Years ago, Lance Porter, second generation owner of All Weather Architectural Aluminum, told his four children, “If you can find a way to get along, together you can build something that will be worth much more than if we split it today.”
Lucky for Anna, Sarah, Seamus and Tom, they listened to their dad. After high school, the Porter kids ventured off to college and graduate school, earning degrees as varied as their personalities. Upon graduation, all four returned to Vacaville to lend their expertise to the family business, started by their grandfather. Anna majored in education at Boston College, is a natural leader (as the eldest usually is), and now serves as chairman of the board and the keeper of the most detailed product knowledge. Second oldest Sarah earned her MBA and is the self-proclaimed communicator of the family, managing various technological projects for the business. Seamus serves double duty at the company putting his engineering and law degrees to use by developing new products and assisting with litigation when it arises. Accountant Tom, the baby of the family, manages the finances for All Weather’s related businesses.
Now as equal co-owners of All Weather, a manufacturer of aluminum windows and doors for commercial and high-end residential, the siblings have had a successful transition because they have made it a priority to appreciate each other’s differences and specialties and the relevant perspectives they are able to bring to any conversation. They have realized that the things that drive them crazy are the very things that provide balance in the running of the business.
Three Generations of the Porter Family
The one thing they wish they had done differently? As Sarah says, “Through FBC, I’ve learned that requiring the next generation to work elsewhere, three to five years in a related company, before coming to the family business brings valuable experience and expertise. For the most part, my siblings and I did not do that and we have had to compensate. Although my kids and nieces and nephews are still quite young, we are already re-thinking how that next transition will go.”
Perhaps it is the family’s willingness to accept their limitations that has kept them on the path of success. After falling short of becoming a cohesive group and creating systems that didn’t leave one of them on the outskirts of a decision, they accepted an invitation to last year’s Generations Family Business Conference. They did so with a desire to learn, grow in their leadership and become inspired together. At the conference, much to their relief, many presenters affirmed their inkling – dynamics in a family business tend to be universal, no one has the answer to better governance, and the only way to make your way is to take guidance from those whom have gone before.
As a result, the family joined FBC and have since attended several forums and Affinity Group meetings, stepping up to host the next Women’s event and, at the next Family Business Forum, they will share their story of hiring a non-family president while they settle into their leadership roles. Addressing an issue they know many family business face, they understand that their potentially greatest contribution to the audience will be if they are willing to reveal some ‘skeletons’. “As much as I enjoy hearing the history of a business, it’s when a speaker gets to the nitty gritty, the meaty details, that the real learning happens,” acknowledged Anna.
This year, father Lance attended Generations with the foursome. “It was fascinating to be there with Dad. When you hear from other G1s and G2s, you see your own situation differently. And I think it was eye-opening for him to see what he could have done differently,” remarked Tom. “Coming from us, we would have sounded like ungracious kids. But coming from experts…,” added Sarah.
The kids still hang on every word Lance says, consulting with him on important matters and trying to glean as much insight from him as possible. That reverence for Lance’s ‘old school’ ways while moving forward with ‘new fangled’ technology such as ERP implementation, e-commerce and energy efficient products has buoyed All Weather into a time of growth and profit.
Said Seamus, “I’m proud to be keeping the legacy of my father and grandfather alive. I know Grandpa would be proud, and frankly surprised, that the four of us, especially my sisters, which wasn’t a possibility in his time, are working together to give homeowners peace of mind.”
Learn more about All Weather and their story of succession and collaboration at FBC’s Family Business Forum on April 17, 2018.