Celebrating Father’s Day with Tips for Successful Family-Owned Businesses

Old family photo showing Robert Politi smiling and carving a pumpkin while his son Nick watches on

This Father’s Day we’re celebrating not only the bond between dads and their children, but also the lessons they teach us and the knowledge they share that shape us as adults. That’s particularly true in family-owned businesses like ours. As the only father-son real estate company in the Adirondacks, Roby Politi and Nick Politi have learned their own lessons navigating business and family together and share some of their tips for success.

The History of Merrill L. Thomas Real Estate

Although the company began in 1943, it was in 1983 that Merrill L. Thomas was purchased by Roby Politi. Over the last 35 years under his guidance, it has become the number one producing real estate firm in the Adirondack region and has grown from five to 25 agents with Roby’s son, Nick Polti, one of its most successful. He was the number one ranked agent in the Adirondack Park with $49,000,000+ in real estate sales in 2020 and over $80,000,000 in 2 years.

Tips for Family-Owned Businesses

Per the Conway Center for Family Business, these companies account for 64 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and generate 62 percent of the country’s employment. In fact, approximately 35 percent of Fortune 500 companies are family owned. Some of the biggest names include Wal-Mart, BMW, Tyson and Ford. But that doesn’t necessarily mean working with family is easy or that it ensures success. In some ways, it can be even harder. These tips have helped the Politi’s:

Be willing to learn

Nick states his father was instrumental in helping him learn the real estate business with over 40 years of experience. Not only that, Roby is actually a Lake Placid native so you won’t find many people who know the ADKS better than he does.


Make open, regular communication essential not just between family members, but the entire staff as well and if there are any issues, tackle them immediately. It’s important the environment isn’t us (staff) versus them (family) so be transparent and take the ideas, concerns and the value of the whole team equally.

Set Boundaries

Sometimes being family can blur the lines, but that can lead to chaos if left unchecked. It’s important to clearly define roles and reporting structure. For example, Roby is not only a hands-on owner, but also the principal broker for Merrill L. Thomas. Nick is, of course, a broker as well but he focuses on the promotional aspects of the business.

Recruit from outside

Your family is likely full of talented people but not all of them have the skillset or the interest in the family business. For us, there was simply no reason to limit the business to family when there’s such a vast talent pool in the area. Many on our sales team have been in real estate for 10+ years and some longer than 20 with skillsets in all different areas of real estate from financing to negotiations to closings.

Look to the future

The longevity of any business depends on the willingness of its leadership to evolve. While this can be hard in a family business where tenure tends to be longer, it’s just as important. One example of that at Merrill L. Thomas has been how we’ve embraced digital marketing. It’s not only helped us grow tremendously over the last decade, it’s helped us to stay on the cutting edge of the real estate market. Clients interested in buying or renting in the Adirondacks are thrilled to be able to step inside our listings from anywhere in the world through our 3D tours and videography.

For more information on Adirondack real estate and Lake Placid vacation rentals, contact our expert team at Merrill L. Thomas, Inc today!

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Lake Placid, Lifestyle, Meet the Team