2005 Family Business Magazine Playing together staying together
Playing together staying together Business families say vacations help build shareholder unity, even when business is left off the agenda.
By DEANNE STONE Family adventures
Mark Zoller knows firsthand how much good vacations can benefit families. E-le grew up in a family that turned their love of outdoor adventure into a family business. his father, Phillip, founded Zoller's Outdoor Odysseys, a rafting and fishing guide company in White Salmon, Wash., in 1974. The business was later divided into two companies, with son Tracy, 43, taking over the fishing business and Mark, 41, buying the rafting guide business when his father retired. This past year, Mark's 18-year old daughter, Rachel, became the third generation of the family to be licensed as a commercial white water guide. Her three younger sib lings also help out in the business. Long before he started Outdoor Odysseys, Philip took his tìnii1y on camping trips throughout the Pacific Northwest. A favorite trip was llama packing into Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, on the borders of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho. (Mark's family raises and trains llamas.) Two years ago, Mark and his two oldest children persuaded Philip to return with them to Hells Canyon. "My dad had been living the family's latest adventures through our eves, says Mark. "I wanted him to experience the incredible feeling of sitting on the rim of' Devil's Canyon again, this time with his grandchildren." Now 64 and not as fit as he once was, Phillip worked out for four months to get in shape for the climb into the canyon. It was a huge challenge," says Mark, "but he made it. It was special then, but it will be even more special 25 years from now when the kids look back on it." Mark and his brother, who grew up with an adventurous father, have a full storehouse of family vacation memories. Mark remembers sitting around many a campfire, his mother flipping pancakes and his father poking the fire with a stick and recounting his youthful adventures. Now Mark says his job as a dad is creating memories for his children. His family still laughs about ‘the road trip from hell," when they drove to Yellowstone National Park in ‘a junked-out Suburban" that broke down every hundred miles. "I was always jumping out to fix something while my wife and kids sat in the car praying," Mark recalls. The Zollers, who are busy leading rafting trips five months a year, take vacations in the winter, which they are able to do because they home-school their children. This past December, they went to South America for five weeks to visit Rachel, who is staying with an uncle while learning Spanish. Their adventures in the Amazon jungle paled next to getting caught up in civil un rest in Bolivia and having to dodge roadblocks to reach the airport, Taking a five-week trip was a major decision for the family. Mark worried about leaving the business for so long and what he'd face when he returned, in the end, family considerations outweighed business concerns. "Our kids are growing up fast and will probably move away from the small town where we live," he says, "so we feel an urgency to take family vacations now Entrepreneurial families work, work, work. Taking time out for a vacation shows kids that families have a life outside the business—and that the reward of hard work is play." Deanne Stone is a business writer based in Berkeley, Calif