Steve and Rachel Epley were featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s "My Job" series. Below is Rachel's interview with Laura French of the Star Tribune.
Rachel Epley’s father, Stephen Epley (above, with Rachel) started Epley Research & Consulting when she was 10 years old. “By the time I was 16 or 17, I was working in the office,” she recalled. “I had several jobs for him in high school and college — answering phones and compiling lists, stuffing envelopes. Through college, when I was home he put his cleaning service on hold, and I would be the cleaning service. One year he decided to let me paint the exterior of the entire building.” She eventually graduated to content editing and technical writing of research reports.
Meanwhile, Epley took a Master’s degree in trumpet performance. After that, she went on “a journey of exploration for six or seven years. I went back to get a master’s in music therapy and I practiced for about four years. I was a bleeding heart, working for nonprofits, doing music therapy in hospice settings,” she said. She started a nonprofit, then had to close it — “a painful experience,” she said. “I was tired of the emotional drama. My dad was lamenting the fact that he had more business than he could handle. I said, ‘Dad, I’m available.’”
The initial plan was for a summer, but, she said, “After just a couple months, we both realized how much I liked it, and he got me more involved in the thinking side. We decided to move forward with me taking on a management role and him moving into consulting, which is really exciting. How often do you get to learn from the president of the company, being taught everything they know, being given their entire legacy?”
It is best to spend some time away before going into the family business?
I have cousins who are farmers. They seem perfectly happy, embedded in that culture. For me, when I left high school, I went out of state because I wanted to be away. I moved to New York City, Alaska, California — I wanted to be independent. I would have felt stifled and like I had never experienced life.
What are the challenges?
We have two relationships: father/daughter and colleagues. People get stressed out at work. Once we were hitting a deadline, and I was becoming task-mastery. He assumed I was in a bad mood and was being difficult to work with. We were making all sorts of assumptions. He was sort of being my boss but also being my dad — I was more hurt than if a boss told me. We both learned from it quickly. We excel at being deferential.
What’s been the biggest challenge of moving into the successor role?
A big part of my career path has been following my heart — working toward a higher intention. It’s been challenging working for my dad, resolving that this was his idea first and it’s not as deeply rooted in my worldview. I think that’s actually helpful and will contribute to longevity. The fact that it’s my dad helps — it adds meaning and importance. But there’s that element of “I can’t own it — it’s my dad’s. I’m just taking it over.”
What helped you decide to commit to the successor role?
He promised me that if I didn’t have the skills or knowledge, he would tell me. He wouldn’t be disappointed. He wouldn’t push me into the role if I didn’t have what it took.