Having grown his business from two people in a 10 by 10 space to now employing 180 people and growing, David Mason + Associates President and CEO David Mason says after years of doing quite well, he noticed when sitting with his bankers that at a certain point in his life, the bankers seemed to be wondering about his transition plan.

"Which I didn't really cue in on for a while until I realized, 'Oh, they think I'm getting older, and we got to figure out a transition plan here," Mason said at this year's St. Louis Smart Business Dealmakers Conference.

At that time, he says they'd grown to the size that they needed a business development department. So, he brought in his oldest son. He was then followed a few years later by his younger brother who he put in charge of a new division. During that process, his younger brother retired and was looking for something to do. So, he hired him for a communications role.

"And I will tell you that I'm having a ball doing it, though I know that when it comes to family businesses, that's not always the case," he says.

Though he didn't design the firm to have family members involved in it, the model has worked. For Mason, making it work starts by being demanding on the parenting side.

"And if you parent well, maybe you end up with a couple of kids, out of whatever size brood you've got, that have that entrepreneurial spirit, that understand that what you go through is not easy — which by the way, I will tell you both of my sons, it took them a few years," Mason says. "They walked in my office and they said, 'I don't know how you do it. This is tough.' I said, 'Yeah, this is tough. This is not easy. And you have to get up every day, put your shoulder to the wheel, and be willing to do that day after day after day.' And they're strong enough to have done that and to want to do that."

One of the first challenges he says he faced once family was involved in the day-to-day business was the employees who have been with him for many years at the leadership level suddenly had young family members interjected into the mix.

"There's always that thought, 'Oh, this is the boss's son. What are we going to do with this person?' And I had to talk to my son, and not to the employees. I had to challenge him to gain the respect of the employees," he says. "And that he would, both of them, would only gain that respect by working very, very hard, and by every day, just keep your head down, keep working hard, and the transition will occur. And I never had to have a conversation with an employee that said, 'Look, give him time, he's going to be OK,' because they exceeded my expectations. And they've got great leadership skills. And so now, it's gotten to the point where I have employees that I'll offer up my advice and they'll say, 'Well, no, no, no, no, we're going to talk to Taylor and Spencer because we don't need your advice anymore.' And, and I realized then that's kind of succeeded."

Among the benefits of having family in the business is the trust factor because he says they're working hard trying to not let him down. There's also the fun aspect.

"Now, as we all know, who are parents, your kids are not all the same," he says. "They bring different qualities. And those qualities tend to shine, and especially in the business world. And there are times when we sit in the conference room and the two brothers go at each other in an appropriate manner, and sometimes pops got to call a timeout. But I actually encourage those kinds of conversations because you have to have different points of view discussed around a table, and my employees have to understand that I am willing to not let my kids run wild in the business. The employees to see me challenging them and telling them that they're wrong and here's why I think they're wrong. And there's plenty of times when they look at me and say, 'Dad, you're wrong, too. And so here's what we got to do.' And sometimes, more often now than not, they're right."