Heirloom or asset? Multiple generations of family business owners navigate from past to future

In 1936, Harry Allen Mapes started H.A. Mapes Inc. in Springvale to deliver heating oil.

His son, Harry “Allen” Mapes Jr., entered the business in 1950 and expanded the company’s reach further into southern Maine.

In 1982, Allen’s son Jonathan formally joined the company and built the fuel distribution division. Following suit, Jonathan’s daughter, Saunya Mapes Urban, started in 2015 and today is general manager.

“It’s like a jacket you never take off,” Jonathan Mapes, the company’s president and CEO, says of the multigenerational nature of the business. “It’s a sense of security, pride, respect and identity.”

Sense of pride is a common thread with multigenerational firms. There’s a strong feeling of having a special role in the community. Today’s customer might well be the grandchild of the customer the company’s founder served. There are also considerations specific to a multigenerational…

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