location Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, in Everett, Washington. After five decades in business, Ken’s will be closing its last two locations for good at the end of the year. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Print it or lose it: Ken’s Camera closes after decades caught on film

The local legend, processing film photos since 1971, will close its locations in Mount Vernon and Everett at the end of 2022.