Cousins Scott Hillmuth and Bill Hillmuth armwrestle while their dads, brothers Doug Hillmuth (left) and Billy Hillmuth cheer them on at Hillmuth Automotive in Glenwood.

Cousins Scott Hillmuth and Bill Hillmuth armwrestle while their dads, brothers Doug Hillmuth (left) and Billy Hillmuth cheer them on at Hillmuth Automotive in Glenwood. (Sarah Pastrana, Patuxent Publishing / June 14, 2012)

Sons learn from their fathers. Whether it’s how to throw a ball, ride a bike, shave or tie a tie, the lessons fathers teach can last a lifetime.

But how do those lessons change when a son joins his father in business?

Howard Magazine talked with local father-son teams about how their relationships moved from the family circle to the daily grind, as well as what works — and what doesn’t — when it comes to working together.

The Hillmuth family


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At Hillmuth Certified Automotive, customers say staff members treat them like family.

But in 1978, when Doug Hillmuth, his wife, Eileen, and brother, Bill, opened the company’s first location in Columbia, little did they know just how familylike it would become.

The full service auto repair business grew quickly, opening its second location in Gaithersburg in 1986 and its third location in Clarksville in 1996. As the businesses grew, so did family involvement.

Doug Hillmuth’s son, Scott, officially joined the business in the early 1990s. Bill’s son, Billy, joined in 2002.
All four worked together in 2010 to open the business’s latest location in Glenwood.

Each Hillmuth has his own niche. Doug Hillmuth oversees the management and finances. Bill Hillmuth is in charge of operations. Scott Hillmuth oversees parts orders and helps manage the finances, while Billy is in charge of marketing and helps train service advisors and new staff members.

Working with family has its up and downs, especially when emotions are involved, Doug Hillmuth says.

“You know they’re going to be beside you, give you support and give you an honest opinion,” he says.

But if that opinion is one the others don’t agree with, all four have learned “not to take it personally,” Billy Hillmuth says.

“We all have our strengths, and we all have our weaknesses,” he says.

Lessons learned

Business is business, and family is family. Leave the business talk inside the business, and don’t take business decisions personally, the Hillmuths say.

The King family

Running a restaurant is hard work.

Just ask Bill and Eric King, the father-son duo and president and vice president, respectively, of the Shanty Grille in Ellicott City.

The hours are long, with maintaining customer service, overseeing staff schedules, keeping up the building and the ever-present paperwork. Yet when a business is family-owned like the Shanty Grille, the hours also include plowing snow off parking lots until the early morning, digging trenches at night to pull up disintegrating pipes and sleeping in the office to ensure it all gets done.

“You’re not punching a time clock,” says Bill King, who opened the restaurant — formerly known as the Crab Shanty — in 1978 with his father, Bill King, Jr.