2021 NextGens to Watch: An Entrepreneurial Spark

By Barbara Spector

If you aspire to pass your business down from generation to generation, you need a product or service in high demand, a strategic plan to achieve manageable growth, and effective sales and marketing to tell the world about your offerings. But none of this is enough. You also need a capable next generation who will responsibly steward the enterprise.

The NextGens featured here have that essential element: the entrepreneurial spark to grow their family businesses and carry them forward into the future.

These 29 rising stars are a varied group, representing the second through the fifth generations of their family. Some of their family businesses operate out of a single facility; others have hundreds of locations. Some joined their family firm right out of school; others spent years working elsewhere before coming to work for their families. Some grew up thinking they’d never work in their family business; for others, joining the family firm was a lifelong dream.

Some of them work on the farm. Others sit at a desk. Some are leaders in family governance. Others’ families are too small to need much governance right now.

They are learning from their elders but also teaching them.

Meet our NextGens to Watch Class of 2021.

 

GREG HENDERSON, 35

Cilker Henderson Properties, San Jose, Calif.

Greg, a third-generation family member, is the chief operating officer at ­Cilker Henderson Properties, a healthcare real estate development company. Greg’s responsibilities include overseeing the day-to-day operations of CH Properties and partnering with healthcare providers to create spaces for modern healthcare delivery.

Greg earned his bachelor of business management degree from Biola University. He serves on The Health Trust board of directors.

“Working on behalf of my family offers a unique opportunity to influence the lives of the people I love the most,” Greg says. “I carefully carry this responsibility, knowing my decisions have relational and economic effects on immediate family members.

“Before me, previous generations confidently took on the risk of creating a family business by developing our medical campus, which has served our community for over 50 years. I am grateful to utilize my skills to transition the organization into the next generation of leadership and growth.”

“Greg is deeply involved in all aspects of company operations and has emerged as a leader among family members in his generation,” says Craig Aronoff, co-founder of The Family Business Consulting Group and a consultant to the family.

Greg works closely with his father, CEO David Henderson. “Greg is more than following in his father’s footsteps, particularly in what has become a new era in the family company’s history, which began in 2019 with the buyout of a large group of cousins and a partnership with a large real estate private equity firm,” Aronoff says. “I believe that Greg will be a dynamic leader of his family’s enterprise and develop new directions for growth.”

“Over my nine years of employment at Cilker Henderson Properties, I have developed a relationship with my father that I would not have otherwise had,” Greg says. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to work beside him and learn from his experience. We have worked hard at finding the balance between our professional and personal relationship, always prioritizing our father-son bond. It has been the most rewarding part of my experience.

“The journey to this point has been fulfilling and fun! I’m excited more than ever about my future with CH Properties and the responsibility to create opportunities for future generations.”

 

IONNIE MCNEILL, 33

MCO Construction & Services, Inc., Miami, Fla.

Ionnie is a project executive at MCO Construction & Services, a South Florida-based construction management firm started by her mother, Ann McNeill, more than 30 years ago. Ionnie worked in the business throughout high school. She graduated from Howard University with a degree in accounting.

She ran her own business and pursued her own interests in Washington, D.C., for four years and then returned home to add her specialized knowledge of contract compliance to the family business. After managing three major multiyear construction projects in Miami within four years, she shifted her focus to managing new business growth.

Since her return to the business in 2015, the company doubled in size within two years and needed a new infrastructure and “flow of command” to sustain the growth. Identifying the new business need, Ionnie turned her attention to client management and people development, playing a key role in hiring every new employee from 2017 to 2020 and being the point of contact for new and existing clients.

Thomasina Williams of Sankofa Legacy Advisors says Ionnie “epitomizes the caliber of thoughtful, engaged and self-aware leader necessary to build and sustain a multigenerational family enterprise.

“As it relates to herself, Ionnie has demonstrated a deep commitment to taking personal responsibility for developing her leadership abilities. As it relates to her mother’s construction management business, Ionnie has made significant contributions on her own initiative to support the growth and evolution of the business.

“As a direct result of Ionnie’s efforts, MCO has developed an operating rhythm that it did not have previously,” Williams says. “Her adeptness at operations is a strong complement to her mother’s ability to generate new business.”

Williams notes that Ionnie has been educating herself about leadership transition. “Over the last couple of years, Ionnie has begun to learn about family systems theory and the complexities of family businesses. In 2019, she attended a long weekend retreat for women in family businesses that was hosted by my firm. She and I have continued an informal coaching relationship.

“Earlier this year, Ionnie won a Bank of America Diversity Business Scholarship. Rather than use the proceeds only for herself, Ionnie enrolled both her and her mom in Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management’s Forming Family Enterprise Governance program,” Williams says. The program has exposed Ann McNeill to “options, approaches and resources about generational transitions of family businesses,” Williams says.

“Ionnie is not only sharing with her mother what she is learning, she is also making available opportunities for her mother to hear from others and to guide her mother’s own thinking about what she might do as it relates to transitioning MCO to Ionnie.

“After hearing the two of them do a radio interview about investing, something they are both passionate about, I suggested that they host their own show. They have enjoyed co-hosting a podcast for nearly a year now.”

“Growing up in my mother’s business was something I took for granted because it was all that I knew,” Ionnie says.

“As a child, I wanted to be a teacher or entrepreneur. However, it wasn’t until I returned to the family business that I realized I could do both by contributing to the legacy my mother had already started at MCO Construction.

“As the first female general contractor in the state of Florida, she has always invested in the individual lives of her family members, in addition to those in the larger community. She gave many people their ‘first shot,’ along with the skills and support they need to be successful and start their careers.

“This type of impact is what we really pride ourselves on and is what I want to spend my life contributing to. Ultimately, this is the level of contribution I envisioned as both a teacher and entrepreneur.”

 

ANDERS LUNDBERG, 33

Lundberg Family Farms, Richvale, Calif.

Growing up, Anders spent countless hours on the farm with his dad, Bryce Lundberg, receiving a hands-on, boots-on-the-ground education on everything related to rice farming, stewardship and soil health. After graduating from high school, Anders attended California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo, earning degrees in crop science and agribusiness.

In 2012, he became the first member of his family’s fourth generation to work at Lundberg Family Farms, where he specialized in caring for the company’s managed farmland and producing quality organic rice. He is currently earning a master’s degree in business administration from California State University Chico.

Looking ahead, Anders plans to continue leveraging his education to help improve farming and other business processes at Lundberg Family Farms, working extensively with the company’s internal farming operation and also with its network of rice growing partners in the Sacramento Valley.

“Anders spent his first years working in our farming operations and now is working in our Grower Services Department, coordinating our network of growers,” says his uncle Tim Schultz, vice president of operations.

Schultz praises Anders’ efforts to continue to build his skills and prepare himself for future leadership. “Anders is passionate about the family business, hardworking and creative,” Schultz says. “He goes the extra mile to productively engage family members in the business. His calm demeanor and steady approach make him respected and well-liked by all he works with.”

“In 1937, my great-grandfather, Albert Lundberg, left Nebraska in the wake of the Dust Bowl. He saw what happened when over-plowing and drought combine,” Anders says. “When he moved to California, he committed to working in partnership with nature and promised to leave the land better than he found it. Every generation since has followed in his footsteps.

“Together, we use organic farming practices to grow 17 different varieties of rice. We also dry, store, mill, manufacture, market and distribute organic and sustainable rice products. While our business has grown significantly over the years, our values remain the same.

“Producing healthy food in partnership with nature brings me an immense amount of happiness and satisfaction. I feel both honored and privileged to participate in my family’s legacy of environmental stewardship — and to share it with my own children — so we can keep growing together for generations to come.”

 

MICHELLE ARMENTEROS, 32

Daly Seven Inc., Greensboro, N.C.

Michelle, a third-generation family member, is vice president of interior design, renovations, maintenance and human resources for her family business, which owns and operates 42 hotels in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in commerce, with concentrations in marketing and management. She later earned her MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. Before coming to work full-time for her family business, she spent five years working for other corporations in sales and marketing.

“I hold a construction project manager certificate and a general contractor license, which enable me to be a leader of our design, construction and maintenance teams,” Michelle says. “I have overseen five total hotel renovations and contributed to two new hotel builds.

“I enjoy wearing a different hat on the human resources side and building strong teams of employees across every level of the company.

“It has been incredibly gratifying to be part of my family business and to work alongside my mother, aunt, uncles and cousins. Since our hotels operate 24/7, 365 days a year, there is never a dull moment!”

Michelle has been involved with the Family Enterprise Center of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She grew up in Chapel Hill, and many of her family members attended the university.

“As she takes over more responsibilities within the company, I’ve personally been impressed that she does so with a since of calmness that inspires others,” says Lauren Willets, assistant director of student engagement at the center. “She is an insightful and thoughtful leader, employee and owner.”

“I grew up shadowing my grandfather as he visited our hotels, admiring how he got to know every housekeeper and front desk agent personally,” Michelle says. “I strive to do the same today, and as an owner I am willing to roll up my sleeves and take on any task.

“As a child, I spent afternoons with my mom, comparing fabrics for new hotel furniture and discussing the latest hospitality design trends. What makes me proudest today is how Daly Seven has positively impacted the lives of our employees and given back to communities in which we operate.

“Managing human resources, I am incredibly passionate about ensuring employees advance from within and donating our time and resources to local community non-profits. Since we treat employees like family, we have many tenured employees with ­decades of experience with us.

“I also have an enormous sense of pride when we open new hotels and complete renovation transformations. Gathering the team to celebrate these huge accomplishments has left me with some of my favorite memories.”

 

NICOLE NISIM, 28

JH Design Group, Los Angeles, Calif.

Nicole started working in her family business as a teenager. JH Design Group, founded by her grandfather in 1989 and managed by her father, is a manufacturer of licensed apparel. The company holds licenses with the NFL, the NBA, MLB and NASCAR, among others. She worked summers and weekends, learning all aspects of the business.

While in high school, Nicole took over education-related accounts. She worked part-time in the sales department while attending college at California State University, Northridge. In college, she founded a business that brought temporary Wi-Fi solutions to large-scale events and festivals. After graduation, she began working full-time at JH Design Group. Today, Nicole is vice president of operations at the company.

“Nicole has worked in every division in the company, starting with the basics in the shipping department and working her way up to the executive offices. She made sure that every promotion was earned,” says her mother, Vered Elkouby Nisim. “As she moved up in the company, Nicole took others under her wing and mentored them.

“She has brought new innovation to the company and increased her division’s revenues by 30% over three years. She is truly a team player and is dedicated to her career in the family business.

“Nicole also makes sure that every day her family has lunch together, keeping the family values strong and the dedication to the family business even stronger. She believes that communication is the key to getting through the typical challenges that occur in family businesses.”

“My grandfather came to the United States 50 years ago with just a suitcase, his wife and two small children. He started working for other people but soon realized he needed to start his own business,” Nicole says. “Eventually, my grandfather started his own apparel company.

“Growing up, I watched my family contribute to the growing success of my grandfather’s business. My mother and father both soon joined my grandfather in the family business. Being introduced to entrepreneurialism at a young age, I admired my grandfather and parents for their dedication and vision for what our family business could become. Together, as a family, we would work toward that vision.

“It was then that I began to understand the hard work, sacrifice and commitment required to make a business succeed, and I’m proud and thankful to play a role in securing my family’s legacy.”

 

ANDY MOORE, 31

Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes and Fries, Mount Olive, N.C.

Andy was a toddler when his father, Kenney Moore, opened his first restaurant, called Andy’s. When his father decided to expand the franchise outside of North Carolina, the name changed to Hwy 55.

“The company currently has 120 locations in 11 states, with a large majority of those still in North Carolina in strip malls, though Andy is helping lead the transition of the franchise to open more freestanding and drive-thru restaurants,” says Lauren Willets, assistant director of student engagement at the Family Enterprise Center of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Andy received a B.A. from Duke University in 2012. “Technically, my undergraduate major was political science, but I spent the bulk of my time working for the student newspaper, The Chronicle,” he says. “I was sports editor my junior year, and I took a job after college working for an online media company in New York. After two years, I sent my dad a cover letter and résumé and attempted to parlay my knowledge of the digital and media worlds into a marketing role at Hwy 55.

“Dad appreciated the cover letter, although he later told me it wasn’t particularly necessary.”

Andy received an MBA from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School via distance learning while working at Hwy 55. After completing the degree, he moved to Texas to continue to work for Hwy 55.

“We run things pretty lean at the home office, so I’ve gotten to wear several different hats over the past seven years,” Andy says. “I first ran our digital marketing and PR, and then later I received oversight of our loyalty and online ordering programs.

“I’m now the chief business officer, a somewhat vague title that has given me some great experience in operations and our supply chain.”

“As a student, Andy was impressive,” Willets says. “Not only is he intelligent, he is thoughtful and reflective and already a great leader. He got his family to attend a family business forum hosted by the Family Enterprise Center at UNC, which was a tough task in itself to get his entrepreneurial father to attend.

“Andy has stayed engaged with an alumni roundtable with the Family Enterprise Center, where he constantly poses thoughtful questions to this group of his peers.”

“My dad started Hwy 55 when I was 18 months old,” Andy says. “He worked open-to-close every day in the first location for nearly two years. There are now 120 stores, and he still goes into the office every day on the balls of his feet, itching for a new challenge.

“I grew up attending store openings with my dad, and I was dropping fries in our Mount Olive, N.C., restaurant when I was 16. My appreciation for what my dad has accomplished has only increased over time. I feel that we complement each other well — he’s forgotten more about running a restaurant than I’ll ever know, and I’ve maybe brought a different perspective from Carolina and elsewhere that helps us innovate and push things forward.

“Our business philosophy is encapsulated in ‘Love Your Neighbor.’  We believe we’re in business to love and joyfully serve our guests, owners, operators and employees.

“Over the last couple of years, the company has kept that philosophy (and our food!) but overhauled just about everything else — all so we can pivot from strip-center stores to stand-alone locations with drive-thrus. We just opened the first one of these gorgeous restaurants in North Carolina, and we have 15 more on the books that’ll open by the end of year. I feel immensely lucky to work here.”

 

TOM RYAN, 34

Oppidan Investment Company, Excelsior, Minn.

Tom is a second-generation member of his family’s real estate development company. He works alongside his father, brother, sister, brother-in-law and other employees.

As vice president of people and culture, Tom is responsible for maintaining the Oppidan culture among its 37 employees in three locations across the United States.

Tom joined Oppidan in 2013 as a developer. In 2019 Oppidan saw the need for an internal H.R. role, and Tom pivoted his focus to fulfill that need.

Tom holds a bachelor of arts degree in management from St. John’s University as well as a master of science degree in commercial real estate from the University of St. Thomas. He also earned a degree from Cornell University in human resource management.

“He and his family hold regular family meetings where they’ve created a family mission and values statements,” says Jon Keimig, director of the University of St. Thomas Family Business Center. “He’s big on appropriate family business communication — enough that I brought him in as a speaker on the topic of family communication strategies in our center. Tom leads by example with charitable engagements his family supports through the business.”

“Simply put, I love working at Oppidan,” Tom says. “My father started this company in 1991, so I was able to watch the company grow as I grew through my childhood. It has always been an exciting thought to me that I might one day work at Oppidan, but I never thought I would be here in the role that I am in today.

“As VP of people and culture, I run the H.R. function of our business, as well as making sure we are maintaining the family atmosphere we have created and hold so important.”

That atmosphere extends to all members of the Oppidan team, not just immediate family members, he notes. “Everyone here is a part of and additive to the strong culture we have here. It is truly an honor to work here at Oppidan.”

 

ASHLEY WEBSTER RUDOLPH, 35

The Business Journal, Fresno, Calif.

Ashley is a fifth-generation family member at the 135-year-old company, which produces a weekly business-to-business newspaper, a website and several supplemental publications. She is the associate publisher and also plans and executes events.

During summers as a high school student, Ashley covered the receptionist desk and worked on special projects in the business. She attended Fresno City College for two years before joining the family business in 2008 as a circulation department assistant. She worked her way up to circulation/audience development manager, a role she assumed in 2011. She was promoted to associate publisher in November 2019.

Ashley and her father, publisher Gordon M. Webster Jr., lead a team of 15 people.

“Growing up, I had no intention of working in the family business,” Ashley says. “It wasn’t until about four or five years working in the business that the weekly stories and message we were delivering to the Central Valley business community became a strong passion of mine.

“I saw the value, the family legacy and how the business community trusted and counted on us to deliver the local and exclusive daily business news. At that moment I knew I was all in. I knew I needed to step up, help Dad and figure out how we were going to continue this legacy for another 100 years. My heart was sold!”

Non-family managing editor Gabriel Dillard has worked with Ashley for 12 years. “I have seen her literally grow up inside this family business,” Dillard says. “She checks all of the boxes for what smart, decisive and empathetic leadership looks like.

“The first phase of her career here was dedicated to learning about every aspect of running a business-to-business newspaper. She took this education seriously, and now as associate publisher, she has taken on a portfolio of duties. She was instrumental in the transition of in-person events to virtual as the pandemic took hold. A key example is the Virtual Business Series, a new event she quarterbacked from its inception.

“Her next big project is the Family Owned Business Awards, which honors other family-owned businesses in the Central Valley of California. This involved coordinating with dozens of businesses, from nominees to sponsors, to fill a local opportunity left by another family business organization in our market.

“She is the lone wolf overseeing our entire web presence, keeping webpages and social media sites running and brimming with fresh content.

“With an eye to the future, she is also paramount in discussions about the future of some of our traditional products. The Legal Directory, a printed guide to contacts in our market in the legal community, will undoubtedly transition to an online-only product in the near future. She will be tasked with handling that transition, which is fitting since her grandfather created it 56 years ago.

“Called upon to make increasingly important decisions for our company, she rises to the occasion while taking in all aspects and information. She is also the kind of leader who is present with her door open for all.

“Her forward thinking, community mindedness, willingness to learn and decisive personality ensure she will rise as a fifth-generation leader who will steer the ship into unknown waters. “

“I represent the fifth generation and the first woman in line to lead this storied Central Valley media organization,” Ashley says. “It is hard work, but so rewarding and fun! To be able to say my great-great-grandfather started this publishing company in 1886 and we are continuing that legacy in 2021 is pretty much unheard of these days. 

“In the ’90s from my grandparents I learned the importance of giving back to our community. The people and companies we cover, partner with and serve in the Central  Valley mean everything to me. It’s the reason I wake up every morning excited to come to work.

“I owe everything to my dad, who gave me the opportunity of a lifetime and showed me the love, legacy and importance of a family-owned business. For that, I am forever grateful.”

 

ALYANA POPAT, 28

Simba Corporation, Nairobi, Kenya

Alyana is currently pursuing a master of management in hospitality at Cornell University, SC Johnson College of Business. She holds a bachelor of science degree in management from Manchester Business School. Before entering graduate school, she worked with her family business, Simba Corporation, in Nairobi and held several roles within the business.

Simba Corporation is an integrated business group with controlling interests in such diversified fields as motor sales and service, hospitality, investment and financial services.

Alyana started off working in the business development department as an analyst, where she was heavily exposed to strategy development for the overall corporation and had significant engagement with the board of directors. Following this role, she found her passion in the hospitality industry when she headed the marketing for the hospitality department. 

Additionally, she took on the role of an entrepreneur and started her own wine importation and distribution business, focusing on Portuguese wines. She also developed a new restaurant space that will introduce 11 new food and beverage brands into the Kenyan market in 2021.

She was heavily involved in setting up and running the Simba Foundation, the corporate social investment arm of Simba Corporation that aims to create sustainable opportunities for empowerment of African communities. She currently sits on both the Shining Hope for Communities Kenyan Advisory Board and the Simba Foundation Board.

Alyana is a third-generation member of her family business. Although Simba Corporation operates primarily in the automotive parts industry,  “she has pushed the family more towards hospitality, where her passion lies, in recent years,” says Daniel Garrett Van Der Vliet, executive director of the Smith Family Business Institute at Cornell University. “At the same time, she has launched her own business out of a love for Portuguese wines, Uva Wines.”

“I am fortunate to be part of such a dynamic family business that plays significant roles in different industries in Kenya,” Alyana says.

“I’ve had the privilege of learning the intricacies of business from my father, and I’m excited to lead the company forward with my siblings. We complement each other’s skills, and as a result, we are able to form strong synergies that will enable us to optimize our business potential and grow the company into new regions and industries.

“Looking into the future, I plan to place a greater emphasis on the value of our people, sustainable profits and social impact in the countries where we work.”

 

NICOLE BALTES, 35

B&F Fastener Supply, Ramsey, Minn.

“I honestly never imagined by the time I was 35, I would be the president of our industrial supply family business,” says Nicole.

Nicole worked in the accounts receivable department while attending St. Cloud State University, where she studied criminal justice and corrections.

“Little did I know that job would lead me down a much different path,” Nicole says. “I never left B&F after that part-time job. Since that point I have worked in multiple branch locations while learning several different roles. This was all part of the succession plan to help me gain knowledge and experience within the company.”

She was named president of the company in April 2019.

“Nicole is a young, capable family and business leader of a fast-growing multistate enterprise,” says Jon Keimig, director of the University of St. Thomas Family Business Center.

Keimig notes that Nicole, a second-generation family member, leads a team of non-family managers in a male-dominated industry. “Two of Nicole’s other siblings work in the business, and they work in harmony as a business and family, understanding the different roles and expectations of the day-to-day and what it means to be a family and owners,” Keimig says. “The company continues to expand through organic growth into new markets and acquisitions to now have 14 locations in six states, with more growth on the horizon.”

“Having the opportunity to work alongside my dad through a generational transition was quite an experience,” Nicole says. “I will never truly understand the struggles and risks he went through as a young entrepreneur, but I certainly have a much deeper respect and appreciation for him as a person and as a business owner.

“I personally feel that working together as a family has made us even closer than we were before. Working together has its own challenges, but it certainly is rewarding!”

 

BRYAN HARPER, 33

Harper Farms, Junction City, Ore.

Bryan was born in Nairobi, Kenya, to a local villager and an Oregon farmer and arrived in Junction City at only 19 days old with his parents and four siblings. The family farm grows hazelnuts, one of Oregon’s leading crops.

“In the early years, my summers were spent working in the fields, planting and harvesting, as well as operating equipment,” says Bryan, a fifth-generation farmer. “I learned early on it was a lifestyle that most people don’t get to experience anymore. There were times in which I was jealous of my friends who got to enjoy their summers. However, I did grew out of that quickly during college.

“I attended a few schools, but I ended up graduating from the University of Oregon. I earned an athletic scholarship and ran track and field. Being away from the farm through college helped me truly appreciate that lifestyle more than ever. My senior year I decided to farm full-time and take over my dad’s position, which occurred in the spring of 2015.” 

Pat Frishkoff, retired director of the Center for Family Enterprise at Oregon State University, has visited Harper Farms. Being continually successful in farming “takes knowledge, hard work, willingness to take risks and a few strokes of good luck,” she says. “Harper Farms is an industry leader, especially in terms of best practices.”

Bryan’s family “met and told him that he did not have to choose farming, but if he did, leadership could be his,” Frishkoff says. “He displayed his interest, and proved his capability, especially when his grandma Janet died and his father slowed.

“His aunt Marilyn Harper Rear says that he raised yield, improved the land and retained long-term non-family ­employees.”

Bryan, who once aspired to be a pilot and attended ­Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, continues his love for flying as an active member of Flying Farmers. His favorite plane is his 1943 T-6 Warbird, Frishkoff says.

Bryan has served as president of Lane County Farm Bureau and was appointed by Governor Kate Brown to the Oregon State Board of Agriculture in 2016 as its youngest member and its only African American.

“My passion for agriculture started very early on for me,” Bryan says. “The freedom you have as a farmer while being  a steward of the land is pretty incredible. My family has been farming the same ground since 1893. My first boss was my grandmother, and I was fortunate enough to learn a lot from her over the years. She saw four generations manage Harper Farms, and it was a real treat for her to see me pursue Generation 5.

“It’s hard to put into words what it feels like for me to be in this position, but there aren’t many family-owned businesses that are still operating nearly 130 years later. It truly means a lot to carry on the legacy as a Harper and hopefully into Generation 6.

“Aside from the legacy of our farm, a lot of the passion comes from literally feeding the world. You work hard all year dealing with weather, neighbors complaining about dust or noise and even politics associated with agriculture. But for me, the most rewarding part of the job is hauling your crop to ­market.”

 

JONNY BOSWORTH, 32

R&R Real Estate Advisors, West Des Moines, Iowa

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance from Iowa State University in 2011, Jonny began his career as a consultant in the insurance industry. He spent a year in that field and then made the switch to his first love, real estate. He had been exposed to the real estate industry through his family’s company and wanted to look for opportunities there.

Working for Keller Williams in the Des Moines market, Jonny helped a wide variety of people find their dream home. His track record of success reinforced his passion for real estate development and management.

Then the commercial real estate world came calling. He brought his experience in insurance consulting and real estate sales to his family firm as the first third-generation employee.

Jonny started as a commercial broker in the firm, working to grow the portfolio of R&R’s commercial tenants. He had great success early on and was named the “Rising Star” broker of the year for R&R in 2018.

Today Jonny serves as a commercial real estate manager, representing R&R Realty Group’s multimillion-square-foot real estate portfolio. He leases across the commercial real estate portfolio of office, warehouse and retail properties and maintains a network of clients he represents in Central Iowa.

According to his manager, Adam Kaduce, “Jonny is a great utility player for the brokerage team and assists on special projects, including the disposition of excess land. Clients seek out Jonny for his creativity in problem solving and willingness to go above and beyond for his clients.”

“Because of his position within the family, Jonny has been charged with developing and communicating with additional members of the third generation as they become eligible for employment at R&R,” says Dan Beenken, director of the Iowa Family Business Center. “He has been a bit of a trailblazer for the future of R&R, which has served his family and the company well.”

“Jonny has been a strong member of our NextGen peer groups for the past several years, contributing ideas and a wealth of experience to other members of his group,” Beenken says. “His involvement in the family firm has been earned through outside experiences and dedication to caring for his customers.”

“I was born into the world of commercial real estate. My grandfather, Dan Rupprecht, began R&R Realty Group in 1985, three years before I was born,” Jonny says. “My entire family has had some level of involvement in this company, and it stands as a kind of parallel family group for me.

“From a young age, I knew I had a deep passion for real estate, and after spending time with a residential firm in the Des Moines area, I knew it was time to take the leap and contribute to my family’s legacy.

“I think what really sets R&R apart is its family ties. I was raised to care about doing things the right way. I’m aware that the buildings we build and the properties we develop contribute to a legacy that will endure for years to come. It’s a legacy that I hope to pass along to my first child, which I’m expecting in August 2021. This legacy and sense of responsibility is what drives me each and every day at R&R Realty Group.”

 

SARAH IFRAH, 34

Auerbach Realty Holdings LLC, Los Angeles, Calif.

Sarah received her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth with concentrations in finance and economics, and her master’s degree in real estate development from the USC Price School of Public Policy.

Sarah, a third-generation family member, first joined Auerbach Commercial Realty Corp. as an asset manager. She later worked in Los Angeles at the Lighthouse Group, a private equity group that acquires real estate to add value, and as an analyst in Chicago for HFF, a capital markets advisory firm later acquired by Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

Since rejoining Auerbach Commercial Realty as controller in 2017, Sarah has helped her family business survive the pandemic by bringing multiple technology platforms into the company to enable the entire workforce to work from home. She trained the accounting staff and three interns on these technologies. She worked with the CFO and the company’s real estate lenders in obtaining loan forbearance, reserving cash needs and recirculating cash throughout the property portfolio.

Auerbach Realty’s portfolio consists of shopping centers, single-tenant retail and multifamily properties in and around Southern California, Nevada and Colorado. Currently, Sarah oversees the company’s financial reporting and distributions. She frequently underwrites 10-31 exchanges (a swap of properties held for business or investment purposes that enables capital gains taxes to be deferred) and potential redevelopment deals.

Sarah has collaborated on refinancing two neighborhood shopping centers. On the development side, she is currently meeting with an architectural company to redevelop a shopping center into an active senior living/retail mixed-use project.

“Sarah brings a youthful, vibrant attitude to all of her work for Auerbach Realty,” says CFO Helayne Levy. “She has advocated bringing in all sorts of new technology to help manage the existing real estate portfolio. While respecting her grandfather’s legacy, she brings a new and enlightened way of looking at the portfolio. She has introduced the company to using artificial intelligence to find the best tenants for our shopping centers. She is an absolute whiz doing modeling and spreadsheets.

“The best quality Sarah possesses is that no task is beneath her. She will happily pay bills, reconcile bank statements one day and do advanced Argus modeling and feasibility studies the next day. She pitches in wherever she is needed.”

“For my family and for myself, being a humanitarian and a visionary leader means being passionate about finding financial and socially beneficial opportunities where others may not see them and transforming those opportunities into realities,” Sarah says.

“I learned from my grandfather, Ernest Auerbach, who founded our family business in 1946, ‘You have to give back to the community that nurtured you.’ He lived that credo throughout his life, and this is what inspires me to carry on his legacy of giving back.

“This year, I will be launching an idea I’ve been passionate about: creating our new brand through a development branch, which will focus on LEED-certified active living senior housing. This project will provide spaces that foster community ties between residents, tenants and the broader surrounding neighborhood, while assisting seniors in navigating new technology.

“Active living senior housing is so important to me because I want to overcome the isolation that the pandemic has caused for our Silent Generation and our Baby Boomers.”

 

LANDRY CARBO, 33

System Services, Scott, La.

Landry came to his family business with two engineering degrees and an MBA, says his father, Bert Carbo, owner of System Services. The company has two divisions, Broadband and Pipeline.

Landry earned an undergraduate degree in optical engineering at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., and a graduate degree in space engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He worked in the Middle East for three years in an oil field as a MWD (measurement-while-drilling) engineer with Schlumberger Ltd. He then pursued his MBA, focusing on supply chain and operations, at Indiana University in Bloomington.

“After obtaining my MBA, my dad invited me to work in the family business, utility construction,” Landry says. “I remembered growing up watching my dad and my mother working dawn till dusk to make the company succeed. My brother had also worked his way up over the prior seven years. It was an honor to be invited to team up with them and work alongside them for the past four years.”

Landry joined System Services as the managing member and developed the financial capabilities of the Pipeline division, which had recently been established. “I played a pivotal role in establishing the back-office functionality of the newly formed division,” Landry says.

These efforts “allowed us to acquire assets and plan ahead more strategically for potential project costs,” Landry says. “Working with operations, I was able to assist in growing the division from 40 employees to 100 within 12 months. With the current projections, we plan to double the size of the company over the next five years.”

“His leadership has changed the course of our organization,” Bert says. “Landry continues to lead us through complicated changes in accounting platforms, IT updates, insurance renewals, data storage and the many other challenges that we face.”

“Utility construction is the backbone that allows our society to function, and it is a privilege to be part of this vital industry,” Landry says. “I am passionate about adding modern business strategy to our mom-and-pop business and allowing it to grow to its full potential.”

 

NATHAN LADOVSKY, 31

United Bakers Dairy Restaurant, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Nathan, a fourth-generation restaurateur, began his career at the age of 16 washing dishes and busing tables in his family’s United Bakers Dairy Restaurant. Nathan holds a B.A. from the University of King’s College and a master of management in hospitality degree from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

Throughout his studies, Nathan found employment in various kitchens, including a Thai restaurant, an Israeli gastropub and a pizzeria and bakery in Los Angeles. These experiences helped shape his understanding of the industry.

After graduating, Nathan returned to his family’s 109-year-old business, where he has fused technology with decades-old practices to improve the dining experience without compromising on integrity. Now he finds himself navigating the restaurant through the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on the strong cultural foundations laid by the previous generations before him to provide a consistent guest experience.

“Nathan was very engaged while at Cornell, taking the family business courses, active in the Family Business Club and being an advocate for the numerous family business programs held while there,” says Daniel Garrett Van Der Vliet, executive director of the Smith Family Business Institute at Cornell University. “Since graduating, Nathan has returned to the business and has been on the front lines of helping United Bakers navigate the pandemic.”

Van Der Vliet notes that Nathan recently shared family business concepts with an MBA student entering his family’s restaurant business in Bangladesh, who was referred to him from a professor in Cornell’s hotel school. “That’s Nathan, always looking to help out and give back,” Van Der Vliet says.

In an article he wrote while at Cornell, Nathan said his goal is “to scale my family’s business and extend my great-grandfather’s hospitality from coast to coast.

“Knowing that I have the power to create a positive change in someone’s day through a bowl of hot soup and a warm conversation is what makes this journey meaningful for me,” he wrote.

“One of the highlights of my job is when I see three or four generations dining at a table together,” Nathan says. “Being able to serve the very same families that my grandparents and great-grandparents served is a privilege.

“A restaurant is nothing without a community, and I’m fortunate to inherit the long-term emotional connections that our patrons share with United Bakers.

“It’s the consistency of service that I take great pride in continuing, and having a loving family to support the operation makes all the difference! While we don’t always agree on everything, when we sit down for Friday night dinner at my aunt’s house, we always remember that we’re a family first.”

 

MAX PATNOE, 32

Liberty Superstores, Rapid City, S.D.

Max is a fourth-generation car dealer in western South Dakota. After graduating from the University of Colorado with a degree in finance, he decided to join his family’s automotive business, Liberty Motors Inc.

Max started washing cars at age 10. While in high school, he did a variety of odd jobs around the dealerships. When he first came back after college, he worked side by side with his father and grandfather to gain experience. He later graduated from the National Automobile Dealers Association Dealer Academy and was instrumental in negotiating the purchase of two additional family-owned and -operated dealerships.

In his role as general manager, Max has helped grow his family business to five dealership locations, a body shop and 10 vehicle franchises. 

Max and his family continue to develop their succession plans as they transition their business through the generations. 

“Max is a passionate leader who is also passionate about continuing his family’s legacy,” says Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the Prairie Family Business Association. “He Is respectful of his father and has worked with him to attain a positive balance for both of them during the succession transition. He seizes every opportunity to learn and grow.

“Max has led exponential growth of the family business in a short period of time,” Larscheid says.

“He has led an acquisition of another family business that was a competitor, and he’s opened locations in a new town. He’s been successful with these endeavors. Max has ensured success for future generations of the Patnoe family.”

“We are fortunate to have an incredible team of employees,” Max says. “Several of our employees have had multiple generations within their families working in our family business. It’s really rewarding to see the family values of the entire organization come together with our team. Our success and growth would not be possible without our team’s desire to learn, grow and take care of our customers. 

“We have had several growth opportunities over the past few years, including the opportunity to purchase other family-owned dealerships. In these acquisitions, I think it was important for the selling families to know their family-oriented values and legacy would remain in our family owned organization.

“As our industry continues to change and evolve, our family values and philosophy, going back to my great-grandfather, will remain the same. We are here to take care of our customers and our employees, and hopefully make a positive impact in our ­communities.”

 

CHRISTOPHER MEECH, 35

C & E Concrete Inc., Grants, N.M.

Chris, the third-generation vice president of C & E Concrete, grew up in the business by spending summers digging ditches, operating equipment and driving commercial trucks. He returned to the family business after earning his master’s degree in business administration from the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management.

The company, founded in 1974 by his grandparents, is now New Mexico’s largest diversified producer of construction aggregates (crushed stone, sand, and gravel), ground calcium carbonate, asphalt and ready-mix concrete. The company serves the greater part of northwestern New Mexico with locations in Grants, Gallup and Farmington.

The company has experienced exponential growth in its 47-year history, and in his role as vice president, Chris continues to expand its operations into new markets through strategic horizontal and vertical integrations as well as by developing niche products.

Chris volunteers as the vice president of the New Mexico Ready-Mix Concrete & Aggregates Association and participates in a variety of local leadership institutions.

“Chris is consistent, competent and innovative,” says Kayla Kersey, a consultant with Kersey Services LLC who knows him through the Parker Center for Family Business. “I appreciate and respect his ability to manage all that he does within the family business operations, all while being very connected to what is going on in our state and in and his local community.

“He has a core value of learning and is consistently curious about everything around him and how he can intentionally live with purpose. Chris is always working to learn new and innovative ways of being environmentally friendly in his family business. I respect and admire how he strives to have a large impact and leave a small footprint.

“Chris has also been through some interesting family governance situations and handled them with complete class and respect for everyone involved. He is a leader worth following.’”

Chris was a member of the Parker Center’s inaugural NextGen peer-to-peer group and remains an active member of the center’s Family Business Connectors, says Robin Otten, executive director of the center. “He contributes freely of his ideas and opinions.”

“I think success in any area of life requires that our strengths and weaknesses be given comparable attention and value and are equally considered for their capacities for development,” Chris says.

“While I appreciate, uphold and foster my own personal strengths and meritable qualities, I do not take them for granted by choosing to be content with plateaued performance; I seek avenues for increased accomplishment.

“I believe this principle of continual self-improvement is the true key to my success and the company’s success, which has been sustained in large part by the amazing men and women in the company who help us provide essential goods and services to the community.

“I do not underestimate the importance of our business because our materials help build highways, auditoriums and buildings that connect and bring people together.”

 

ASHLEY LUSE, 33

Luse Contracting Group, Chicago, Ill.

Ashley, a fifth-generation family member, is the president of Luse Contracting Group. Luse is a specialty contractor that provides mechanical insulation and environmental contracting services to Midwestern commercial and industrial markets. Prior to joining the family business, Ashley worked in investment management and investment banking.

Ashley has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, where she participated in the John L Ward Center for Family Enterprises and co-published a family business case study that was taught in the classroom for several years. Although she didn’t know it at the time, authoring and teaching this case study was a pivotal moment for her.

Immediately upon joining the business, she ignited a culture transformation of the business by spearheading the development of a set of company core values (“Cultural Cornerstones”). She then guided the family in generating a family constitution, defining a set of Luse family core values and more intentionally “operationalizing” those values into the business.

More recently, in her role as president, Ashley led the contracting business through the development of one-, three- and 10-year strategic plans. She has been diligent in the execution of the plan over the past year, despite the difficulties and distractions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashley is committed to ongoing education and collaboration with other multigenerational family businesses. She is active in the industry and is part of a peer group of other family-owned contractors.

“Ashley’s promotion to president took place on April 1, 2020,” says her father, CEO Steve Luse. “To say the least, the past year has been a very trying one for our business. Rather than shrinking back, Ashley has leaned into her role as a steward of the family business.

“She is steadfast in her commitment to emerging from the pandemic as a wiser, more confident leader of a stronger, more excellent business.”

“I can humbly say that the trials of this year have made me into a more disciplined, discerning, and confident leader,” Ashley says. “If I had not endured the difficulties of 2020, it would have taken me years to accumulate the wisdom that I now possess.

“I feel a remarkable sense of duty as a steward and guardian of the business for the sake of our family legacy as well as all of the members of our work family,”Ashley says. “I would say that these feelings have heightened as a result of the pandemic.”

 

MARK MOFFATT, 33

Moffatt Products Inc., Watertown, S.D.

Mark is the third-generation president of Moffatt Products. The company provides mounting solutions to position and support medical devices and other industries and applications.

Shortly after earning a master’s degree in athletic training from the University of Utah in 2013, Mark received a call from his dad, Dave, who asked him to consider coming back to the family business.

“He has had to learn how to operate a manufacturing business from the inside out,” says Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the Prairie Family Business Association. She says Mark is serving as a “visionary” in the Entrepreneurial Operating System, “helping his team simplify and stick to a business plan that will result in profitable growth with emphasis on maintaining a healthy organizational culture along the way.”

Mark recently took over the president’s role from his father, who retired on June 1. “Mark is an eager learner and has worked his way up through the business, earning the trust and respect of long-time employees along the way,” Larscheid says. “He’s well respected and a trusted leader, and the employees are confident in his abilities as well as the future of the business.”

“My passion is to cultivate a healthy organizational culture along the way to pursuing more growth with innovative solutions at Moffatt,” Mark says. “My athletic training education and experiences taught me to keep calm under pressure and weigh short-term needs against long-term outcomes. I feel those familiar dynamics in manufacturing design projects. I have to get the designs right as quickly as possible, but also plan for the long term in order to keep those items supplied on-time and profitably.

“Every customer, vendor and employee wants to be treated with respect and expects our team to give their best performance every day. It’s exciting to create new products and rewarding to build a solid team and company culture that adds value to all stakeholders.”

Mark’s grandfather was a founding member of the Prairie Family Business Association (PFBA) in 1993, and Mark is now chair of the advisory board. PFBA helped the family and their team prepare and communicate a transition plan.

Mark is also an advisory board member for South Dakota Manufacturing and Technology Solutions as well as Watertown Development Corporation.

 

NEIL NORTHFIELD, 35

All Seasons Garage Door Company, Ramsey, Minn.

Neil, a third-generation owner of All Seasons Garage Door, began working as a garage door technician at the company while in high school.

“After attending a secondary education program for firefighting, Neil brought his skills back to the family operations,” says his mother, vice president Dara Northfield. All Seasons Garage Door became one of two companies in the state to have certified fire door technicians.

“Soon after, Neil became one of only 12 master technicians in the nation at the time and the youngest in the garage door industry, earning an award for Garage Door Technician of the Year from our industry governing body, the International Door Association,” Dara says.

In 2014, he moved into a sales position. “Neil now leads the sales team at All Seasons Garage Door Company, as he continues to expand the company into new industry opportunities,” Dara says.

“Neil became a sought-after expert in the commercial garage door industry. He has served on an advisory board for one of the largest commercial garage door manufacturers in the county. His depth of knowledge and excitement for innovation has helped All Seasons Garage Door expand into a wide variety of new commercial garage door products and services.”

Neil and his sister, Kaarin Birch, will become full owners of All Seasons Garage Door Company at the end of 2021. As the company has transitioned from the second to the third generation in the last four years, Neil has taken on new ownership responsibilities, including financial aspects of the business as well as planning strategies developing the growth and marketing of the company.

“Neil has been transitioning into making the primary ownership decisions regarding capital projects planning and expenditures,” Dara says. He has served on the board of directors for six years and is now an officer on the board.

“Since I started in the family business in 2005, I have developed a passion for working in this garage door industry,” Neil says. “My desire is to keep the family business growing and build on top of the foundation my father and grandfather laid, and to continue to pass down the legacy to my two children.

“The business has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 40 years, but there is no better feeling for me than to work with customers that have been building relationships with us since my grandfather ran the business out of his garage. I also love to work on the new technology and solutions that are being developed that can help businesses become more efficient in their logistics operations.”

 

JORDAN HAMRICK, 34

Hamrick Packaging Systems, Mogadore, OH

Jordan represents the third generation of leadership at Hamrick Packaging Systems, a manufacturer of secondary, or end-of-line, packaging equipment. Its clientele includes companies as large as Kraft Heinz and Coca-Cola and as small as craft breweries.

Jordan began working summer shifts at Hamrick Manufacturing while in high school, mopping floors, cleaning toilets and picking up parts from local distributors. He graduated from Kent State University with degrees in business management and marketing and started his career working full-time in the family business in the spring of 2010.  His first role was in marketing.

“Jordan had a strong desire to see the company grow in directions that the first generation had not typically thought necessary,” says chief operating officer Brian Ebie, who has worked with Jordan for 12 years. “Jordan began an aggressive marketing plan — putting our name out in trade publications, improving our ‘look’ at trade shows and creating necessary social media accounts such as LinkedIn.”

A short time later, Jordan’s uncle, who had had handled sales for many years, suffered health issues. His illness coincided with a slowdown in the economy. Jordan stepped into a sales role. “I quickly learned how to sell our equipment on the fly,” Jordan says.

“My father and I eventually took over the operation in 2016, and over the last five years we’ve transformed a failing company by reinvesting in our equipment, our people and our image,” says Jordan, now president of Hamrick Packaging Systems.

He says the company is forecasting 110% growth from FY20 to FY21. Sales in the first five months of 2021 surpassed the rec­ord-breaking 2020 level, he says.

“Since I started, we’ve gone from 22 employees to 49 and have strengthened every aspect of our operation,” Jordan says. “It’s something I’m extremely proud of.”

Ebie says Jordan “has challenged us to take on projects we would not have previously considered.” He developed the company’s first robotic “pick-and-place” case packer.

“His insight and vision for what the company could become has opened many new opportunities for collaboration internally and with companies in our industry,” Ebie says. “He met with competitors to find ways that our businesses could support one another, leading to increased sales for both entities and setting the stage for the direction we are now pursuing — integrated systems.

“He knows each of our 50 employees and makes it a point to speak to them each day. He arranges opportunities for the company to gather and celebrate our successes.”

“Family is everything,” Jordan says. “My passion is leaving my children with a better situation than I inherited if they want to continue building our legacy. I know the statistics on family-owned businesses, and as a third-generation owner, I was determined to be an exception to that rule. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish as a family-owned and -operated business for the last 46 years, and even prouder that we’re doing it in the right way.”

 

JUSTIN WHITE, 32

K&D Landscaping Inc., Watsonville, Calif.

Justin, the second-generation CEO of K&D Landscaping, began working in the business as a teenager. In 2015, he stepped up to become CEO of the company, which is based in California’s Central Coast (Santa Cruz area).

Over the last dozen years, Justin has expanded his landscaping experience and industry knowledge “through horticulture classes, business coaching, certifications, self-sought education and plain old hard work.”

As CEO, Justin introduced contemporary ideas, new technology and the “big hairy audacious goal” of a 300-employee workforce by 2030. He adopted new recruiting methods, and the company, now with 100 team members (including several family members), is a third of the way to that goal. He places high importance on creating as many jobs as possible in his local community.

In 2015, K&D generated $1.5 million in annual revenues, says business coach Jonathan Goldhill of Goldhill Group, who began working with Justin that year. Today, annual revenues are nearly $12 million, and the company is on track to beat another of its original “big hairy audacious goals,” revenues of $30 million by 2030.

Justin is featured prominently in Goldhill’s book, Disruptive Successor. “He works successfully with his younger brother to grow the business,” Goldhill says. “They are stewards in the community, winning local awards and donating a day each month to some local community beautification project. He is an exemplary leader who is humble, hungry and smart.”

Justin “has built a leadership team of all young A-players, with great systems and a Scaling Up operating system with great processes and technology,” Goldhill says. “Justin has set up an advisory board and a family/ownership board, and surrounded himself with experts and mentors.”

Justin says K&D is not in business to be just another landscaper; the company’s mission is to “raise the bar” in the industry. He is the current president of the Central Coast chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association, serves on the board of the Monterey Peninsula College Horticultural Committee and is a member of the President’s Advisory Committee at Cabrillo College, his alma mater.

“I really have to give gratitude to my parents, not only for building a foundation, but for creating a reputation that is so well-respected,” Justin says. “Now my siblings, cousins and I get to carry on the family legacy by continuing to make an impact in the community.

“Working in a family business can be challenging at times. We must check our egos at the door and leave family drama outside of the workplace. One of the ways we have created a successful environment for so many family members is through extreme candor; I feel it is the only way to operate a family business.

“The idea that we are creating a successful company for not only our current family members to work at, but also for future generations, is exciting, and it keeps me going when things get difficult.”

 

WES LILJA, 34

Blow Molded Specialties Inc./UMI Company Inc., Foley, Minn.

Wes is CEO of Blow Molded Specialties Inc. Midwest (BMS), which specializes in the manufacturing and assembly of medium-sized and large plastic parts, and board chair of its parent organization, UMI Company Inc.

At BMS, he works with the leadership team to develop and implement the company’s long-term organic growth plan. He also leads the capital planning process as well as other corporate initiatives to enhance efficiency and management capabilities across the company. At UMI, Wes leads the management team in identifying and pursuing acquisition opportunities. UMI has expertise in both plastics and metals manufacturing and is currently pursuing opportunities to expand its Midwestern manufacturing platform.

Prior to joining BMS and UMI, Wes worked in mergers and acquisitions as an investment banker at Harris Williams & Co., where he focused on the consumer industry. He joined Harris Williams after receiving his MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He earned his B.A. in business from the University of Puget Sound.

Jon Keimig, director of the University of St. Thomas Family Business Center, notes that Wes has served on the board of Spantek Expanded Metal, another company under UMI’s umbrella, where his cousin Sam Carlsen is the CEO. “Both not only lead the day-to-day of these successful companies, but partner within each other’s businesses at the board level,” Keimig says.

Wes “has improved the companies’ abilities to accurately model large investments and led the company’s successful application and participation in the PPP program that helped stabilize the business and workforce this last year,” Keimig says. “UMI is fortunate to have such a young, talented leader to help the business grow in new ways, and further solidify it for future generations.

“Wes and Sam are both active and engaged in the St. Thomas Family Business Center and are members of our next-generation peer groups,” Keimig says.

“Family business has always been a part of my life,” Wes says. “As a kid I watched my mother build her own public relations firm from the ground up. Business was a frequent conversation topic around the dinner table, and I learned that although her work as an entrepreneur was often challenging, it was also interesting and meaningful.

“I initially opted for a ‘safer’ career path working in finance, but I found selling companies to be unfulfilling. The short-term focus of private equity firms and publicly traded corporations were often at odds with the long-term health of the business being sold.

“I jumped at the opportunity to join BMS and UMI as a third-generation owner in partnership with my cousin. We are believers in the future of Midwestern manufacturing, and we are looking to grow. I like to think we are building a business for the fourth generation — our kids!” 

 

SIBLING TEAMS

WEINSTEIN PROPERTIES/JECKLIN RESIDENTIAL, GLEN ALLEN, VA.

Weinstein Properties, founded in 1952 as a single-family home developer, now owns and manages more than 19,000 apartments. Third-generation siblings Zachary Jecklin and Madeline Jecklin decided to start their own business focused on single-family rental properties to complement the apartment rental company. Their business, Jecklin Residential, is a sister company to Weinstein Properties.

“They identified, purchased and now rent homes in the markets where we have apartment communities,” says their mother, Allison Weinstein, co-president of Weinstein Properties. “Zach and Madeline have grown the business between Richmond, Va., and Austin, Texas. They own and manage 18 units and are rapidly expanding.

“We are so very fortunate to have two of our three children engaged in key ways in our business.”

 

ZACHARY JECKLIN, 25

Zach graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with a focus in anthropology, sociology and English. After graduating, he immediately moved to New York City to pursue a career in real estate as an investment sales broker.

In the fall of 2019, Zach and his sister Madeline decided to start Jecklin Residential, focused on single-family rental properties.

“Zach was the lead in studying the markets in each of the regions where we have existing apartment communities, determining where there were viable opportunities, making a broker contact, purchasing the homes, getting financing, setting the rental rates and getting the homes rented,” Weinstein says.

“Zach has proved to have a keen eye for what will work and has made careful decisions,” Weinstein says. “This has resulted in a young business that is already profitable.”

After Jecklin Residential got off the ground and running, Zach began working with Weinstein Properties as an acquisitions manager. He travels to North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee to help identify deals for Weinstein Properties to acquire.

“Zach is involved in the acquisition, disposition and development side of our core apartment business,” his mother says. “He is enthusiastically soaking in the knowledge from the more senior people on the team and has started taking the lead on some broker calls and other tasks that are key to getting to successful completion.”

“Ever since I can remember, my grandfather Marcus Weinstein has been conditioning me in the most subtle ways to become a member of the family business,” Zach says. “He would take me on car rides to lunch, but would drive through the properties he developed, having me help him keep an eye on anything that might need maintenance. His passion for the business really helped inspire me to start my own, as well as work for the business he created.

“Both of my parents started working for Weinstein Properties in the 1990s, right before I was born, so in a way, it’s all I’ve ever known. Seeing them work hard every day growing up was inspiring to me.

“Another important factor for me is getting to work side by side with my father, mother and sister on a daily basis. I’m very fortunate to have such a close family where we can all work together to continue to grow our business.”

 

MADELINE JECKLIN, 28

Madeline graduated from the University of Virginia in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Before joining Weinstein Properties, Madeline worked as a commercial real estate broker in New York City. She also helped start a technology conference business.

At Weinstein Properties, Madeline is the vice president of operations. Her primary focus is on identifying and implementing technology solutions to help streamline both the employee and resident experience.

“Madeline joined Weinstein Properties a little more than 18 months ago,” says Weinstein. “Since that time she has taken on a significant role in identifying opportunities for efficiency and improved operations and has led several efforts from inception to completion.

“Among other things, she is overseeing a chief human resources officer search, a position she identified we needed. She quickly garnered the respect of the other leaders of our 600+-employee company and easily integrated herself into our business. She has a keen sense of how to engage people in a process and manage change.”

“Working for my family’s business is one of the best decisions I have ever made and is certainly one of the most rewarding paths I could have taken when it comes to my career,” Madeline says. “Weinstein Properties not only gives me a sense of purpose, but also provides an amazing outlet for the many ideas I have to help improve our company operations. Being able to streamline a process, improve the resident experience or make a task easier for our teams is very exciting.

“Seeing the company grow from a small business started by my grandfather to a 600-person organization with over 19,000 apartments in Texas, Virginia and North Carolina is something I am extremely proud to be a part of.”

 

SAILRITE ENTERPRISES INC., COLUMBIA CITY, IND.

Third-generation brothers Zachary Grant and Tanner Grant both entered their family business straight from college. ­Sailrite sells marine supplies, canvas, tools and sewing machines to the do-it-yourself sewing and crafting marketplace. Each brother made an impact quickly upon joining the company, says their father, vice president Matthew Grant.

ZACHARY GRANT, 27

Zach was the first child to join his parents in the family business. He is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington, where he studied neurobiology before shifting his attention to entrepreneurship to prepare for joining the family business. “Due to my early exposure and my parents’ dogged focus on the company, both during the day and at the dinner table, I felt confident I could hit the ground running,” Zach says.

“Watching the family business from afar, he wisely began to see it to be his best future,” Matt says. “So he wrapped up his degree quickly and started work. Zach has been with Sailrite for five years.

“As the nucleus of Sailrite, I wanted to begin by learning all about our sewing machines,” Zach says. “My first year and a half were dedicated to studying, building and improving them. To prepare for our annual trade show, I shifted to sales, taking orders and answering customer project questions.

“Not long after being in sales, I discovered our Google ads were being outsourced and figured I wouldn’t step on any toes taking it over.”

As he began to understand and grow the account, he realized more copy and photos were needed. That helped him develop a rapport with the marketing department. “As time went on, I worked myself into the manager position within the marketing department,” Zach says.

When Zach joined the company, “We really did not know how to integrate him, so we let him try a number of things,” Matt says. “It became clear in just over a year that Zach is an idea man with a keen sense for how to market products. In fact, he developed many sewing machine parts and attachments to solve needs he felt Sailrite’s customers had.

“Then he started working in Google shopping and Adwords, building campaigns and A/B testing different things. He helped with video projects and even spent some time developing new products for Sailrite.

“At the time, digital marketing was not a strong suit of the existing marketing department. So they kindly let Zach do his thing. Slowly he earned the respect of the marketing team, and when growth and attrition opened an opportunity for a marketing co-manager position, Zach was the obvious choice.

“Today Zach has a team of eight in his department. They manage a couple million dollars in spends on two annual print catalogs (each of nearly 300 pages), dozens of magazines with monthly full-page ads, a website, blogs, social advertising, digital advertising, text and email marketing. His team does it all — photography, copy, graphic design, special effects, etc.

“Zach is now the single manager of the whole department, and his efforts have resulted in year-over-year growth for Sailrite, even through the pandemic.

“Zach and his team are so successful that it is not uncommon to hear Sailrite’s general manager ask him to consider reining it back from time to time.”

“As part of Sailrite’s third generation, a transitional period most companies don’t survive, the pressure is mounted to make sound decisions to propel Sailrite into the future,” Zach says. “The prospect of beating the odds excites and encourages us to constantly innovate and expand to new markets.

“There have been and will be many failures along the way, but if we can maintain enthusiasm and action, I have no doubt Sailrite will flourish. My nearly six years at Sailrite have been some of the best and most productive in my life. I am thrilled to see what can be achieved with a lifetime of dedication.”

 

TANNER GRANT, 25

Tanner graduated from Oklahoma City University in 2018 with a degree in business administration. He has been with Sailrite for three years.

“Tanner achieved high marks while in school, and also rowed varsity crew. His strong work ethic has translated well into his chosen occupation and desire to run the family business,” Matt says.

Tanner began at Sailrite as a customer service representative. “In his first year, Tanner explored various jobs within the company to learn the breadth of products and to garner the knowledge required to instruct others in canvas work,” his father says.

“To be successful, Tanner had to create and sew. He did just that by sewing and designing bags to become kits for sale, and even making his own sail shade for his home. He attended trade and consumer shows to meet customers and learn from their crafting experiences.

“Eventually, he set his focus on relieving his mother from her purchasing role. He had determined this to be his passion when he became aware that business growth is largely tied to adding new fabric and hardware.”

Tanner is now the purchasing manager and oversees new product development for certain projects. He’s helped expand the company’s product catalog to over 6,500 items. He has earned his title during his short tenure, Matt says.

“He has learned how to import products and also how to negotiate pricing. He has developed partnerships with key existing suppliers and added several new ones. Two examples are the curation of new proprietary collections of fabric (Durawax and a full Cordura line). But these are just a few of the hundreds of new items he has helped to brand and to introduce to the market.” Tanner has also designed do-it-yourself tutorials for several new projects on social media.

“Tanner is responsible for over $13 million in annual purchases for products, which shows just how valuable and trusted he is in his young career,” Matt says. “His next step is to build a purchasing team, since Sailrite is growing rapidly. His purchases are projected to reach $15 million in 2021.”

“Sailrite started out as a niche company,” Tanner says. “I remember growing up and working odd jobs in different areas of the business, trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible. Looking back today, it’s crazy to see how much the company has grown.

“I’ve always been analytical, and this trait has helped me work my way into a purchasing management/new product development position in the business.

“This once niche company has slowly transformed into a big business. The Sailrite brand is becoming ubiquitous, and I’m excited to see what the future holds. Looking ahead, I want to help move the company into new markets and really expand the product line. We’ve always had loyal customers, and I want to make sure we’re living up to their expectations.”

 

MAYER ELECTRIC SUPPLY CO., BIRMINGHAM, ALA.

Fourth-generation brothers David Goedecke and Scott Goedecke are moving up within their family business, one of the nation’s largest wholesale distributors of electrical products and equipment. David and Scott are also both playing key roles on the family council. “Both are outstanding young men,” says Craig Aronoff, co-founder of The Family Business Consulting Group, who has worked with the family.

 

DAVID GOEDECKE, 33

“Growing up with Mayer was just part of my daily life,” says David. “Spending summers working in the warehouse, delivering material and eventually working with our counter and inside sales teams, I had tremendous opportunities to grow and learn about our selling organization and business operations.

“Now, with a business degree and several years’ experience working with a key supplier, I have the opportunity with Mayer to develop and lead the transition to the distributor services of the future.

“What has made us successful in the past will not be all that is required in the future. Those activities are still necessary, but no longer sufficient. New business models have emerged. Customer expectations are being driven by frictionless experiences like we get with Amazon in our personal lives. The convergence of many changes at the same time creates complexity, and this convergence is not slowing down anytime soon. Mayer must find ways to compete smarter and embrace the digital revolution. 

“My first role at Mayer allowed me to interact with our sales associates, customers, suppliers and our IT development teams. As part of the customer integration team, I worked with our customers to provide efficiency and value beyond our product and service offerings. By developing innovative, connected technology solutions, digital tools and data-analysis resources, we create project, jobsite and back-office efficiencies for our customers.

“While customer integration is successful and still an active team today, it was time for me to switch gears, focusing on the industrial side of our business as a solutions architect, involved with leading our strategy for our connected supplier offerings. We engage with customers at the C-suite level to become a trusted adviser by understanding our customers’ business processes and discussing issues that are impacting their success.

“We are focused on enabling our customers to capture, analyze and dashboard critical data to gain insight into their business. Turning data into information, and information into insights, creates the opportunity to make more efficient and more profitable decisions.

“Outside of Mayer, I lead the governance committee of our Collat Family Council, which is the leadership arm of our family assembly. This council was created as a governing body to ensure the vision, mission and values of the Collat Family Assembly are carried out.

“Being involved in our family business has been both rewarding and challenging. I have learned that passion to perpetuate the family’s ownership and well-being is truly the key ingredient to family business success. I am passionate about continuing the legacy begun by my great-grandparents, grown by my grandparents and nurtured by my parents, aunts and uncles.

“My passion to grow and exceed expectations, paired with a naturally competitive nature, has provided many opportunities. Through these opportunities, I have begun to realize a key truth that has informed my decisions and how I try to lead. I have learned that chasing success is more about me, but chasing significance is about others. A life of significance is always focused on others, and that life will be most fulfilling.”

“David is playing a key role in helping Mayer Electric’s customer interface become smarter and leaner,” says Aronoff. “The future of the company depends on Mayer’s ability to create the digital future of the distribution business.

“As governance chair of the family council, David leads efforts to develop family processes and policies as the family transitions from the third to the fourth generation of family ownership and management.”

 

SCOTT GOEDECKE, 31

“I was born and raised in Birmingham and grew up around Mayer my entire life,” Scott says.

“I graduated from the University of Georgia with a finance degree in 2012 and joined the world of banking with BB&T, now Truist, at their headquarters in Winston Salem, N.C.

“I worked through a year-long training program, and subsequently moved back to Birmingham to join their commercial/corporate banking team. I worked as a portfolio manager for their corporate lending officer and then as a business services officer supporting middle-market clients.

“Although I loved my job at the bank and still remain extremely close to my entire team at Truist, timing met opportunity in 2016, and I joined the family company.”

At Mayer, Scott says, “I have been fortunate enough to be an active part of our finance, accounting and operations departments and now serve as our director of finance and treasury management.”

“Scott has assumed a leadership position within the family council, co-chairing the group with his aunt, and provided leadership both for his and his parents’ generation,” says Aronoff.

“Family business is a unique dynamic where you have to find a balanced synergy between family and business,” Scott says. “Which is more important? How do you keep them both healthy and happy?

“For my grandfather, who bought Mayer in 1979, this was an easy question: They were synonymous. However, today, with 22 family members, family and business are two different beasts. Keeping them in lockstep takes work, hard work.

“Fortunately, I get to have a foot in both camps. My passion is driven by the legacy from my grandfather that is unmatched in our community. It is our responsibility to carry that on as a family and a company for our 1,200+ associates today and those that have come before us.

“ ‘First Choice’ is the vision that we live by for our associates, customers and suppliers, but it is more than just a vision; it is a way of life. We must continue to not only make Mayer First Choice, but we must ensure the family is the First Choice ownership group for our associates, customers and suppliers.

“We must continue to have a balanced synergy, and helping find that balance drives my passion each and every day.”

 

 

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