An Intern’s View: Understanding What It Means To Be A Family Business
In 1969, Jim Whelan, the founder of Whelan Security, unexpectedly passed away. Taking a leap of faith, his nephew who is also my grandfather, Patrick Twardowski (Chairman), left the stability of his current job to assume a management position at the local contract security and patrol company to ensure the continuity of a modest income for his widowed aunt. My grandpa’s leap stemmed from his unwavering loyalty to his family and commitment to their values. He appreciated his uncle’s vision for a performance-based business with midwestern roots and continued to manage the company in accordance with that vision.
Although usually not as obvious nor as highlighted in the company’s narrative, decisions like my grandfather’s occur at Whelan Security every single day. Our security officers and senior leaders alike routinely take action under guidance from our family values. From the time the doors at our corporate office unlock to the moment an officer safely returns home from their shift, each encounter, each action, and each decision that our employees make serve to carry on the legacy of Jim Whelan’s vision and my grandfather’s leap of faith.
The chronicles of Whelan’s history are frequently told through legendary stories and grand moments like Jim Whelan’s humble beginnings as a taxi cab driver, my grandfather’s arrival and entrepreneurial drive, or my dad (Greg Twardowski) and uncle’s (Dan Twardowski’s) efforts that have led to the emergence of Whelan Security as one of the largest contract security organizations in the United States, but each of these stories from various family members alone are inconclusive to the entirety of Whelan’s history. These stories are not the causes of the company’s success, but rather the success of the Whelan organization is a result of the sum of everyday moments, both big and small, that have challenged our employees to adhere to our core values; and for almost seventy (70) years now, our employees have repeatedly answered that call, honoring the legacy of Whelan’s origins and contributing to the foundation upon which this company has been built and will continue to grow.
My grandfather’s arrival to the company in 1969 represented the first true milestone of a family business at Whelan Security, and the eventual succession of ownership from one family generation to the next. However, his assumption of ownership also shifted the name of the company away from its original owners, perhaps for the best. Although I have long thought to have been associated with a third-generation, family-owned business because of my last name, it wasn’t until my first day of work with Whelan this summer as an intern that I came to realize that my first day of employment was also my first official day as a member of this family business. Employment at Whelan this summer has taught me that in truth a family business has little to do with the concentration or succession of its legal ownership.
Whelan is regarded as a family business because of each employee’s contribution to our endearing company culture and commitment to our core values. As it is no longer affiliated with the original ownership, the name Whelan has come to represent the organization in its entirety, and thus every customer and employee of Whelan Security is a member of the family business and a significant part of a family business story that continues to unfold.
Thank you to everyone for welcoming me into your family, the Whelan Family, this summer and allowing me to serve on your teams. Most importantly, thank you for your commitment to the values of my dad (Greg Twardowski), my uncle (Dan Twardowski), my grandpa (Patrick Twardowski), and my great-great uncle and founder (Jim Whelan). I have been incredibly proud to have the opportunity to wear the Whelan uniform this summer. I look forward to the possibility of one day helping to carry-on the rich tradition of family values that are expressed everyday by an incredible team at Whelan Security; and I am humbled by the experience to be associated with so many of you. I have obviously heard a lot about the Whelan Way at home, but this summer I have had the opportunity to feel it and live it within the organization – working hard, doing the right thing, building trust-based relationships, protecting the brand, giving back, trying to make a difference, and certainly having fun!
About the Author: Luke Twardowski is a rising senior at Boston College and the son of Greg Twardowski, President & CEO. As the contract security industry continues to consolidate via mergers and acquisitions, Whelan Security is committed to remaining a multi-generational, family-owned business; and Luke represents the first of several family members from the fourth generation interested in eventually joining the business. Luke has been immersed in the business this summer as one of several interns. This article was written to be published in Values magazine, an annual publication created for the employees of the Whelan companies.