Michelle Fairchild, vice president of operations at Meredith Party Rentals in Toledo, Ohio, remembers her father, Gene Buckland, company president, had an interesting initial step to build her fortitude, adaptability and skill level so she could eventually take over running the family’s event rental operation.
When Fairchild was 21 years old and still in college, her father asked her to run a very small linen company because a friend of his had an ill husband and couldn’t take care of him and run the company at the same time.
“I look back and ask, ‘Did I sleep?’ I would work all day and go to school at night and then have to do homework, and in business school it is all group projects, which is exactly what I didn’t need. I got through it and did it,” she adds, still amazed that it made her more dedicated to the success of the company and her role in that.
This initial big ask offered invaluable lessons and instilled tremendous confidence. She learned what she was capable of, overcoming every obstacle to make it a success for herself, the linen company and her family’s rental operation.
From then on, the lessons were more gradual in nature and took place over a period of years.
|Left to right: Gene Buckland, Michelle Fairchild and her husband, Rob
y father would say, ‘Now I want you to do this part.’ ‘Now I want you to pay the bills,’ but I would still ask,” she says.
A few years later, she asked if she could purchase this or that. “My dad would say, ‘What are you asking me for? You know what we have and what our money is,’” she says with a laugh.
Fairchild says there was not a definite day the transition occurred. Rather, “it was a gradual thing of my dad giving me things with trust that I would do them. Through the years, he would look at it and make sure I was doing what I was supposed to do and we would make decisions together on purchasing and things like that,” she adds.
As the years have gone on, “the further we have gotten, the less I ask him and the less he needs to give me input. He says, ‘You figure it out. You do this every day,’” she says.
After the first big ask, which she passed with flying colors, “he approached it like how he did with us growing up — first taking baby steps and then telling me to ‘Figure it out, kid.’ I obviously still bounce things off him that I don’t feel super-comfortable with, but mostly he is now my sounding board and counselor I can call for advice as he moves to a more semi-retired role,” Fairchild says.