One of the elements of our family business about which we are most proud is our four-generation commitment to public service and investing in the communities in which we live and work. Our company founder, and my great-grandfather, Max Grossman, was an immigrant from Eastern Europe who left school at age 8 to help support his family. He said that, as a young man, he set out to do four things with his life:
He never wanted his kids to forget the community in which they lived, because to have healthy communities, he said, you had “to invest back in them.”
The day the United States entered World War II, Max left what was then Massachusetts Envelope Company to serve his country in Washington, DC. He made the difficult decision to leave his growing business and serve President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a "Dollar-a-year man" in the Office of Price Administration.
He left the company in the capable hands of his business partners -- his two sons, Edgar and Jerome -- and never looked back. Thus began his second professional life as a public servant. Please click here to view the letter our company sent on December 8, 1941.
I joined the company in 2006, as the second member of the fourth generation in the business, and my father, Steve Grossman, who had been deeply active in the community since before I was born, was compelled to run for Treasurer and Receiver-General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2010, thinking he could bring his common-sense business skills to help Massachusetts grapple with the financial crisis. He told my brother and me that he was only enabled to run because he felt confident that we could run the business effectively. He was elected in November 2010 with a strong bipartisan majority. During his transition, David and I came across the 1941 letter, and felt chills seeing, to paraphrase Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, “history rhyme.” We decided to send our own letter to our clients, suppliers, and friends, announcing our father’s departure from the company. To reinforce the generational continuity and tie the story together, we included a copy of the letter announcing his grandfather’s departure 70 years earlier.
Here’s a snippet from our letter:
“Over the last seventy years and four generations, our family and colleagues have worked hard to serve the needs of our clients, friends, families, and communities, both locally and nationally. We are proud to announce that our father, Steve, who has been the President of Massachusetts Envelope Company and Grossman Marketing Group for over 35 years, was sworn in last Wednesday as the Treasurer and Receiver-General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts…As Max Grossman did seventy years ago, our father is leaving the company in our hands -- those of his two sons. We pledge to you as brothers and partners that we will continue to service your needs as we have for over 100 years, while doing our part for our community, both locally and nationally.”
As a side note, reflecting on my grandfather’s service in the Roosevelt administration, it’s fitting that a quote my father has often used as a guiding light for his work in public service is this one from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 2nd Inaugural Address:
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." -- FDR, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937
Business isn’t just about profit. Companies are powerful tools to effect change in their communities. My brother and I have a lot to live up to, and we’re fortunate to have such powerful guidepost examples in our lives.
I had a blast chatting recently with Mike Boyd on his Business of Family podcast. Here are some highlights.