GENERATIONS is in the books!

Mission accomplished!  The second year of Generations, with increased attendance, a bevy of prospective members, formidable sponsors and an impressive roster of presenters, exceeded all expectations.  View the event photos here.  Most importantly, our attendees’ feedback on our post-event surveys yielded positive comments:

 

For my business, this is the best way to meet family businesses in Sacramento and hear their stories.  In regards to planning for retirement, death, divorce, disability – all critical components to family businesses – this is the place for businesses to get the information they need.

Doug Van Order, Tier One Financial

 

It’s a great opportunity to meet the region’s business owners, by and large this area is filled with very successful family-owned businesses.  Networking, building relationships, it’s invaluable.

James Robertson, Downey Brand

 

The caliber of the attendees is almost as impressive as the speakers.  I just really enjoy the people I’m sitting next to as well as the excellent speakers.

Jeanne Bernick, KCOE Isom

Please mark your calendars now for the 3rd Annual Generations Family Business Conference scheduled for February 11 and 12, 2019.  Registration will open Summer 2018.

WELCOME TO OUR NEW MEMBERS – Q1 2018

Our organization is only as strong as our membership.  We thank these family businesses for joining our efforts as new family business members and look forward to working on their behalf!

Succession Planning: Van Vleck Ranch and its Future

The Van Vleck family on the ranch
Photo: Brian Baer

The irony of the situation is not lost on Stan Van Vleck, president of Van Vleck Ranch in Rancho Murieta, just east of Sacramento.  One of the issues that they had hoped to address by joining the effort to form Family Business Center is the very thing that almost cost the Van Vleck family its business.

In 2000, Stan’s father was unexpectedly killed in an accident on the family’s property, leaving the family without its patriarch and the business without a leader.  Stan Sr. had been the fourth generation at the helm of Van Vleck Ranch, a leading sustainable producer of high-quality Angus and Wagyu beef served at such notable establishments as The French Laundry, but had not yet determined a final succession plan in the event of this death, which came too soon.

In 2005, understanding the need for family businesses to have a dedicated resource from where to learn about estate planning, taxes, engaging the next generation and succession, the Van Vlecks were one of the founding families of FBC.   They knew all too well the importance of having a good succession plan because, with the passing of Stan Sr. five years before, they were still battling to keep their business alive.

The next generation was left to pick up the pieces and battle through establishing a new leadership model at the company, most of which left the business in shambles and the family fragmented and communicating around non-disclosure agreements.  Stan, having since bought out his family members, will recount his journey, how he was able to take their generic beef to an ultra-premium product, and how he plans to reorganize the business to improve its chance for his children, who are set to succeed him, at FBC’s next Family Business Forum on April 17.

“One of the most valuable things I’ve learned to do through FBC is to have a good succession plan and to communicate well within the family.  I also have grown to appreciate that it’s much less painful to learn from the mistakes of others.  This is the time to share our experiences, including mistakes, to hopefully help FBC members avoid the serious challenges we faced,” commented Van Vleck.

At the event, Van Vleck will review the major turning points along his path to rebuilding, including growing the business tenfold, and advise on best practices to reinvent, diversify, or even transition, if that becomes necessary, your business.

Van Vleck acknowledges that conducting business in California can sometimes be economically challenging, especially for those like his that are operating off of California’s higher costs but selling at average national prices, which is why he urges FBC members to work towards changing rules that impede business.

To him, the toughest part of running a family business is actually keeping the business in the family.  He feels a responsibility to leave a company that has the potential for long-term success in an industry that is exciting and attractive to his children, Tori and Christian.  “Although it is the hardest aspect, it is also the most important.  Almost all of my energy right now is focused on that.”

He stresses the importance of the next generation, no matter the business, doing what they are passionate about.  That requires communication, emotional and psychological honesty, flexible thinking and a willingness to accept an outcome that may differ from your ideal. “Once you clarify that yourself, it becomes pretty easy to see the right decisions to make.”

In times of frustration, Van Vleck need look no further than the covered wagon that rests on the family ranch.  To him, it serves as a reminder of the work ethic, prudence, sacrifice, and desire to create something significant that drove his Dutch ancestors west from Wisconsin over 160 years ago.  As he prepares the sixth generation to take the reins of the evolving company, he knows he will be comforted by the work the family had done to establish an achievable succession plan.

To learn more about Van Vleck Ranch and the family’s story of succession and reinvention, attend FBC’s Family Business Forum on April 17, 2018.

All Weather Architectural Aluminum Continues Legacy into the Third Generation

All Weather Architectural AluminumYears 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.

Sponsor Member GNT Solutions Eases the Technology Shift

Most people will agree that technology has and continues to revolutionize the business world, making companies of all sizes and in all industries and sectors more efficient.  But family businesses often comprise multiple generations with differing perspectives and concerns which can put technology at the bottom of a long list of financial priorities.

For GNT Solutions’ Eric Johnson, easing the fears of older business leaders while balancing the goals of incoming generations is a common feat for the IT company.  “While generational differences can be stereotypical, they can also be true to life with some of our clients,” commented Johnson.  He finds that the older generation is sometimes more trusting when it comes to electronic communication.  In fact, a 75-year-old GNT client received an email purportedly coming from an international vendor instructing him to make future payments to a ‘new’ bank account.  Without verifying the request, he sent $50,000 to the fraudulent account with no hope of ever recovering the money. There are no technical systems that can prevent 100% of these types of requests from reaching their intended recipient; the only hope is to have employees trained for how to respond.

Conversely, Johnson’s younger clients tend to be more impulsive and quicker to act.  Upon receipt of an email requesting a response to a survey, a 25-year-old clicks the attachment that turns out to be ransomware that encrypts every single file that employee has access to on the company’s server.  What are her options?  Either pay the ransom and trust the hacker to return access to the files or rely on a sound IT unit to restore the backup.

The reality is that any company with employees and computers is at risk of a breach.  Which is why it is important to understand generational biases to make appropriate decisions and set proper security measures in place.

“We have seen situations where more senior members of an organization are resistant to technological change and comfortable with doing things the way they have always done them.  At the end of their careers, they are less interested in making a major financial investment and opt to maintain the status quo.  We find the younger generations to be very much pro technology.  Sometimes to a fault,” continued Johnson.

When senior leaders tend to underinvest in technology and up-and-comers are willing to overinvest to be on the bleeding edge, Johnson finds that, like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle.  As a managed IT service provider for small and midsize businesses, Johnson and the team at GNT Solutions are experts at finding appropriate solutions for their clients.

If leadership is collectively on board with making some technological advances in infrastructure, Johnson advises a ‘blue sky’ meeting between the IT and operations teams to determine a starting point.  Rather than from a perspective of cost, start with assessing needs by asking questions such as:

  • How can technology make my business better and more efficient?
  • Day to day, what are our ‘pain points’?
  • How much data do we need to protect?  And for how long?
  • If something happens, how long can we afford to be without our systems? And how much data can we afford to lose? (e.g., one hour, one day, one week?)

If information security is the priority, trained and alert employees are a valuable information security ‘layer’ protecting your company.  “You can establish as many electronic policies as you like, but they’re absolutely no good if not trained and tested on,” advised Johnson.  Start with educating employees on the latest scams and tactics, then testing them with emails that contain suspicious or tempting content

When considering your business’ next technological step, be sure to understand the risks:

  • Financial – Monetary transfers including wires and ACH all have inherent risk and can lead to financial loss.
  • Operational – If your files become completely inaccessible because of ransomware, your business can potentially grind to a halt.
  • Reputational – Hackers are experts at accessing email systems and distributing communications purportedly from someone in a leadership role, leaving the business vulnerable and appearing unprofessional and irresponsible to employees and customers.

Executive Director Letter to Membership – March 2018

The only thing that is constant is change. We can see it as the seasons are changing from winter to spring (sometimes all in the same day!), as the day turns to night, and as we watch our children grow. But, we rarely see it when it happens in our businesses and sometimes dramatic changes are exactly what we need take action. Very attuned family businesses are constantly adapting and responding to change and this is spectacular to witness. How does your family business stay tuned in to new technology practices or market trends? Does your corporate culture fear change, or do you embrace new ways of solving problems as a way to constantly evolve?

The recent Next Generation Leaders Affinity Group recently spent two sessions talking about how to evaluate and change company culture. They learned how to identify their own values and how they compare to the values of the family business and of those they work with. They learned the importance of identifying where the gaps are in their cultures and how to go about creating the changes within themselves and how this permeates changes in others. It was a fantastic dialogue that will continue to expand as the NextGen Leaders continue their work together this year. This group meets again in June to discuss difficult conversations. These half-day events are facilitated by Kevin McCarthy, a very skilled leadership development coach and change facilitator. Stay tuned for how to register.

Of course, change can be scary, too.  Even after gathering data and evaluating options, we may second guess major changes that we make. That’s the way I feel about the some of the changes that we have made with our programming this year and it is my strongest desire that we have hit the mark. You see, over the past two years the thing that I heard most when speaking with our members is that you want to network, you want to have deeper conversations about what really happens in the family business and you want to explore best practices. That is why we pulled our technical series, T3Me, this year to focus on fewer events with greater content and appeal. That is also why we constantly seek your feedback through surveys one-on-ones. Our only purpose as an organization is to help family businesses grow and prosper and, as your needs change, well, we need to change right along with you. I hope you make time to come to the Affinity Group meetings and the upcoming Family Business Forum on April 17. If you have any feedback, please feel free to contact me directly at 916.771.3220 or via email at spremo@capfamilybus.org.

Warmly,

Stella Premo

President’s Letter to Leadership – March 2018

Dear Members,

It is with pride and gratitude that I greet you after another successful Generations conference.  It was thrilling to see our members, sponsors, and prospective members exchanging ideas in support of each other and heartening to experience the results of our planning committee’s months of hard work under the leadership of Tim Schultz of Lundberg Family Farms.  I hope I speak for all that attended that the two days we spent educating, coaching and networking were worthy of a repeat in 2019.  We plan to produce even better results, perhaps by revisiting, dare I say reinventing, our breakout format and topics.  Please mark your calendars for February 11 and 12!

 

Speaking of reinvention, I am excited about what the year ahead holds and all the great ways the Capital Region Family Business Center is reinventing itself to provide the most exceptional support we can for our members.  Perhaps where this is most visible is in our newly reformatted Family Business Forum on April 17th, a half-day event for all members of the family business to discuss this season’s theme, reinvention within a family business.  We will hear from a few of our notable members who have weathered the storm of crisis and come out the other side reinvented and even stronger than before.  You will surely benefit from their stories and advice.

As you engage with your respective Affinity Groups, you may notice a few more bodies in the room.  That is the result of the hard work by our membership committee and intensified marketing efforts throughout the region that have built our membership over the past several months.  Please welcome them to our family.

Warm regards,
Steve Fleming

WELCOME TO OUR NEW MEMBERS – December 2017

Our organization is only as strong as our membership.  We thank these family businesses for joining our efforts as new family business members and look forward to working on their behalf!

HOLIDAY SOCIAL 2017 – Merry & Bright

We had a great time at the Holiday Social, and it was wonderful to see so many of our members take the time to share in the holiday cheer! And, we are especially grateful that we share this event with the Family Business Association of California. The FBA does exceptional work lobbying statewide and nationally on behalf of California family businesses throughout the state. Take a look at our photos and be sure to save the date for next year’s party on December 13, 2018!