Tag Archives: member spotlight

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.

It has been almost a year since the owners of Incredible Pets, Sharon and Jack Love, joined the list of Family Business Center members. With six locations scattered throughout northern California, the Loves and their employees have been serving customers (and their pets), offering quality pet products and a top-notch customer experience since 1995.

As the Love family’s three daughters and son-in-law develop leadership roles within the company, setting up a succession plan has become of utmost importance to the family. “We understand that the key to long-term success and viability of our business is succession planning,” commented Sharon Love. “Up to this point we’ve been unsure how to go about it—then we found FBC,” she added.

Since joining the organization, the Love family has taken advantage of their FBC membership by attending multiple workshops and AG2 events to help prepare them for the next stage of their business. “We love that our children are interested in carrying on the family business. It gives us great pride that the tradition of running a family business will continue,” Sharon said.

Running a family business is not the only tradition the Loves have passed along to their family. They have also instilled a tradition of charitable giving, especially throughout the holiday season. “Our philosophy is to give a little bit to everybody,” commented Sharon. Whether that means donating dog food to local shelters, hosting in-store collections for rescue shelters and shelter families, or supporting local homeless and their pets, Incredible Pets demonstrates the spirit of giving, year-round. “We feel giving back to our community is an important part of being a family business owner,” said Sharon. “The community is just an extension of our family.”

Robin BevierRobin Bevier has one piece of advice: be non-descript.  That may sound odd coming from a lawyer.  But from a certified and experienced basketball referee, it makes perfect sense.  “You see, you don’t want the ref to be able to pick you out of the crowd,” she explains.

When Bevier’s youngest child left home for college, and she and her husband became ‘empty nesters’, she realized she would need a hobby.  Although a busy tax, business and estate planning attorney for many family businesses, the time that had been devoted to leading Boy Scouts and coaching youth sports was now at her discretion.  Five years ago, while at a Sacramento Kings game with her husband, she spied one of only two female NBA officials and made the decision to become a certified youth basketball referee.

As a lifelong sports enthusiast, with an enviable grasp of San Francisco 49er trivia, it seemed a natural fit.  But as a 54-year-old non-athlete in predominantly male company, it has been a challenge.  The certification process was rigorous, but not as demanding as the responsibility and physicality of calling a fair game.  “Just because I’m a girl, because I’m the oldest one on the court, I can’t do the job any less; I have to be technically correct.”

She knows from raising her own kids that sports have an important place in their upbringing.  To her, it’s not always about talent, whether you can dribble or dunk, but more about learning accountability, self-esteem and teamwork.  And her goal is to make sure that all deserving kids in our five-county area are able to participate, regardless of cost.

Through officiating, she realized that the fees and requested donations for many leagues can be burdensome for some families.  To make sure that doesn’t prevent anyone from playing, she donates the wages she earns refereeing to her nonprofit, Playing For Keeps. The organization covers the registration fees affiliated with extra-curricular sports.  In exchange, scholarship recipients must have ‘skin in the game’ by covering 10 percent of the cost themselves and serving five hours of community service with a younger child.  “It doesn’t have to be much – helping with homework, teaching how to throw a football.  I just want to teach them to pay, or play, it forward and the ease of giving back.  When we give kids the chance to help, they love it.  It’s inbred in us.”

Bevier currently covers the operating expenses herself but is hoping to grow the grassroots organization to expand beyond sports to include band, drama, FFA, and others.  She urges anyone who has the time to help to contact her for information on how to become a volunteer or donor.

As a professional woman who spends her days guiding family businesses through the process of tax, business and estate planning while still making time to guide and empower youth, it’s clear that Robin Bevier is anything but non-descript.

Summertime in Sacramento means fireworks at the River Cats, celebrations, and of course, a brightly lit Fourth of July. We recently caught up with Nancy Gilfillan, daughter of the late Founder Robert Souza at Pyro Spectaculars , Inc. to learn more about how they make this all happen, and what it takes to remain at the top of the industry in this market.
Q . So tell us, have you always enjoyed playing with fire?

A. To be honest, by nature I’m a really big chicken! I never fantasized about playing with fire and from an early age I was taught to respect it. My father taught us the importance of keeping a safe distance and to always have the water bucket and a hose nearby.

Q. What was your very first job, and how did it go?

A. I wasn’t groomed to be in the business full time, and I have been a Registered Nurse for 41 years. I’m grateful to have my nursing career as to well as share some time in our family business working on special projects, taking on the role of providing support to my husband and family members. My father provided us with early exposure to the business and allowed us to do many tasks. In the late 1960’s early ‘70’s the business included consumer and display fireworks. I have memories of working on an assembly line putting together firework packets, answering phones, cleaning the office, building set pieces and most fun of all, working in firework stands.

Since then my role has shifted. For the past 20 years I’ve been responsible for coordination of crew for the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show in New York City and I work hand-in-hand with my brother, Gary Souza. We have 50 crew members from all over the country working so I handle the travel accommodations and day to day comfort needs for our crew during the two week set-up.  Even though I hold a license to handle firework materials, I spend most of my talents behind the scenes.

Q. What’s the biggest misconception people have about pyrotechnics?

A. People often say: “oh you only work one day out of the year!” but that’s absolutely not true. It’s a year round business; there is very little downtime. Our busiest seasons are the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve but we do provide fireworks for many celebrations throughout the state year-round. Some of our displays can be seen at events from high school homecoming shows, weddings, major and minor league baseball games and several Olympic Games. We are also active with the American Pyrotechnic Association and attend two major conferences each year.

Q. How long does it take to set up a show?

A. Our smallest show, one that will last for just five minutes like at a Homecoming, takes an afternoon to set up. Our Macy’s show, which goes for 30 minutes, takes 14 days to set up following a year of planning. This year the Macy’s Fourth of July show will be set up on five barges in the East River, and it’s life telecast so it has a little more pressure than usual.

Q.  Your Dad left a real legacy for you and your siblings; what core values did he lead with as a you learned from him?

A.  My father was able to teach us about integrity, community and what it means to have a good work ethic.  He grew his business through quality work, reputation, and by always exceeding expectations. The company grew exponentially over the years as a result, and he remained a true leader who always had his hands and heart on the business and kept his family and employees closely involved.

Q. You’ve been in business here for many years now; what do you think it is about your Family Business that keeps people coming back every year?

A. As owners, my two brothers and our spouses have shared family values that include respect, integrity and honesty. We have 60 employees and many operators and crew that work as independent contractors. We treat our employees like family and that culture that results in low turnover. As far as customers, we have a long history of safety and dedication to providing a good product. When we do this well, our customers return. I am proud to be a part of the team that makes people ooh, ah, and smile.

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Fiddyment Farms Pistachio Paste has won the sofi Gold Award in the Nut Butter, Seed Butter category in the Specialty Food Association’s 2017 sofi™ Awards competition. A sofi is the top honor in the $127 billion specialty food industry. “sofi” stands for Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation and represents the best of the best from members of the Specialty Food Association.

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