Text by Cheryl Dieter | Photos by Aimee Sa
ver the years, the father-son dynamic has been explored in some of Hollywood’s most memorable movies. From It’s a Wonderful Life to The Pursuit of Happyness, the angst, the joy and the complexities that surround fathers and their sons find their way on to the
big screen and the hearts of millions.
Admittedly, following in a father’s footsteps can bring challenges. Yet for these father-son Central Valley businessmen, forging a productive working relationship between the generations while maintaining a deep respect and preserving positive family dynamics has been the key to their success.
Rudy, Nate and Josh Witschi
For Rudy Witschi, founder of Witschi Construction, a contracting company specializing in custom homes, having sons Nate and Josh join him in the business is a “dream come true.” Rudy, an emigrant from Switzerland, admits that when starting his own business more than 30 years ago, he had no thoughts of his children joining him in the office someday. However, he also involved his sons in the business at an early age, hoping that they could learn important life skills that would come in handy later in their lives.
“I put no pressure on them to look in this direction and encouraged them to find their own path,” Rudy said. “Yet I introduced them to construction because I wanted them to have an appreciation for the people we work with in our industry, both clients and construction workers, so that they could understand the importance of building relationships in whatever they chose to do.”
For Rudy, having his sons observe positive lifelong business relationships that often turned into personal ones was one way of teaching his boys that everyone deserves respect, that good communication is vital if relationships are to flourish, and that honesty with oneself and with those that you are dealing with is important in both your work and private lives.
For Nate, who joined the company 11 years ago, seeing his father’s lifelong dedication to changing the image of the building industry and putting people first made him strive
to be a better man as well as an ethical businessman.
“Growing up, I looked up to my dad and looked at him as a role model. So now, working alongside him and making sure that I make him proud means a lot to me personally,” Nate said. “Even more important is that even though we work together, we still have an amazing father-son relationship and that is the most important thing. Even though being in a family business isn’t always easy, it is certainly worth it.”
Younger son Josh joined the business a year and a half ago after working in the Bay Area for several years. For Josh, having the opportunity to learn on a daily basis from his father has given him an opportunity to broaden his knowledge of the industry and a greater sense of who his father is as a businessman.
“Every project, whether it is a new house or a growing business, is exciting to us as well as our clients. My dad’s considerable experience in the field has taught me the importance of hard work. My dad is not afraid of putting in long days when it is required, and his work ethic is what I have tried to instill in myself,” said Josh.
While Rudy is proud of the craftsmanship found in the homes he has built and remodeled, another source of satisfaction comes from being involved in missionary trips to Mexico. Whether restoring parts of an orphanage or building structures that will benefit a small community, giving back through construction brings a deeper meaning to his life and a different sense of appreciation for his trade, his clients and his family.
Ron and Micah McCrillis
For father-son duo Ron and Micah McCrillis, designing, printing and delivering a variety of products from T-shirts, caps, activewear, workwear, banners, stickers and wrapping cars is a shared passion, and quality is the name of the game.
After spending several years as a building contractor, Ron decided to take the plunge and invest in a faltering screen-printing business and turned it into a large flourishing enterprise (Axiom Graphics) by increasing the variety of products offered, concentrating on providing exciting new graphic designs and providing excellent customer service. And after almost 25 years in business, the company continues to expand.
As Ron recalls, the initial learning curve was steep. “My knowledge centered around construction, and reading blueprints was the only thing I knew about design. I always loved art and design, and I knew that I wanted a career which would utilize my passion for both. So, in the beginning, I read everything I could get my hands on to learn about art, design and how to apply the software that would bring my work to life. I became consumed with learning all that I could about the industry.
“Let’s face it, if you can’t create something attractive for a client, you won’t have a sale, and that is the way it has been forever. Now, as computerization gets even more sophisticated, I find I am still enhancing my skills so that I can meet our clients’ needs.”
While all three of Ron’s kids spent summers working for their dad cleaning screens and printing T-shirts, it was son Micah who joined forces with his father to launch his own business that, while separate and distinct, still overlaps so that the work flows freely from one enterprise to the other.
“I always wanted to do my own thing, but was inspired by my dad’s hard work and common sense to start my own company, which specializes in signage, banners and vehicle wraps,” Micah said.
As Micah explained, vehicle wraps use vinyl cutout designs to wrap cars with slogans and slick advertising designs. It can also be used indoors as in the beach scene that Sierra View MRI employs to relax patients as they undergo various procedures.
While this father and son in the early days butted heads a bit, both have come to appreciate the talents each brings to their respective businesses, and they often send customers each other’s way as well as collaborate on projects. One of the things that this father-son team is most proud of is producing the signage for the Military Banner program seen in downtown Porterville.
“My dad passed away in 2019 at 101 years of age, and he was the oldest living veteran in Porterville,” Ron said. “I think one of the high points in our working together was creating his banner and honoring my dad and Micah’s grandfather in that way.”
While both businesses stress the father-son relationship, it is interesting to note that the entire family has worked together, with both wives heavily involved in day-to-day operations. Appreciation for all that each person contributes to their respective organizations and the team effort that a family can bring to the table brings pride and a special knowledge of each partner as they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Perhaps Rudy stated it best when he said, “The complexity, richness and satisfaction that comes from working with your sons on a day-to-day basis is immense. Seeing them grow from young men into professionals brings a father a certain joy that cannot be found in any other way. I love working with my boys, and there is nothing that I would rather be doing.”