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Don’t Be Afraid of Family Business

By Star Hughes

Fights. Families torn apart over money. Shop talk at the dinner table. Tension. These can all be found in one extreme of the typical family business – but it’s definitely not the case in all. Family businesses have typically had a bad reputation – but my story, and countless others, prove that they can be much stronger – and even much more stable – than traditional businesses.

Star Hughes, Director, Hughes Marino, Inc.

Star Hughes, Director, Hughes Marino, Inc.

So the question is, what makes some family businesses so much stronger than others? What sets them apart?

In my experience, it is the same as what sets successful individuals apart from the rest of the pack. It takes a shared passion, where all parties are equally involved and entrenched in the business. It takes honesty, integrity, and complete transparency. It takes trust. And it takes an unparalleled work ethic.

At Hughes Marino, four of our five family members work together as a team. My dad is president and CEO. My mom is COO. My brother and I are brokers. Of course, my youngest brother (still in high school) has no interest in real estate whatsoever – but that can change! As a whole, we are 30 people strong – there just happens to be a corner in the office completely occupied by Hugheses.

I have been asked for years if I like working with my family…and the truth is that I love it. There is so much trust and love in our office – and I have those who have my best interests at heart (and are the best teachers I can imagine) training me. We have two married couples in the office, a set of twins, several parents and their children, and my family and I. It’s one big happy family – and so far it’s worked flawlessly.

It didn’t become flawless – and definitely wouldn’t have stayed flawless – if we didn’t make a few ground rules for working as a family.

1. Overcommunicate.

Communication is the key to everything – especially in situations where your emotions and relationships are on the line. There is a lot at stake in working with your family, and it’s easy to take things personally. At Hughes Marino, we encourage everyone to overcommunicate; if there is ever a question or a doubt, ask. Talking about it won’t hurt anything. It eliminates the possibility of letting an issue fester, or worse yet doing something that could potentially harm the team.

We also consistently ask each other, “What can I do to best support you?” We’re lucky at Hughes Marino in that quarterly, my parents invite a motivational speaker and coach to our office to teach us how to more effectively communicate (both written and verbal), how to more effectively work as a team, how to incorporate balance into our lives, etc. One of our firm’s coaches, Mike Robbins (a coach for Google, and countless other greatly admired companies), proposed the importance of this short, sweet, but incredibly important question. If we are constantly asking one another what we can do better to support them, we are much more aware of each other’s wants and needs. And knowing this, we can work infinitely stronger as a team.

2. Keep Work Talk at Work.

One area that I struggled with when I first joined the family business was downtime. It did not exist. Our family loves work – and as a result, we love to talk about it. There were times when we would wake up and talk about deals over breakfast… then work all day…then come home and talk shop over dinner…then move to the couch to “watch” Maria Bartiromo while talking more about work. It’s no surprise that I woke up dozens of times each night in a panic to check emails and write down to-dos to remember in the morning. Finally, after dozing off again, I would dream about work. I realized how important it is to turn off work mode and relax; it’s healthy to have downtime. Now, instead of watching Maria Bartiromo while talking shop, I sit glued to the TV through the Bachelor, Hart of Dixie, Fashion Star, and as many other chick flick TV shows I can fit in my “downtime” schedule. And you know what? It’s had a big impact on my happiness, and my inner peace. Who would have thought a show like the Bachelor can do that for a girl…

3. Trust Each Other, and Let Others Be Accountable. Delegate!

One of the reasons that I believe family businesses can be even more stable than traditional businesses, when executed right, is trust. We know each other better than anyone – we know each other’s expectations and preferences, from the big picture values to the minutia such as favorite fonts and colors. We’re able to execute to each other’s preferences without having to ask the tough questions.

According to the Engagement Survey Best Practices by The Gallup Organization, team members that “have a best friend at work” are more likely to be engaged, happy, and productive at work. I’m just lucky that they happen to be my family, too.

This article originally appeared in SD Metro Magazine.

Star Hughes is a director at Hughes Marino, a Southern California commercial real estate firm specializing in tenant representation and building purchases. Based in San Diego, Star is a key member of Hughes Marino’s downtown brokerage team, where she has worked on more than one million square feet of lease negotiations. She makes frequent media appearances to speak on business issues from a millennial perspective, and blogs about life as a woman in a male-dominated industry at Contact Star at (619) 238-2111, or

One Response to Don’t Be Afraid of Family Business

  1. Juan Soriano said on

    GREAT article Star Hughes.(Don’t be afraid of Family business)

    I share your article with my two kids that work with me and just hit home.

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Star Hughes

star hughes headshot Star Hughes is a director at Hughes Marino, the largest tenant representation company in San Diego. A San Diego native, Star specializes in downtown San Diego real estate. Star earned her Masters of Business Administration at University of San Diego, where she was the first and youngest full-time MBA student to complete the two-year program in one year, at the age of twenty-one. Star graduated from University of San Diego with her Bachelor of Business Administration at the age of nineteen after completing her undergraduate degree in two years with a 4.0 overall GPA and highest academic average in the graduating class.

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Jason Hughes

jason hughes headshot Jason Hughes is president and CEO of Hughes Marino, as well as a featured columnist for the San Diego Business Journal and past columnist for the San Diego Daily Transcript. Jason has written well over 100 articles, is a real estate resource for the Wall Street Journal, and has been profiled in the San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego Business Journal, San Diego Daily Transcript, San Diego Metro, Smart Business San Diego, California Real Estate Journal, and Western Real Estate Business.

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David Marino

david marino headshot David Marino is executive vice president of Hughes Marino, as well as a monthly columnist for the San Diego Metro. Specializing in high-value, time-critical and complex transactions for technology, life science, and business service companies, David has been featured in the San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego Business Journal, Smart Business San Diego, and Western Real Estate Journal.

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Nik Bandak

nik bandak headshot Nik Bandak is project manager for Hughes Marino CM. Nik earned a degree in Financial Services from Saint Mary’s College of California where he graduated with honors. As a project engineer, Nik is knowledgeable in estimating, documentation control, construction scheduling and processes, contract administration, and financial analysis. Prior to joining Hughes Marino, Nik worked for Bechtel International on the Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone in Taweelah, United Arab Emirates, where he monitored and oversaw the daily construction activities and progress of 5,000 field workers in 53 buildings within the Industrial Zone borders.

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Dave Bates

dave bates headshot Dave Bates, Vice President of Hughes Marino CM, has more than 20 years of construction and project management experience in San Diego. He has overseen the construction of several million square feet of projects ranging from typical office space and specialty tenant improvement projects to large-scale new building construction. Dave is LEED accredited and OSHA 30 qualified, and has been named one of San Diego's top project managers several times over the course of his career.

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Robert Bello

robert bello headshot Robert Bello, general counsel for Hughes Marino, is a member of the State bar of California, the Association of Corporate Counsel, and the San Diego County Bar Association. Robert holds degrees in economics and political science from Northwestern University, an M.B.A. from San Diego State University, a J.D. from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and is also on the Board of Directors for the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Alumni Association.

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Travis Carter

travis carter headshot Travis Carter, a San Diego native, serves as vice president of Hughes Marino. A licensed real estate broker, Travis specializes in representing legal and accounting firms throughout the UTC, Del Mar Heights, Mission Valley and Downtown markets. Travis, a graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University, was honored as one of SD Metro's 40 under 40 recipients in 2011.

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Brendan Foote

brendan foote headshot Brendan Foote is senior vice president of Tax Credit Services for Hughes Marino, which focuses on securing tax refunds and savings for California businesses who are eligible for various economic development programs. With an expertise in such programs as the California Enterprise Zone Program, the Federal Empowerment Zone Program and the LAMBRA Program, Brendan and his team generate substantial tax savings for businesses located in these incentive zones. Brendan is an active member of the Downtown San Diego Partnership and a board member of the East Village Association.

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Heather Fox

heather fox headshot Heather Fox is Controller at Hughes Marino. Heather earned a degree in Accounting from University of Phoenix. As controller, Heather is responsible for accounts receivable and accounts payable, and works closely with the director of finance in all aspects of the firm’s accounting and finances. Prior to joining Hughes Marino, Heather was a senior staff accountant at a public tax and accounting firm for ten years. Heather also assisted with corporate and non-profit compilations, reviews and audits.

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Kirt Gilliland

kirt gilliland headshot Kirt Gilliland, division president of Hughes Marino CM, has over 25 years of construction and project management experience in San Diego, having managed over 6 million square feet of projects valued in excess of $400 million. Among the most notable projects are a 23 story, $70 million affordable housing project at 10th and B Street, and the nationally-recognized, award-winning 45,000 square foot New Children’s Museum.

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Scot Ginsburg

scot ginsburg headshot Scot Ginsburg has been solely focused on exclusively representing tenants and occupiers of commercial space throughout his career. With over 8,000,000 square feet of experience, Scot specializes in high-tech, life science, business service, research and development, and other growth-oriented companies. Scot is a guest columnist for California Real Estate Journal and the San Diego Daily Transcript.

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Steven Gorup

steven gorup headshot Steven Gorup is project manager/LEED AP BD+C for Hughes Marino CM, which is essential for green-building technology implementation. In 2009, Steven obtained the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certificate, a strategy designed to improve quality while simultaneously eliminating cost and administrative excess. Prior to serving as a project engineer on University of San Diego’s LEED Silver-certified, award-winning Student Life Pavilion, Steven earned a degree in Construction Science and Management from Kansas State University.

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Shay Hughes

shay hughes headshot Shay Hughes, chief operating officer, plays a key role in all aspects of the organization, including internal operations, marketing, business strategy, and end-to-end management. A San Diego native, her versatile skills range from designing Hughes Marino’s corporate headquarters, managing the day-to-day operations of the firm, and a strong understanding of the local marketplace and client needs.

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Tucker Hughes

tucker hughes headshot Tucker Hughes is a director at Hughes Marino where he specializes in tenant representation throughout San Diego. A native San Diegan, Tucker is a member of one of the most experienced and respected commercial real estate teams in San Diego, contributing to his ability to provide the best service to his clients. Tucker graduated from the University of San Diego magna cum laude with his Bachelor of Business Administration and is currently pursuing his Master of Science in Real Estate also from the University of San Diego.

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John Jarvis

john jarvis headshot John Jarvis is senior vice president of Hughes Marino, a past contributor to Smart Business San Diego, and a leader in countless local charitable, professional and civic organizations. A member of Biocom, International Facility Management Association, and Corporate Finance Council, as well as a graduate of LEAD San Diego, John has earned the trust of a loyal clientele by consistently providing thoughtful and creative solutions on high value real estate projects.

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Craig Knox

craig knox headshot Craig Knox is senior vice president of Hughes Marino, where he is an insightful advisor and aggressive advocate for tenants, especially those in the life sciences and technology sectors where his technical background is a key asset. A graduate of Stanford’s M.B.A. and Master of Engineering programs, Craig serves as a board member of the San Diego Venture Group, a chair of CommNexus’ Capital Markets Committee, and is in charge of real estate for the EvoNexus start-up incubator.

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Ashley Lewis

ashley lewis headshot Ashley Lewis, director of marketing, is responsible for brand development and marketing strategy for Hughes Marino. As a graphic designer she creates original marketing pieces and advertisements, in addition to writing for the Hughes Marino blog. Prior to joining Hughes Marino, Ashley ran her own graphic design business, specializing in brand identity, print design, web design and illustration. In a previous life, Ashley was an engineer and naval officer who served on San Diego based ships USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and USS Jarrett (FFG-33).

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Ed Muna

ed muna headshot Ed Muna is senior vice president of Lease Audit Services, providing tenants with a resource to review and audit their landlord charges, ensuring fairness and proper billing by landlords for operating expenses, CAM charges, and property tax expenses. A twenty year veteran of San Diego’s commercial real estate industry, Ed brings a unique perspective having worked as an owner’s representative, asset manager, and property manager in the development, leasing, management and operations of several million square feet. He is currently involved in the Downtown San Diego Partnership and North County Chamber of Commerce.

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Dean Petersen

dean petersen headshot Dean Petersen, senior vice president and LEED AP, has been responsible for the management of over 5 million square feet of construction valued in excess of $225 million throughout his 30 years of construction and project management experience. Having directed a wide range of projects, from ground up historical building remodels, multi-million dollar tenant improvement projects, award-winning residential work/live highrises, hospital facilities, airport terminals and universities, Dean brings a strong knowledge of project cost estimating and control, scheduling, quality control, contract administration, and construction means and methods to his clients.

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Shane Poppen

shane poppen headshot Shane Poppen is a native Southern Californian who specializes in tenant representation in the suburban markets of San Diego County, partnering with companies to make the most of their real estate decisions. His experience includes site selection, strategic planning and needs assessment, financial analysis, negotiation and transaction structuring for lease renewals, relocations and renegotiations. Shane brings persistence, a strong work ethic, dependability, and a results-driven attitude to the Hughes Marino team.

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JP Roach

jp roach headshot JP Roach, Vice President, Healthcare Practice Group, is a licensed California real estate broker, as well as member of the State Bar of California, the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, and the San Diego County Bar Association. A San Diego native, JP combines his business and legal background to produce a unique and effective form of zealous advocacy for his clients. JP’s practice, which is focused on the medical and legal sectors in San Diego County, is a natural extension of his background as an attorney. JP holds an MBA from Point Loma Nazarene University and a JD from Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

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