My family’s company, Crane & Co., was founded in 1801 in Dalton, Massachusetts. It’s one of the oldest family companies in the country; ownership is now split between family and private equity shareholders.
Walk through the Crane Museum and into the archives and you will see a framed document written by Paul Revere, on Crane paper, during the American Revolution. Walk a little farther and you will see the sympathy acknowledgment card we printed for Jackie Kennedy after the death of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.
But despite all that family history, I never thought I’d end up working there. I lived in New York City, had a busy career in media and was so immersed in the daily news cycle that I never considered leaving it to join the family ranks.
And when my plans changed—when I came back to the company that's been part of my family for more than two centuries, to open a New York office and lead Crane’s digital business—I wanted to prove myself.
I pushed myself harder to show that I could lead the division in a new direction—not because of who I was, but because of my skills and experience. I wanted people to see me not as a Crane, but as another employee.
To be accepted and respected by my colleagues, I believed, I needed to be more capable than non-family members. This meant working harder, longer hours, late phone calls, frequent travel and weekends in the office. They weren't required by my managers or peers, but I required it of myself.
One of my cousins, a sixth-generation Crane, joined the company in the late 1950s. When he started he was taught that developing relationships with other employees was just as important as learning how to produce paper. That stuck with me. I spent time at headquarters in Dalton; I engaged people instead of waiting for them to approach me.
Here are a few other lessons I learned as I built my team and my position within the company.
To this day, one of my favorite things to do at work is to walk through the mills. I listen to the muffled thump of the engraving machine’s shifting gears as the operator helps create an exquisite engraved notecard on thick 100% cotton stock.
But as we continue to innovate in the digital space, I’m often reminded that we are no longer solely a paper company. As the vice president of our digital division, I’m focused on building our digital footprint.
Over the past year we’ve built a team in New York to create innovative types of digital products and services that give our customers new ways to connect with one another. It’s an exciting time for our company—now in its third century—and I’m honored to be part of it.
Less than a year into my time at Crane, a colleague called me, stunned and embarrassed, to say she’d just found out I was a Crane family member. I laughed and told her it was the best compliment I’d been given since joining the company.