Member Spotlight: Gorrill Ranch

In 1918, Woodrow Wilson was our president, Daylight Saving Time was enacted, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, World War I ended, and a Cal graduate named Ralph Gorrill purchased some acreage along Butte Creek from the Leland Stanford estate.  Teaming up with colleague Ernest Adams, the two set off on learning the rice industry and Ralph was able to establish a farm that would survive political, economic and family challenges.  Now a small yet prominent grower of rice and orchard crops, Gorrill Ranch is set to celebrate its 100th anniversary as a thriving family-owned business.

To honor the occasion, fourth generation Managing Partner and Chairman of the Board Correen Davis, along with her family board and the company’s CEO, is organizing both a business community and private family celebration to recognize the family members, employees, industry representatives, community members, vendors and customers that have propelled the business along its history.  Said Davis, “Our family culture is not one to wave a flag.  But we recognize that it’s been a journey to get to this point and we want to celebrate the family, employees, industry, community, vendors and customers that have worked together through the economic times, political climates and regulatory changes that have shaped the business.  We are coming from a place of humility; we understand that we just happen to be the ones here at this time at the helm in this amazing industry.”

Now employing 25 people and selling to customers such as Sunsweet and Blue Diamond, Gorrill is as respected as ever in California agriculture.  As part of the Centennial, the family is hoping to have the ranch recognized by the Agriculture Heritage Club as a historical business.  For the application process, Davis has been digging through the family’s files and has found, among others, a plethora of deeds, ledgers and tax forms that are reinforcing her understanding and appreciation of the family members that came before her.  “One hundred years ago, my great grandfather Ralph designed the irrigation system, an extraordinarily efficient, all-gravity fed system that we still use today.”

Before Ralph’s passing in 1964, he had the foresight to bring his three daughters into the fold.  The sisters ultimately opted to hire outside ranch management but continued to be intimately involved in investments and daily operations.  Not common in the industry at that time, the sisters created a governance structure that included family members as board members.  Still in place at the company today, the system is a testament to their legacy as women in agriculture.

Now as the fourth generation, Davis plus her 12 cousins and second cousins, begins to think about how to involve the next, succession planning and governance continue to be at the forefront of their work.  “My dad’s sister, Aunt Nancy, taught me that, if our goal is for family to retain ownership, we need to always present opportunities for them to become involved, educated and knowledgeable.”

Nancy also spearheaded the family’s relationship with FBC, turning to the organization to learn about dynamics between generations and how to manage the farm from a governance perspective.  Now working on a board comprising G3s and G4s, the family has attended FBC events and seminars and been willing to work through the ‘push/pull’ that occurs when transitioning from one generation to the next.

Gorrill’s Centennial coincides with Davis’ 10th anniversary at the company.  “During my first few years here, when I discovered what it’s really like to work with family, FBC was instrumental.  They made me feel like I wasn’t alone in our struggles as a family business.  I now know that we’re all dealing with the same issues.”

Since then, Davis has sat on a couple of panels with Nancy and brought extended family members to governance trainings.  She regularly communicates FBC literature and newsletter content to her business partners.  In fact, directly through the governance models discovered through FBC, the family elected its first two non-family board members in 2017.

With their help, the family hopes to weather the sometimes adversarial business climate in California.  Through highly-valued relationships, the company has been able to thrive in the agriculture industry, which is closely tied to environmental regulations and responsibility.  Remarked Davis, “Farmers are the true environmentalists.  After all, our intent is to maintain our land so that we can continue to grow for the next generation.  By partnering with regulators, we can begin to understand each other and have a higher chance for success.”  In fact, by partnering with fellow farmers, water districts, non-profits and government agencies, the Gorrill Ranch completed the Gorrill Ranch Fish Screen and Ladder project in 1999 which was part of a larger effort on Butte Creek to restore 25 miles of unimpeded flows along the middle reaches of Butte Creek for the benefit of migrating spring-run Chinook Salmon.  This project comprises one of the nation’s most significant fisheries restoration efforts to date.

As a high school English teacher right out of college, Davis never imagined herself as part of the family business.  “My father passed away when I was 20 so we never had the chance to have the conversation.  The family business was never even on my radar.”  But with farming in her blood and the mentorship of strong women in the family, she says she has now found her ‘calling’ and recognizes her role as an honor and opportunity to be a steward of the business.

Sponsor Spotlight: MGO

Macias, Gini & O'Connell, LLP logo

Jan Rosati wants to get people talking.  As a CPA and partner for MGO, an accounting, insurance, tax and advisory firm in Sacramento, Jan Rosati has helped hundreds of privately held family businesses in his more than 35-year career and knows first-hand that most struggle when it comes to issues of governance, estate and tax planning, and succession.  Most of MGO’s clients are in real estate, hospitality, healthcare, entertainment and technology and are closely held businesses with a high net worth.  When it comes to their financial planning, there’s a lot at stake.

He says, “What is the future for the stakeholders of this business?  How do we introduce the next generation?  These are the conversations we need to be having.  Because the more you hear the more you realize there isn’t one formula.  You can’t learn the algorithm and apply it over and over.”

Rosati’s clients all have or have had substantial businesses and he’s witnessed time and again the various stages that they encounter.  “As the generations transition, the newer people coming in and the older people changing their role, it’s all part of the life cycle of a business.  There are certain things that resonate broadly but in the end the needs are different.  I always say, ‘If you’ve seen one family business…you’ve seen one family business’.”

Although his client focus is primarily from a tax and financial perspective, he warns that those issues can’t be isolated.  “Those things don’t happen in a vacuum.  They impact and are impacted by human resources, communication, strategic planning.  It’s the whole package.”

So, perhaps of greatest value to him is the opportunity to interact with other sponsor members in various industries – financial, legal, banking, HR, etc. – and how they are advising their own clients.  As a network of service providers, they are then able to better inform and educate themselves and their clients.

From the earliest conversations about establishing a nonprofit resource for family businesses in the Sacramento area, Jan knew the value the organization could have for his clients.  After FBC was formed, he was asked to serve on the board of directors and as treasurer and has never looked back.  “Since 2010, my role is to make sure that FBC has the funds in order to drive the programs which drives the membership which generates the dues and support in order to continue to offer relevant programming for our members and sponsors.”

As a presenter at last year’s Generations, he was able to work with other sponsors and members to present a case history of establishing governance for a transitioning business and how that integrates with estate and tax planning.  Furthermore, he was impressed with the quality of the program and unparalleled opportunity to ‘mix and mingle” with a significant group that holds interest in the same professional topics.

Reflecting on another past event, Rosati recounted his experience with two high-level executives at the same company.  After the attendees reconvened after the breakouts, there was lively conversation between the CEO and CFO who had been in different groups.  A true eye-opener of how crucial communication and perspective can be to the success of a business, the raucous discussion, he says “really stirred the pot.  Sometimes more important that solutions is kick-starting valuable discussion.”

President’s Letter to Leadership – June 2018


Greetings Fellow FBC Members,

Summer is upon us!   As a representative of a family business organization, I hope it goes without saying that the season of graduations and weddings, family barbecues and outings, and vacations and pool time is one I look forward to all year.  I hope these next few months bring you an opportunity to share some special time with the important people in your life.

Speaking of family time, family business member Gorrill Ranch, an important name in the California rice industry and agriculture as a whole, is set to celebrate its 100th anniversary this month.  We congratulate the family on this important milestone and encourage you to read about the company in this issue.

I know that our social outings are a valued benefit for our members.  As such, members were overjoyed to spend a beautiful sold out evening with family at our annual Night at the River Cats.  Not only did we witness a River Cats victory and Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner in action, but the evening temperature topped in the 70s. (For those that call Sacramento home, you know that’s a victory, as well!)  A casual time to socialize and celebrate was appreciated by all.

Thank you to Dave Boyce and Ben Brown of BFBA, LLC who keynoted last month’s Affinity Group-1 meeting for our founders, presidents and CEOs.  This discussion answered the important question “What can you do now to ensure that your business continues to thrive?”, a top-of-mind issue for many of executives as they begin to consider a transition to the next generation.

Looking ahead, plans are in full swing for our fall Family Business Forum in October, December’s holiday social, and, of course, the Generations Family Business Conference in February 2019.  We hope one or all of these events will connect you with other members and continue to answer those important questions.


Steve Fleming

Board President

Executive Director’s Letter to Membership – June 2018

Dear Members,

When I came on board two years ago, I was immediately impressed with the dedication of our volunteers to put the FBC front and center as a resource for family owned businesses. Today is no different. Volunteers are comprised of many of our family owned businesses in our region and sponsor members. Our committee members volunteer countless hours designing programs that will yield the highest benefits to our members. When you attend an event please take a moment to thank our board members, committee chairs and vice chairs, committee members and programs leads.

If you are interested in sharing the comradery of your fellow family business members, please contact me or any of our committee chairs and we’ll be happy to find a good fit for you.

Amber Holwell, Chair Generations Conference Committee

Gina Lera, Chair Programs + Events Committee

Kevin Fat, Chair Membership Committee

Also, please welcome our new members to the FBC Family. Many of our new members have come as a referral from our family members and sponsor members. We can’t thank you enough for inviting your colleagues to events to check us out, or just recommending that they contact us directly for a one-on-one. For the most part, if you encourage them to check us out, they are likely to join. And, this helps our organization grow stronger. Please help our new members feel welcome and keep sending other family businesses our way. We are stronger together.

Myself and Board President Steve Fleming with Ken Dwelle at the Spring Family Business Forum, April 17, 2018.

If you attended the Spring Family Business Forum, you heard from Ken Dwelle from Flyers, and Stan Van Vleck from Van Vleck Ranch and you know what truly powerful presentations they gave in our new ½ day format. We were lucky enough to have a room filled with members to hear Ken talk about the three inflection points in the history of Flyers: (1) The controversial sale of Beacon Oil, which was founded by his grandfather, in 1981; (2) the decision to hire a non-family CEO; and (3) the recent decision to sell the retail division of their business and diversify. Stan Van Vleck with Van Vleck Ranch spoke candidly about the sudden passing of his father and the difficulty that took place when an estate plan hadn’t been properly established. He shared how he was able to keep the Ranch in the family and how he is currently working now to get his children involved in the business.

On October 10, please join us for the Fall Family Business Forum: Rise to Leadership, featuring, Shawn Devlin, River City Bank; Allison Otto, Otto Construction; and Dina Kimball, Royal Electric will all be panelists for the morning session. The ½ day event is still being organized by event leads, Pat Lewis, River City Bank and Maggie Bender-Johnson, Warren G. Bender Co., and poised to deliver an outstanding event that you won’t want to miss.

And, it goes without saying that the Generations Conference committee has a great lineup of keynote speakers for the February 11-12 Conference. Here is a sneak peek at our current lineup Andy Unanue, AUA Private Equity Partner, board member GOYA; Lamberto Frescobaldi, 30th generation Frescobaldi Toscana; Cindi Bigelow, CEO/President, Bigelow Teas. We are offering members only presale tickets before we open early bird registration on September 4. So, if you want to take advantage of the presale, go online to

I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming event very soon!


Stella Premo

Executive director

Save the Date: GENERATIONS 2019

Family Business Center’s 3rd Annual Generations Conference

Save the date and plan to attend the 3rd Annual Generations Conference at the Sacramento Convention Center. You don’t want to miss this unparalleled opportunity to network with and learn from the leaders of family businesses from across the globe.  This year’s conference has been designed to provide cutting-edge education, collaborative networking and unique social events to help you grow, manage, operate and transition your business – keeping the unique dynamics and needs of family businesses in mind.

Our action-packed day-and-a-half schedule will put you up front and center with an impressive roster of local, national and international keynote speakers and presenters who can provide real-life insight into what separates success stories from failures. Confirmed keynote speakers include:

  • Lamberto Frescobaldi – 30th generation CEO of Frescobaldi Winery in Tuscany
  • Andy Unanue – 3rd generation at Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, and CEO of AUA Private Equity Partners
  • Cindi Bigelow – 3rd generation, President and CEO of Bigelow Tea





Why attend?

  • Speakers from renowned family enterprises will share solutions to commonly faced family business challenges
  • Largest family business-focused event in Northern California
  • Discounted rate for FBC members
  • Limited attendance and a safe environment to facilitate conversation and openly share challenges

‘Early bird’ registration is open September 4, to October 15, 2018. Mark your calendars to register at the best rate!  Sponsorships are now available; contact 916-608-8686.

     View Photos from Generations 2018


Family Business Forum





For Immediate Release

April 6, 2018


Half-Day Event Supports Region’s Family Businesses

Sacramento, CA – Capital Region Family Business Center (FBC) is pleased to announce that registration is open for its Family Business Forum.  Scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, the event will address situations that every business faces:  how to successfully transition – to the next generation or non-family – or, if necessary, reinvent the family business.

Family businesses are the lifeblood of California’s economy, accounting for 66% of the state’s GDP and employing 64% of its workforce.  While these businesses have a tremendous impact, very little from a traditional business model translates to the unique dynamics of working for and alongside family members.  FBC seeks to fill that void through inventive programming that offers education, support and networking specifically through events such as its Spring and Fall Family Business Forums.

This month will feature two dynamic speakers at the helm of regional businesses that have experienced momentous situations that have rocked foundations of their organizations.  Now under the direction of fourth generation Ken Dwelle, chief operating officer, Flyers Energy has thrived after the painstaking decisions to re-direct the business, solicit the guidance of a non-family CEO, and ultimately sell the retail sector of the business.  Carefully considered risk and stable growth has now poised the company as a major competitor in the energy sectors of California, Nevada and Arizona.

Stan Van Vleck, president of Van Vleck Ranch, 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 a family business.  In 2005, understanding the need for family businesses to have a dedicated resource from which to learn about estate planning, taxes, engaging the next generation and succession, the Van Vlecks were one of the founding families of FBC.   With Stan father’s passing and without a solid succession plan yet in place, 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 distress and the family fragmented and communicating around non-disclosure agreements.  Stan will recount his journey, how he was able to take the family’s 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.

FBC’s newly reformatted forums are perfectly suited for busy professionals who seek to dive deep into topics that are intrinsic to a successfully operated and managed family business while still allowing for an afternoon at the office.

“We want to be an effective partner for our family business members and believe that a deep yet succinct half-day session is an exciting new format for our members,” commented FBC Executive Director Stella Premo.

For information on FBC membership and forum registration, visit




Stella Premo, Executive Director

Capital Region Family Business Center



Mary Towne, Principal

Elevate Public Relations & Marketing



Established as a 501c(3) in 2007, the mission of Capital Region Family Business Center is to promote growth and prosperity for all family businesses in the greater Sacramento region.  At the foundation of all programs are its core values: trust, affinity, education, collaboration and prosperity.

GENERATIONS 2018 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

Join us in welcoming the following new members:

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!

Welcome to the FBC family!


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.