While organizations like The Family From Institute estimate that only 3 percent of family businesses survive into the fourth generation or beyond, brothers Mark and Josef Michuda take pride in not only defying those odds, but redefining what it means to build a lasting legacy.
The Frankfort residents own and operate Michuda Construction, a firm originally founded by their great-grandfather in 1919 that was passed down to their grandfather and father. Opposite of disbanding their family’s legacy, Mark and Josef moved into a brand new office in Tinley Park earlier this year to course their firm’s growing staff.
The duo also recently completed Orland Park’s Evergreen Senior Living, a senior housing facility and major project, complete with amenities, including a movie theater, cafe, fire pit and in-dining area with a bar. Though the brothers modernized their business’ operations to fit the needs of their own times, their origins continue to driver their work - or as Mark described it, “tradition powering innovation.”
“I used to just love walking to [construction] sites and meeting the guys in the field, and feeling proud because my dad, i could tell when he walked on to that job site they acted differently,” Mark said. “I could see things they were building and thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to be a part of this some day?’ That was definitely something from growing up that’s still in me today. I look at every job we do today and have the same excitement as I had when I was a kid.”
After Mark and Josef’s great-grandfather Leo Michuda Sr. moved form Czechoslovakia to the United States, her and his brothers originally worked as carpentry tradesman for the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago before they started the business, first called Michuda Brothers. The siblings quickly shifted their focus from carpentry to building schools a trend that lasted into the 1980’s for the firm.
Mark and Josef would later go on to reinvent the business themselves by expanding into healthcare construction, but they would not have been able to do so had their father not made a transition of his own first. Leo Michuda III went to The Juilliard School and planned to become a profession violinist before he chained course and entered his family’s firm, which had been renamed Leo Michuda and Son Co. by the time he entered.
Before Leo III was set to begin construction on his first project, the original Chicago Southland Lincoln Oasis, the superintendent of the project dies of a sudden heart as attack - leaving the young Leo entirely in charge, Mark said.
“He would look back and say, ‘That [project] showed me what I was made of,’” Mark said. “this, for him, was a defining moment, where he said, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything.’”
Leo III learned form his experience with the oasis by thrashing his own sons head first into their training. Mark remembered being in his mid 20s when Leo III gave him total control of a project that included building six prefabricated school structures.
Their hard work paid off as the years that followed their entry into the firm brought clients such as Navy Pier - the brothers renovated its east plisse and grand ballroom - Advocated Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and Parkview Christian Church. They continue to operate under the business’ third and so far final name.
Though their father died two years ago, the brothers still incorporate lessons from him and their predecessors, who Mark still remembers watching in their old office as they sat and discussed business together.
“[Leo Sr.] said, ‘I would would rather do it the right way and lose it all than do it the wrong way,’ and that is lesson that I think I’ve learned,” Mark said. “I think we say true to who we are and don’t compromise those values under any circumstance, and i think that’s why we’ve continued to be lesses for so many generations.
Mark and Josef’s focus on healthcare construction has invade more technical aspects than their paternal predecessors probably ever imagined. The firm specializes in occupied spaces and interiors, and the brothers needed to learn how to install operating rooms, MRIs and other necessities in the field.
They also expanded into new territory by not just constructing Evergreen Senior Living, but by becoming partners and developers in the business. Yet, they did not make the switch to healthcare only fro the opportunities and growth in the fired.
“Nothing to me gives us more satisfaction than families actually being healed by being cared for in an area that we’re involved with.” Mark said. “Joe and I love what we do, but certainly it’s go to the a cause that’s bigger than just yourself.”
Whether Mark and Josef’s own children - they each have three- will take up the family business as fifth-generation leaders - remains to be seen. Yet, one might imagine that Leo Sr., who forged his own path in America, would be proud of his great-grandsons for nurturing their children’s independence.
“[The business] served us well, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone, and if they want this town dreams, we don’t want them to feel the burden of ‘You have to do this because it’s always been done this way,’” Mark said. “We have made it very clear to them that ‘We want you to dream your own dreams.’ But if we could be here to help usher in the next generation, then that’s what we’re here for.”