In Business with Mom: Q&A with Goddard School Franchise Owners

Spotlight on People

What's it like to be in business with your mom? Find out from our Q&A with Goddard School franchise owners.


Tim & Susan Hoy — Hillsborough, NJ -— Goddard School Franchise Owners

For Tim: What is it like to be a business partner with your mom?

My mother has been a fiercely independent and successful franchised small business owner since 1999.  Working with her on a full-time basis for the past six years has allowed me to grow as an individual and apply skills from my former career as an elementary school teacher under the patient guidance of someone far more acclimated to the complexities of running a successful small business.  Susan’s insight into my strengths (along with my weaknesses) and personality has allowed her to hand off responsibilities to me that fit those strengths and help us both to manage areas of the business that will benefit from that attention.

For Susan: What is it like to be a business partner with your son?

Since I operated this franchise myself for 15 years before Tim joined, our relationship as business partners had to evolve.  Initially I was more of a mentor than a partner and Tim was mostly involved in the educational aspect and daily operations. He continued to take on more of the business responsibilities to get to where we are today.

I am definitely the “senior partner” and Tim will defer to me for major financial decisions, but we are a united front as far as priorities and goals are concerned. As he has taken on more responsibilities I am able to do less and enjoy more leisure time.  I am no longer the face of The Goddard School in Hillsborough NJ.  People now see ours a family business, especially since my daughter has begun to take a more active role.

How does your relationship make your business stronger?

Tim: A strong commitment to community and family relationships can often be the cornerstone of a successful early education program.  Families in our school appreciate that fact and are proud of being part of a program where those values are in practice and on display each day. 

The timing was so perfect!  When Tim joined me on a full-time basis, he was the father of a baby girl who attended our infant program.  I was able to experience our “product” from a whole different vantage point.  He was able to relate to our “customer” as both a parent and a former kindergarten teacher. Having three generations of Hoys in our building every day was a great selling feature.  (Susan)

How does your business partnership make your familial relationship stronger?

Susan: Seeing Tim grow into this position of a confident business owner in the early childhood industry is certainly a source of pride for me.  I feel a sense of satisfaction that we have the same goals and values not only about the success of the business, but also the success of our school.  We are bonded with the goal to make The Goddard School of Hillsborough the best it can be – for the children and families, for the employees and for our family.

Tim: Sharing a small office and working together in a business that does require 24-hour availability and contact certainly requires some bonding! I think its been good for building communication skills that might not otherwise be typical of our day to day relationship in the past before we were working together in this format. 

What is something surprising that you’ve learned about working with family?

Susan: Any business involves risk and sacrifice – especially in the beginning.  When I started this business in 1999 Tim was a teenager and his sister was 12. I was understandably conflicted about whether my commitment to the success of the business would have a negative impact on my role as their mother. My husband was assuming many of those responsibilities while I spent long hours focusing on the growth of the school.

In our environment our staff and our customers are like extensions of our family. When I step back, I see that Tim has totally grasped that concept and he makes our “family within a family” his persona as well.

Tim: From my perspective, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the sacrifice and hard decisions that go into running an independent business.  Seeing all the points of view of stakeholders and the necessity of my mother’s “the buck stops here” mentality that has always been a part of her mindset really drives home the need for thoughtful and dedicated leadership.

What is your advice for other family units who are thinking about working together?

Susan: Without a doubt, there are challenging aspects of being together every day – we are adults from two different generations, and I will always be the mother and Tim will always be my son. We do not always agree. I think it is important not only to talk to one another, but to listen.  I have had to work at that aspect for sure!  Respecting each other’s opinions and ideas is key. Playing to one another’s strengths is also key. There are times were being structured and goal focused must be prioritized over relationships, but there are also times for spontaneity.  Time to be serious and time to laugh it off. 

Tim: Make sure you can communicate across necessary generational differences, respect each other’s opinion, create roles that match your strengths and always opt for the largest workspace available given the opportunity. 


Erin Goulet & Lissa Knox — Snohomish, WA — Goddard School Franchise Owners

For Erin: What is it like to be a business partner with your mom?

It is a literal dream come true. The ability to build something together around our shared vision is incredible. I feel very grateful to share the responsibility and decision-making process with someone that I trust so completely. It is incredibly fulfilling to get to witness firsthand the hard work and talent of someone that you love so much.

For Lisa: What is it like to be a business partner with your daughter?

There are not many people that I could work with side by side everyday and look forward to each moment we spend together.  We can be honest with one another and have complete trust in each other, that is a rare thing, family or not.  Although I have been working in this field for a long time, I learn things from my daughter every day and am constantly amazed by her talents and skills.

How does your relationship make your business stronger?

Getting to work alongside someone that you love and admire makes the long hours and the weight of responsibility that can come with owning a business feel sustainable and manageable. Sharing the people-centered values that guide our decision making and overall vision for the business has strengthened the foundation of our business and helped to shape the culture of our team. The strength of our relationship has also allowed us to be honest about what we each do well and the things that we struggle with.

How does your business partnership make your familial relationship stronger?

Lisa: We take great pride in what we have created. Seeing the way that the success of our business benefits our family as a whole has been incredibly fulfilling. I also have the privilege of bringing my young daughter to work. I feel very proud that she will grow up in our school, getting to watch firsthand the hard work and leadership of her mother and grandmother.

There is nothing more important than family. I am so fortunate that I get to work every day with my daughter and watch my granddaughter grow and flourish at our school. To be able to be a part of their daily lives is beyond words.

What is something surprising that you’ve learned about working with family?

We are passionate about our business and are learning to be better about creating space for family time that does not evolve into talk about work. Our family members are proud and supportive of our business, but they do appreciate the opportunity for work-free conversation!

What is your advice for other family units who are thinking about working together?

Erin: Remember to take the time to recognize each other’s strengths and hard work. We make a point to show gratitude to our team and make sure they feel appreciated for all that they do. When we remember to do this with each other it is so impactful but can be easy to overlook in the pace of everyday work.

Lissa: We are fortunate to have a shared vision, similar work ethic and a passion for what we do.  We think those are key elements for success with anyone you partner with, but particularly with family.  I have four other children and each of then have their own unique strengths and skills but only Erin shares my passion for working with children and their families.


For more information on the Goddard School, click here.