Communicating to Your Children About Family Wealth

If families don’t talk about the origins of their wealth – and what it means – to their next generation, a golden opportunity to right-size expectations is missed. Communicating to your children about wealth is the chance to bridge how to appreciate, respect and normalize what might be intimidating, uncomfortable or awkward. Many beneficiaries desire to live up to their family’s expectations but may not know how.

Two common fears come up when preparing to reveal the magnitude of family wealth to the next generation. First, families are afraid of disincentivizing children, or seeding lazy, recalcitrant, and/or entitled heirs. Second, they fear delaying the news, only for their children to read misinformation from the internet or hear from a classmate or outsider about the family’s wealth or business. You can calm these fears by telling the real narrative of the family’s success over time, peeling back the story in layers like an onion and educating beneficiaries with the skills and knowledge to become good stewards.

So, how can we confront the elephant in the room, when it comes to sharing more about the wealth in your family? To follow are 6 tips on preparing your progeny to be great stewards.


  1. Messaging: Start by exploring your own feelings and bias around wealth. What messages did you receive or experience when it comes to history of your family’s wealth or business? Which stories and values around the wealth do you want to pass along (or not)? Consider articulating your money philosophy or talking to your spouse or partner about their money mantra before approaching your children. Have a solid understanding of where parents or guardians are aligned, and where they are different, before talking to your children about your values around wealth.


  1. Modeling: Children are sponges. They absorb a lot from what is modeled to them. If you are an “immigrant” to wealth and business success, understand that your child might be a “native” and not understand why elders or you save tinfoil, reuse wrapping paper, or hold on to twist ties and rubber bands. If you can explain how and what you model to your children, they can understand how they are different and may not have had to overcome the hurdles and obstacles you have in your life. By modeling how you prepare, plan, and make good financial decisions, your children are learning by your example. Similarly, if you normalize talking about your goals and how financial means factor into achieving them, you can help your children respect what being part of a family with wealth or businesses means. Third, model how to build self-esteem not from material effects, rather from life experiences, building knowledge, and meaningful relationships.


  1. Molding: Wealth education typically begins informally with financial parenting. Consider starting small, at age-appropriate opportunities, using normal experiences such as filling up a car with gas or shopping for necessities. This brings a hands-on understanding of the cost of food staples to gasoline to start conversations around money. Ask children to add up how many times you fill up your tank a month to appreciate how this impacts your family budget. High school or college-age children will appreciate understanding about working, housing, income and making purchases such as buying a car or home. How do you get a mortgage or car loan? What level of income is required when making larger purchases? Why is it important to live within your means? These are all critical building steps towards their financial independence and autonomy.


  1. Mentoring: Mentors can be powerful influencers in the development of a child. Recognize the adults who interact with your child frequently, who they look up to or admire and why. Sometimes these individuals are family friends, soccer coaches, advisors, schoolteachers, community members or spiritual leaders. Talk to your child about the mentors they gravitate towards, what they hope to learn, and how these individuals can help them reach their goals. Hiring professional life, executive or career coaches can inspire your child to commit to their personal and professional development if they are having difficulties finding a mentor.


  1. Manifesting: When it comes to revealing more about the family’s business or wealth, consider having family elders share their personal story, their role and involvement. First, share about the hard times, failures, as well as the successes, as often wealth “natives” only perceive the success of a wealth creator. Second, bridge past success to opportunities for family to grow, develop, and learn through applied opportunities such as internships or part-time work experience. Third, explain the family’s reward system to recognize, validate and celebrate achievements made by family members. Incentivize gaining financial skills like reading investment statements and financial statements, as a pathway to become eligible to join a board or committee. Often family members need to understand the basic family governance that will allow them to progress and be eligible possibly to work in the family business or in the family office.


  1. Measuring: How do we know if our children will be good stewards of wealth? Don’t leave their success up to chance. Determine family learning goals and milestones for each child individually. Involve your child as they reach adulthood to identify their personal learning goals as it relates to your family’s business or wealth. Help them understand how to advance and gain meaningful experience to progress either into a family business, as a beneficial owner, or in their own career. Identifying metrics such as being able to understand the terms of their trusts, how distributions are made, how to work with an advisor, how to read an investment statement, or analyze a financial statement are typically key criteria to being a responsible steward.


Communicating about your family’s business and wealth will help prepare your child to appreciate the tremendous head start that being a part of your family provides and inspire them to excel and be the best at what they are most passionate about. There is no greater satisfaction than watching a child succeed. Strong communication, education and preparation are all keys to their long-term success.

Kirby Rosplock, PhD. is the Chief Learning Officer and Founder of Tamarind Learning


Engaging the next generation

The Ritter family has been in business together for five generations, with our sixth generation now blossoming. The longevity of this business is a great source of pride but also presents challenges related to educating and engaging our newest family members. With only one family member still working in the business and households spread across the United States, communicating our legacy is a less-than-organic process. Distance, time commitments and dedication to individual careers make it difficult to bring the newest Ritters together.

To address this challenge, the Ritter Family Council developed a Next Generation Committee to connect young family members and to teach them about the legacy of the founder, Ernest Ritter.

The committee’s efforts have not required grand gestures and large budgets. Through our intentional efforts to educate and build connections among the members of our youngest generation, we have also been able to engage other family members who are interested in our family history and business.

Creating a Next Generation Committee
The Ritter Family Council developed the Next Generation Committee with the realization that the time and attention needed for next-generation development should come from a small and dedicated group of family members. Parents, educators and other creative family members interested in engaging the youngest Ritters serve on the committee.

At the outset, we discussed hands-on experiences, such as internships or family camps, for the next-generation members. However, the investment of time and money that would have been required made these ideas daunting and a difficult place to start. Eventually, the committee decided to reach these young family members in a more cost-effective way. The committee planned and sent “Ritter packages,” a small gift, with a theme centered on the family history, that was fun to receive. While we all agreed that the work should evolve beyond those simple materials, our initial efforts facilitated a start to Ritter kids knowing family history, feeling connected to the larger family and learning about the family business.

Ritter packages
In agreement to “start small,” the Next Generation Committee began designing the Ritter packages. The committee was first tasked with answering questions like: How often will we send these? What is our budget? How do we send something that appeals to the youngest and oldest? What will we include in each package?

The answers to these questions evolved through initial conversations. The committee agreed to a biannual mailing, sent in the summer and during the winter holiday season. We established a modest budget per child, recognizing that a big piece of that budget would be taken up by shipping costs. When considering content, the committee agreed that each package would focus on a family story and introduce an important family member. A small, themed gift would be included. Considering the age ranges of Ritter children, the committee also accepted that we would need to create separate gifts for elementary-school-aged kids and adolescent family members.

Telling the family story
A collective story offers each person in a group an immediate commonality with other group members. In a family business, that collective story is the family’s history. Imparting family and business history should be intentional; preserving both family and business history deserves time and respect.

Fortunately, several third- and fourth-generation Ritter family members dedicated themselves to preserving family history. These family members invested a great deal of time and energy into gathering old pictures, writings and simple recollections. With the help of a hired author, those individual pieces of history were developed into a book, which became an invaluable reference. This book has been a great resource for our Next Generation Committee, which has used its stories and pictures as ­inspiration.

For the youngest children, we communicated history with a series of coloring pages depicting images of what life would have been like at the time of our company’s founding in Marked Tree, Ark. Alongside those coloring pages, we’ve adapted portions of our history in the forms of short, playful poems and readings.

A short narrative accompanies each gift for the older next-generation family members. These stories are less daunting to read than the family history book. At a recent shareholder meeting, history was introduced through “Family Jeopardy,” a game that presented history and business knowledge in a fun, engaging way. The committee also plans to present a history panel at a future family event. The panel would include multiple members of the third and fourth generations, with opportunities for all family members to ask questions and share stories.

Making it fun across age groups
With the goal of preserving the past and sharing the present, the Next Generation Committee develops a theme for each mailing based on relevant portions of our history. One recent mailing highlighted the “wild” beginnings of our company and some of the wildlife that surrounded the family land. Along with a poem and coloring page, kids received plastic bugs, fans (for that Arkansas summer heat) and seed kits that represented both the agricultural beginnings of the business and the new growth in Ritter agriculture. For a recent holiday mailing, kids learned about a housing development started by our founder where all the houses were painted yellow. We sent each child a gingerbread house with yellow food coloring so they could make their own yellow house. The family enjoyed pictures of the yellow houses on social media from all over the country.

Education for our older sixth-generation members takes a different form. At a recent family meeting, company employees produced a “Ritter Expo,” where all departments — including HR, marketing, accounting and sales — set up booths to demonstrate what their job looks like day to day. The expo not only enabled the sixth generation to learn about the individual areas of the company, but also provided an opportunity for the teenagers (as well as the rest of the family) to engage one-on-one with company employees. Mailings after that meeting provided a snapshot of the current business with fun “Ritter swag.”

It can be hard to keep up with changing interests and trends among teenagers, but when you don’t know, ask! Instead of relying on our own assumptions, we brought our older sixth-generation members into the fold by asking what kind of content they would like to see in the future. Getting feedback from the teenagers helped us to create content they actually wanted to see and to involve them on a deeper level. As a result, we developed a short YouTube series highlighting what some Ritter employees do on a daily basis. What started as an attempt to engage some of our sixth-generation members turned into a project that engaged our family, our employees and even our employees’ families.

Involving the parents
Creative and fun ideas for the youngest generation are key for next-generation planning, and the Next Generation Committee wanted parents to be partners in introducing the business to their children. While receiving a box of goodies is fun and exciting, the Next Generation Committee wants to make sure parents know what to say when kids ask, “Where did this come from?” To better prepare Ritter parents, each box includes a short letter addressed to them with a brief summary of the family history that the mailing represents. Parents are also encouraged to share on our private social media page ways their children are enjoying the educational package.

In addition to reaching families through the mailing, the Next Generation Committee facilitates face-to-face time with the youngest Ritters. This geographically dispersed group of first, second and third cousins often spends little to no time together, so another form of outreach centers on the annual family and shareholder meeting.
While all family shareholders are always invited, the Next Generation Committee decided to take the invitation a step further. We contact parents four to six months before the meeting to ask how we can make it easier for their families to attend. Options have included providing a sitter during meetings, supplementing travel costs and looking for accommodations with a small kitchen for families dealing with allergies. While the next generation has never met as a full group, the committee continues to hope that accommodations for families can facilitate this goal.

Including the married-ins
Even though the Next Generation Committee was designed to educate and engage the youngest rising generation members, we realized we were missing an entire category of people who needed indoctrination: married-ins (or “outlaws,” as we fondly call them).

For married-ins, the entire concept of a family business and family council may sound odd, intimidating or even downright cultish. But at the same time, we consider those married-ins bona fide members of the family. As such, the committee wanted to give them an official welcome from the larger family, provide a digestible amount of information about us and make sure they knew their participation was welcome. This process is now a regular duty of the Next Generation Committee. Each newlywed couple receives a “Ritter Starter Pack,” a mailing that includes a small gift, a copy of our family history book, a family tree and some information about ways to get involved if they so choose.

Thinking creatively about engagement
The Ritter family uses the challenges of engaging the next generation to remind ourselves of both the legacy and the future of the family business. Our Next Generation Committee was initially formed to educate and engage the youngest members of our family. We found, however, that our efforts extend beyond our youngest family members. Committee members use their talents to learn and creatively share the history of the family and business. Parents of the youngest members have become partners in teaching the legacy of our founder. And the committee has extended a welcome not just to Ritter children, but also to Ritter spouses. What started as a way to involve a targeted group of family members has now turned into a sustainability practice that engages family members in the sixth generation and beyond.           

Katy Wilder Schaaf, Ph.D., is director of development and engagement and Natalie Clark and James Arnold are family council members at E. Ritter & Co. All three authors are fifth-generation owners of the company.

Copyright 2019 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact

Preparing children emotionally for the transfer of ownership

There are two aspects to transferring a business to children. Of course, there’s the technical aspect: transferring ownership in a tax-efficient manner and as part of a business continuity plan. There’s also the emotional aspect: preparing your children for the wealth and responsibilities that come with this very special family asset.

I often find families have a harder time preparing for the emotional component, because there’s so much to consider in order to transfer a business successfully. It requires some deep introspection and conversations about your family values and long-term goals.

• How do you do it in a way that’s thoughtful and not a burden on the children?
• How do you match your vision for the business with your children’s identities and ambitions?
• How do you teach them stewardship of the wealth they will inherit?
• How do you ensure you’re being fair to your children, and to your employees?

The best approach is to talk with your children about managing wealth early, often and in an age-appropriate way. Here are five ways to help prepare your children for a successful business transfer.

1. Engage children so they have a positive relationship with money. Children growing up in wealthy families can have broadly varying views about the money and the family business. Some may feel a sense of entitlement and expect to inherit or run the family business. On the other end of the spectrum, some children feel they don’t deserve the assets; they haven’t worked for them and want nothing to do with them. It’s important for parents to address the psychology of money and engage children so they have a positive attitude about wealth and can manage it in a way that works for them.

It really comes down to instilling a strong sense of self-worth and allowing them to have their own identities. They need to be able to express their own vision for their lives and pursue their passions, rather than live in your shadow and fear they will never meet your expectations. When you understand their ambitions, you can better prepare them to maximize the family’s assets for themselves and future generations.

I suggest talking to them about the importance of being a contributing member of society and how the business furthers that goal — how it creates jobs while providing services or products that improve people’s lives, or perhaps how the company’s philanthropic activities benefit the broader community. Explain to them that the business can add to their lives and give them the tools and resources to accomplish great things.

2. Help them understand the responsibility. You and your family have worked hard to achieve success. It’s vital that your children understand that focused effort and stewardship must continue in order to maintain the business.

While they have watched you build, enhance and evolve the family business throughout their lives, it’s important that they understand what it all means to you in order to create purpose and meaning for them. Start by sharing your family values and making them a common part of everyday conversations and behavior.

Tell the story of the family business. Who came up with the idea? Why? How did it grow? What challenges did you have to overcome? What unexpected rewards came along the way? Why did you make the sacrifices you made? What was worth it, and what wasn’t? Humanizing the company can help build a nurturing sense of responsibility in your children.

As they get older, talk to them about the technical side of estate-planning concerns. Explain to them how you intend to transfer the business (i.e., the entities and transfer techniques that will be used, who will hold voting shares, etc.) and whether you’ve set up trusts for them. When they’re old enough to understand, let them attend wealth planning meetings with your advisers so they can hear directly from professionals about the legal and tax issues and why assets need to be transferred in certain structures.

Once they understand how hard it is to achieve and manage success, they can appreciate the full value of the family’s business.

3. Give them age-appropriate tasks. It’s never too early to start educating children about the value of money and a strong work ethic. When they are young, teach them how to count money and save for important things. You may want to give them a small bank account so they can start learning about cash flow, budgeting and saving. Find age-appropriate opportunities that fit within your family values for them to earn money.

As they get older, you could give them a small pool of assets to invest themselves. Teach them or have your advisers explain how to research companies and determine value metrics, rather than follow news headlines. If you want them to have an altruistic attitude about money, involve them in a donor-advised fund or in your family foundation. If they are interested in taking an active role in the family business, teach them about the business and tell them what qualifications are needed to obtain a job there.

4. Inform them about all the assets they will inherit. I know one woman whose parents transferred a significant portion of the family business to her and her sister through a trust. But the sisters have no idea how much is actually in the trusts — the value of the family business or other assets. Although the woman is involved in running the family business, she knows very little about the assets that have been set aside for her and whether or not she has access to them. She wonders how she should plan for a spouse and family, or any other future endeavors. Will she be able to use the assets for these purposes? Or should she rely solely on her and her spouse’s earnings?

When your children are mature enough, let them know exactly what business interests and other assets they will inherit and your intentions for them. Will your child’s spouse have access to them? Can the assets be used only for the grandchildren? How should your children think about the business compared with other assets they will inherit? Is it OK for them to sell company shares? Can they use the assets now to further their own interests, or must they wait until you pass away?

When possible and appropriate, I recommend you share your overall family estate plan as you discuss this information with your children so they can see how each asset fits into the full picture.

5. Respect their goals. It may be your dream to have your son or daughter follow you as chief executive of your company, but it may not be theirs. Respecting their goals ties back to giving them the space and tools to develop and maintain self-worth so they have a positive relationship with money. If someone joins the family business but thinks the job is a burden and limits their dreams, the individual, the company and the family will all suffer.

Help them figure out how the family can help them fulfill their goals. Maybe it’s best to develop them as knowledgeable owners who don’t work in the company. Perhaps you could start a “family bank” to help finance their independent business ventures.

If they do want an active role, think about what experience and education they will need, and how you can develop their leadership capabilities.

Conversations facilitate planning
There are many family dynamics that play into your plans to pass your family business on to your children and future generations. One size does not fit all.

The most harmonious transitions occur when the entire family is emotionally ready to take the next steps. Having these family dialogues often and throughout your children’s lives will help you with succession and estate planning. The conversations will open up different options to transfer your business and wealth in a manner that satisfies both your and your children’s goals and, ultimately, helps you establish and maintain the legacy and family harmony you desire.         

Nikki Michelini is a director in wealth management and a principal working in the San Francisco office of Aspiriant, a wealth management firm serving affluent clients nationwide ( Her area of specialty is family office services.

Copyright 2019 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact

Hard work pays off on the family farm

Kolt Kyler is a 9-year-old farm-working, grandmother-helping, pig-raising honor roll student. He's also a baseball player—and a Chicago Cubs fan. That's how he got his 15 minutes of fame.

Kolt's father, Andy Kyler, owns a 31-acre farm in Pierceton, Ind., but the family also works about 100 additional acres in row crops and hay. This spring, as planting season started, Andy was offered a couple of tickets to a June Cubs game. Andy realized the tickets would be a great way to reward Kolt for his hard work on the farm.

"He went out in the cold and did his chores every day and didn't even complain," says his mother, Natalie Kyler.

Kolt is a super-fan, Natalie says. "He got a Cubs bag and T-shirt for Christmas and he was shook up about it then. I knew he would be so happy and excited to get the tickets."

Natalie recorded the surprise so her family could see Kolt's reaction. The two-minute video could make the Grinch misty-eyed.

The video shows Andy asking his son if he's willing to take on another project. Kolt agrees without hesitation. When Andy hands Kolt an envelope with the tickets, the boy is more than happy and excited—he is stunned, he is ecstatic, he is sobbing with joy.

Kolt's 22-year-old sister, Hannah Himes, reposted Natalie's Facebook video on Twitter. That's when it exploded.

Hannah's post drew thousands of retweets and tens of thousands of likes in a day's time. Then the Today show called. And ESPN. Local and national media, including Family Business Magazine, jumped on the feel-good story.

Kolt says he's still in "a lot of shock." Andy describes the entire experience as "surreal."

The Cubs also took notice. Several of the team's top players responded to the video and offered their personal seats to the game. Kolt, Andy, Natalie, Klay, Hannah and Hannah's fiancé were all able to go.

The family received VIP treatment, and there was plenty of Cubs swag to go around. Kolt wore an Anthony Rizzo jersey gifted by the team and had all of his favorite players sign the back; his absolute favorite is shortstop Addison Russell.

Kolt helped the grounds crew prepare the field. He even got a chance to go to the outfield and touch the ivy wall.

"It was amazing," he says with a sigh still in his voice. "It's the prettiest place on Earth at that moment."

"What they did for us just doesn't happen every day," Andy says of the Cubs organization. "I could not believe how fast that day went."

Over the summer, Kolt planned to play as much baseball as possible. He's been playing since he was 3 and specializes in second base and catching.

And, of course, he planned to continue the farm work he's been doing since age 5 or 6. This year he started raising pigs, named Ebony and Ivory, which he planned to show at the 4H fair in July.

Andy says he tries to teach Kolt and brother Klay, 6, the value of hard work. "I don't keep an iron fist on them or anything, but I want them to know you work hard and it will never let you down," Andy says.

Both Andy and Natalie come from farm families and have an obvious passion for farming.

"This is my full-time hobby and I take it pretty seriously," Andy says, adding that he has a full-time job that pays the family's bills. He started his own farm in 2010.

"I'd like to have the farm triple or four times the size by the time I retire," Andy says. "The main goal is to keep the boys feeling responsible and part of something. Growing something and harvesting, you almost get addicted."

He says he doesn't want to rush the boys to grow up, but his dream is for his sons to work the farm with him and take it over when he's through with it.

Kolt has different designs.

"That's my backup plan," he says of the farm, "but my main plan is to be a baseball player."

Copyright 2017 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact

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York Athletics: A family business in three acts

York Athletics sprang from a little guilt, a storied history and the entrepreneurial spirit of five brothers who came together to compete with some of the most iconic brands in the world. While its roots go back three generations, the Boston-based lifestyle footwear company is a brand new family business whose first product, an understated sneaker, reached the marketplace in 2016.

"Most family business stories are about passing the keys to the kingdom to the next generation," says Kyle York, one of the five brothers. "We're not doing that. It's three successive generations of self-made individuals. We didn't take the family money and reinvest it in the business. We all went out and earned our own money and are now investing it in a new family business."

The brothers—Travis, Evan, Kyle, Tyler and Dylan York—put their heads and their wallets together to create a venture to carry the family legacy into the future. Their story features three separate companies interwoven by family ownership. It begins in 1946 with the founding of Indian Head Shoe Company of Manchester, N.H., makers of iconic high-top cleats for football legend Johnny Unitas and ice skates for Olympic champion Peggy Fleming. The York brothers' grandfather, Henry Spaulding, and his brother-in-law, John Danos, founded that company, which went out of business in the 1970s.

Before the shoe company folded, however, it spawned an outlet store that was purchased and transformed into Indian Head Athletics by Henry's daughter, Gail, and her husband, Don York. The two were high school sweethearts; Don was a local football star. Don and Gail created a successful retail store based on knowledgeable customer service and carefully cultivated relationships with local schools and teams. They also raised five sons who worked in the store growing up but went their separate ways, at their parents' insistence, as they entered the workforce.

"None of us went down the path to take over Indian Head Athletics," says Tyler York. "When we were growing up, Dad always said he wanted something better for us. If any of us had insisted on it, he would have opened the door and taught us everything he knew. But without him, I don't know that the company would have lasted that long."

The five brothers created the third company, York Athletics, to keep the family's entrepreneurial spirit alive. "I've always been interested in the history and heritage of our family. I was also long interested in establishing a fashion brand. About three years ago, those interests collided," explains the eldest brother, Travis York. He gathered his siblings to talk about it in 2013. "There was a general agreement right out of the gate that doing something as a family business made sense. All of us felt a little guilty that we weren't taking on the sporting goods store, but the reality is a brick-and-mortar retail sporting goods store isn't the most relevant business for the future."

What they founded instead, York Athletics, is an Internet-based, direct-to-consumer company selling uniquely styled athletic shoes that aren't slathered with logos. They're moderately priced at $100 to $120 per pair and designed to give the wearer a natural feel underfoot. The first model was dubbed "the Henry" in honor of their grandfather, and the style number is the Zip code for Manchester, home of his factory. A thousand pairs were sold in the first six months. That might not have sent tremors through the halls of Nike or Adidas, but it pleased the five brothers.

"We are five boys and our parents owned a sporting goods store, so obviously sports and competition were a big part of growing up," says Travis. "But we've always been more 'five brothers against everybody else' rather than competing among ourselves."

That take-on-all-comers attitude came directly from their father, Don, 65, a jocular, hard-working, old-school retailer who watches the new venture with paternal pride. "I was concerned because of the nature of the business," he says. "I had seen what imports had done to their grandfather, and it was a huge risk. Their answer to me was, 'You've always told us, if you don't take risks in life, you'll be kind of boring.' "

The original business, Indian Head Shoe Company, lasted 30 years before it drowned in a tidal wave of foreign competition. According to U.S. census data, imports' share of the athletic shoe market increased from 39% to 68% between 1970 and 1976, the year the company declared bankruptcy. At its peak, Indian Head was producing 1,000 pairs of injection-molded shoes a day as a supplier to Hyde Athletic Industries. One of its biggest sellers at the time was the O.J. Simpson "Juice Mobile." Hyde bought the assets of the company out of bankruptcy and was itself eventually merged out of existence.

Travis and his brothers are well aware of the dangers of competing against global conglomerates, but they structured York Athletics to navigate the pitfalls by hiring a non-family CEO with extensive industry experience to run the new company. Mark McGarry, 38, was formerly head of the lifestyle footwear business at Puma and had been contemplating starting his own fashion brand with his wife, Elizabeth, who designed shoes for Nike and Reebok.

"We want to maintain control over the brand and the company," McGarry says. "That's a very important driver for the future, and we have to figure that out from a financial standpoint."

Other outside partners were brought in as well. Kyle met Jay Bush of baked-bean company Bush Brothers & Co. at the Transitions East conference in 2014. The two discovered several areas of mutual interest. Bush joined the York Athletics board and became a lead investor in the new company. The other board members are McGarry and Travis and Kyle York.

Financing of the new venture was carefully thought out. "There was an original 'friends and family' round of funding when we didn't even know what the company was going to be," Kyle explains. That group, which consists of the five brothers, evolved into the largest shareholder in York Athletics. "After that, we did an official York Athletics round, during which several angel investors like Jay Bush and Mark McGarry came in," Kyle says.

As the company's financial needs grow, the brothers are adamant about how they will be met. "We will not raise institutional private equity or venture capital, because we don't want Harvard MBAs on our board reading spreadsheets and telling us how we're doing," Kyle says. "We're funding this with like-minded individuals and family offices. We don't want the dynamics of the family business to change."

One of the new company's competitive advantages is the bench strength contributed by the York brothers. They have all been successful on their own, which gives McGarry and his team a solid group of engaged owners. "Travis and Kyle have been amazing partners," McGarry says. "They come to the table with their strengths, and they also know what ours are. There is a lot of trust going both ways."

Travis, 38, is the owner and CEO of GYK Antler, a marketing agency with 100 employees and $20 million in annual billings. Evan, 36, is vice president of data analytics for GYK Antler, while Tyler, 28, serves as a video producer for the agency.

Kyle, 33, is chief strategy officer at Dyn, a $100 million Internet performance company. (On Nov. 21, 2016, Oracle announced that it would acquire Dyn, which had been the target of a massive distributed denial of service attack in October 2016. Kyle led the deal from Dyn's side and was the company spokesman after the acquisition was announced. He plans to stay on after the transaction closes.)

The youngest York brother, 22-year-old Dylan, is a senior at the University of New Hampshire who interned as a project manager at York Athletics when it opened.

"Of the brothers, Kyle and I are the most entrepreneurial by nature," Travis explains. "Historically, I haven't been involved with true startups, whereas he has, especially on the tech side. Kyle is financing-focused. I am more marketing- and branding-focused. Our brother Evan is on the research and analysis side. Our brother Tyler is a storyteller/filmmaker. Our youngest brother, Dylan, is kind of our grunt," he adds with a laugh. "That's what youngest brothers are for, aren't they?"

Dylan also laughs when told how his brother describes his role. "I don't mind," he says. "I've been working at Travis's marketing agency for the last three summers, so I'm really into business now. I don't know what I'm going to do after graduation. Travis suggested I try to expand my repertoire of experience a little bit by working elsewhere for a while. Eventually, I'd love to work closely with York Athletics."

"I was very touched that our children recognized the value of their heritage," Gail York says. "I valued what my parents did. They were very honorable and involved in the community. Don and I tried to instill the value of family in the boys. You never know with kids what they get and what they don't get, so when I first heard about the idea it really hit a nerve."

"There was a method to Gail's and my madness," Don says. "It was family first, business second, and it was not going to be compromised. The boys are doing that with their families, and we're very proud of that." The three eldest brothers, Travis, Evan and Kyle, have seven children between them.

The official launch of the new company was marked on Jan. 4, 2014, which would have been Henry Spaulding's 100th birthday. Don and Gail, their five sons with their wives and kids, and the McGarrys and their two children gathered in a private room at a local restaurant. "It was almost like a giant group therapy session," Tyler recalls. "We all spoke about our relationships in a very open way." The discussion, Tyler says, helped the McGarrys "to understand us and our relationship with our grandfather and our parents and each other. It was very emotional."

"In the beginning, knowing this was a family legacy, we went through the archives and looked at some of the original manufactured footwear and picked up some styling and design cues," Elizabeth McGarry says. "We knew we wanted to design a sneaker that is timeless yet still performs on the field."

Will the family history matter to York Athletics' customers? "I honestly don't care," Tyler asserts. "It matters to us."

The York legacy is being given a bigger role in the brand's marketing efforts. "When we first launched the brand," Travis says, "the family story was very much behind the scenes. When we brought that forward, we started seeing positive results." He adds that nostalgia is not the only reason. "In all honesty, we're all businesspeople. If the family story had to go into the background to make the brand successful, we'd be totally fine with that."

The new company has been launched and the original one relegated to the history books, but what about the second York family business, Indian Head Athletics? "Gail and I are in the planning stages now," Don says. They're in no particular hurry to make a move. "Our fifth son will finish college this spring," Don says, "and we don't know if we will sell it or liquidate it."

All eyes now are on York Athletics. Travis believes the future of the new company is essentially limitless.

"We will evolve beyond footwear," he says, "although it will always be a focus." Apparel is a given, he says. "I can also imagine us having handfuls of mom-and-pop retail locations in key markets and even expanding internationally where our mindset resonates," he adds. "I can also imagine us taking on a strategic partner."

"I don't care if it's the next billion-dollar company with worldwide recognition," Tyler says. "All I care is that the legacy of the family brand lives on."

Dave Donelson is a business writer in West Harrison, N.Y., and the author of the Dynamic Manager Guides and Handbooks.

A Seven-Story Legacy

In addition to starting York Athletics, the five York brothers made another investment in their family's business heritage in 2015 by purchasing the historic building in Manchester that once housed both the original shoe manufacturing company and the outlet store that became their parents' business. The 55,000-square-foot building known as the 7-20-4 Cigar Factory Building was originally home to a cigar maker that went out of business when Cuban tobacco could no longer be imported after Fidel Castro came to power. The Indian Head Shoe Company bought the building in the early 1960s but lost it along with the other assets in the bankruptcy.

"My dad actually got evicted from that building when the shoe manufacturing company went bankrupt and the building was sold," Kyle York says. Don and Gail York's retail operation moved to its current location in Manchester across the street from a local hockey arena.

Travis York's marketing agency, GYK Antler, moved into the building not long after the brothers purchased it. They also devoted part of the building to a mini-museum housing some of the footwear and ice skates manufactured by the shoe company, along with a trove of old photographs and advertising material.

CEO Mark McGarry and his wife, designer Elizabeth McGarry, live in Boston, so York Athletics is currently headquartered there instead of in Manchester. But relocation might be a possibility in the long term. "We own the building, we all live nearby, the [relatively lower] cost of talent is exceptional," Kyle says, "so it would be really excellent if at some point it became the headquarters." — D.D.

Copyright 2017 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact

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Family internships: Building engagement

Georgia Mae Parrish grew up spending a lot of time with her grandparents at Lundberg Family Farms, a rice grower in Richvale, Calif. As a fourth-generation member of the Lundberg family, she attended family meetings and heard about the business.

But when she began an internship at the company in the summer of 2013, she realized that "I didn't know as much as I thought I did about growing rice."

As family businesses move from one generation to the next, a key challenge is ensuring that younger family members—future owners and possibly future leaders of the company—feel a connection with the business. Many businesses address this by offering internships for high school or college students in the family.

During Parrish's internship, she conducted market research, investigating questions such as how the increasing popularity of gluten-free diets will affect the company, and what additional rice products the company should introduce. But some of the real learning came away from the office, such as when one of her uncles took her for a drive on the rice fields.

"He told me everything," says Parrish, 20, a junior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who is majoring in marketing with a minor in psychology. One of the things she learned from talking to her uncle, she recalls, was that her family business broke new ground in the state. "We were the first farm in California to start growing organic rice," she says.

Setting goals

The benefits of a family internship program can be great, for young family members as well as for the business. The students gain work experience that will prove valuable even if they don't ultimately work for the family firm. The company benefits from family members' deeper understanding of the business. In some cases, internships spark the interest of talented young family members who develop into key employees.

But setting up a successful internship program requires careful planning in order to realize these benefits—and to avoid pitfalls.

Phil Clemens, third-generation chairman of Clemens Family Corporation. in Hatfield, Pa., recommends clarifying the rationale for an internship program during the planning process. "You have to be intentional: 'Here's why we want to have it,' " Clemens advises.

Setting a specific goal—such as giving the next generation an understanding of the business—will make it easier to address questions about who is eligible for the internships and what is expected of the company, the interns and their parents. Having a goal for the program will also help family leaders address whether the internships are effective.

The Clemens Family Corporation's primary business is meat processing, but the enterprise also has units that operate in real estate development, transport and logistics. There are more than 600 descendants of the founder, 273 of whom are shareholders. Currently 22 family members work in the business.

Clemens had two goals for its program: One was to help young family members make sure their college studies were in line with what they wanted to do and, if they weren't sure what career path they wanted to follow, to help them figure that out through exposure to the business. The second was to create an interest in the business among younger family members, whether they ultimately work at the family firm or not.

"We try to help them get on the right path so when they do show up, they have the right credentials," says John Reininger, a married-in member of the fourth generation who holds the title of chief relationship officer at Clemens.

At Clemens, family members in their sophomore or junior year of college can apply for internships, which are also open to non-family members. The most qualified candidates get the positions, though in case of a tie, preference is given to the family member. Each year, between four and 12 interns work at the company.

An employment policy for family members—which looked at both full-time employment and internships—was among the first topics tackled by the family that owns Port Blakely Companies when it looked at best practices for family businesses in 1999, say Rene Ancinas, president and CEO. The Seattle-based company is 150 years old; it has 85 shareholders and more than 100 family members, only two of whom work in the business.

"Having learned about the pitfalls of family owners being employed, regardless of the type of employment, we realized it was very important to set expectations for any and all types of employment with the family company," Ancinas says.

The company had historically had an informal internship program in which family owners could send their kids to Washington state for the summer to work in the company's forests. But the fieldwork was not a good fit for everyone, and the internships didn't showcase the other parts of the company. Now Port Blakely offers internships in a variety of departments for those ages 18 to 23.

"We've had interns work in the office and in the financial area," says Charlotte Lamp, a family council member at Port Blakely who was instrumental in starting the company's family education program. "But most of our interns over the years have worked in the forests [because] mainly what we are is a forestry family."

Port Blakely has a unit that is based in New Zealand, and this year the company has added a New Zealand internship opportunity. Applicants for the New Zealand internship must be at least 21 years old and must have completed a U.S. internship with Port Blakely.

At Hussey Seating Co., internships are open to students in college or in their last years of high school. The company, founded in 1835 as a manufacturer of horse-drawn plows and now a maker of spectator seating for stadiums, typically offers paid internships to about five family members per summer.

Tim Hussey, sixth-generation CEO of the North Berwick, Maine-based company, says Hussey Seating attempts to match interns with jobs in their area of interest and provides them with a mentor from the family or the business. When possible, rotations are created, enabling the interns to experience more than one job.

Family business internship programs can be formal or ad hoc, depending on the needs of the family and the business. But those in the trenches agree that clarifying everyone's expectations is key to the success of any program.

Establishing program criteria

Internship programs can take a variety of forms, depending on your priorities. The company has a lot of decisions to make in setting up the internship program. Consider the best answers to the following questions for your company and your family:

• Will the interns be paid? Some companies pay interns and others offer unpaid internships, usually for college credit. Port Blakely, for example, pays its summer interns because they are expected to do "real work," Ancinas says.

• What regulations apply? Working in a factory or, in Port Blakely's case, in a forest may involve legal restrictions on what younger interns are allowed to do.

• Will every family member who wants an internship get one? At Port Blakely, Ancinas points out, the company's needs will vary from year to year, as will the number of family members interested in internships. "At some point, there's going to be three kids and one internship, and we're going to have to say no to two," Ancinas says. "We're trying to set those expectations with family members."

At the Clemens Family Corporation, by contrast, there are provisions for creating internships for motivated family members. "If a family member is going to school to become an accountant and has demonstrated drive and initiative," Clemens says, "if we don't have an accounting internship we will develop something specific for that person."

• Will there be time limits? Perhaps your business won't need to limit the number of years someone can serve as an intern, or perhaps your internship program is designed for such a narrow age range that no one can participate for too long. But if your program is open to those in either high school or college, consider how you would respond if someone wanted to participate for eight years.

"I don't like to have family interns more than two years," Reininger says. Reininger explains that limiting the number of years someone can participate sends a signal that the family business is not a fall-back employment option.

Setting expectations for interns

Family members who are accepted into an internship program but don't take the work seriously are harmful to company morale. They also compromise the educational objective of the internship program. At Port Blakely, a handbook lays out what is expected of interns. The expectations are based on those described in the company's broader employment policy for family members, according to Ancinas.

For example, Port Blakely will not create a job for a family member if there is no need. Interns must uphold the family values and perform their job well. They will have a manager who may not be a family member, as well as a mentor from the family.

Another key to the process is that interns must take their application for an internship as seriously as they would an application for permanent employment outside the family business. "We'll send letters to those who are an eligible age, but they have to follow through," Ancinas explains. The process includes filling out an application and being interviewed by the hiring manager and the human resources department.

"We've had instances where internship candidates have missed deadlines or didn't follow through, and we've had to say no," Ancinas says. He adds that the company approaches such situations as a coaching opportunity. Candidates are encouraged to learn from the experience and apply again the following year.

Dealing with parents

Most companies would prefer that parents not get involved in their children's internships, but this may not always be possible in a family business. Port Blakely outlines parents' limited role: to review the internship handbook with their son or daughter, to discuss the responsibilities of ownership and family membership and the multiple hats family owners wear, and to help with housing and transportation.

Parents can encourage their children to submit applications on time, but the application process is the child's responsibility, Ancinas says. "You can coach them, but you can't do it for them," he says. "They have to really want this."

It may be necessary to set limits for parents, as the Clemens Family Corporation has done. "Parents, who are oftentimes owners, may feel that their children are entitled to a job," Clemens says. "We let them know up front there is no entitlement here."

Sometimes, Reininger reports, he will receive a call from a parent whose son or daughter is looking for an internship position. In those cases, "I quickly push back and ask why their son or daughter isn't calling," he says. "A lot of times in a family business, the last name is the calling card. That doesn't work here."

Avoiding pitfalls

It can be complicated to be a family member working in a family-owned business. Interns, who are young and often in their first jobs with the business, may not understand the issues.

"Kids don't really understand how much they're in the spotlight," Hussey says. "It's not as simple as just another summer job." Employees see them as potential future bosses or as spies for their parents, he explains. "If they're viewed as coming home and telling Dad who's not doing what, that doesn't work," Hussey says. "They've got to learn what to share and what not to share."

Explain to the interns what they should do if they can't complete a task or need to adjust their schedule. "It can become very toxic for employees to see family members coming through on an internship who are not working as hard as they are or who are not behaving in appropriate ways," Ancinas says.

Family members should be available to answer questions related to the intersection of family and business—for example, if an intern asks how much information about family members can be shared with other employees.

The big picture

There is room for improvement even in well-established internship programs. Many companies conduct exit interviews with their interns to find out whether the educational objectives are being met and learn what they can do to make the program better.

Last year, for example, some of Clemens' junior leaders decided to add social activities for the interns, as well as a discussion of a book on leadership. "It really helped all the interns get to know other people and bond with each other, as well as see a little bit more of the community here," Phil Clemens reports.

In some family enterprises, internships are part of a broader educational effort for family members of all ages. Port Blakely, for example, responded to family members' requests by creating a program for adults who want to learn more about the company. "You want to have an opportunity for every member of the family, wherever they are, to have some way to become more engaged with the company," Ancinas says.

The Clemens Family Leadership Academy is a seven-week summer course for family members ages 16 and up. Sessions, which meet for two and a half hours per week, introduce family members to all aspects of the business.

"The goal is to create a curiosity about the company so they would want to apply for an internship in an area that they found an interest in," Reininger says. "We want to engage them and inform them and connect them."

Some family interns go on to become employees and even leaders of their family businesses. But that's not necessarily the result—or even the goal—for everyone.

"If they can work a summer or two, they have an understanding of what the business is about and can form career choices going forward," says Tim Hussey, who started out at Hussey Seating with a summer job at age 16. However, Hussey says of his company's recent interns, "I don't know if any of them will come into the business."

The primary goal of Hussey Seating's internships is to provide education that can be applied anywhere, in addition to exposure to the family business. Hussey says any full-time employment in the family business would have to come later. "We do have a policy that you need to have a college degree and then work three years elsewhere before you come back into a full-time management track," he explains.

Hussey adds that the interns provide benefits to his company beyond the work they accomplish during the internship.

"These kids really get what the business is," he says. "They've got lots of ideas for me. The energy has been terrific."

Georgia Mae Parrish says her internship at Lundberg Family Farms has inspired her to consider more seriously whether she might like to work at the family business someday. "It's made me appreciate and not take for granted that my family owns this amazing company," she says. 

Margaret Steen is a freelance writer based in Los Altos, Calif. 

Tips on launching a family internship program

1. Begin the planning process by setting a goal for the internship program. What aim do you hope to achieve by inviting young family members to join the company as interns?

2. Before launching the program, establish policies on whether interns will be paid, how many opportunities are available and how many years a family member may serve as an intern.

3. Make it clear to prospective interns that they are expected to go through a formal application process and, if accepted, to take the job seriously.

4. Explain to parents of prospective interns that their son or daughter isn't guaranteed an internship position, and that children are expected to complete the application process without parental involvement.

5. Teach interns the importance of confidentiality and separation of family and business issues.

6. Include social events and other bonding experiences for your interns.

7. Review your internship program every year, with an eye toward how it can be improved. Exit interviews with the interns can provide valuable feedback.

Copyright 2015 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact

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Don't miss out on early chances to engage kids

Enterprising families are waiting too long to integrate the next generation. Even though succession is arguably the most widely covered topic in the field of family enterprise, many of my clients (and those of my colleagues) are still missing crucial opportunities to engage the next generation early in the game.

A generation ago, children and teens were barely included in any discussion about family assets. Sometimes this silence lasted until the children were well into adulthood. These days, it is not unusual for families and professionals to see the high school and college years as a starting point for serious discussions about the family's assets and legacy. This is a shift to be applauded. However, too much potential for early communication is still overlooked.

Think about it this way: Junior year of high school (ages 16-17) is a year of great consequence for young adults. Those headed toward college are taking university entrance exams that can have a major impact on their futures. They are visiting colleges, thinking about majors and exploring what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Those not headed to college are faced with a different set of choices and, in some ways, are under more pressure in a society where college degrees are highly valued.

With so much focus on figuring out the future during junior year, enterprising families should already have started having meaningful discussions about how a family business fits (or does not fit) into the young adult's life. This should happen, at a minimum, a couple of years earlier, when the students are in ninth grade (ages 14-15), if the intent is to have them carefully consider the family enterprise as an option.

Ideally, a long-term, proactive approach with plenty of open, healthy communication (a best practice for enterprising families) should start as early as elementary school.

Whether the child's path will lead to a major role in the family business, a minor role or an independent path, starting conversations early—even when children are quite young—is important. Doing so stimulates thinking and allows for managing expectations about scenarios that are potentially problematic (and may harm family relationships) if ignored or delayed too long. When addressed openly and early, these same scenarios can take a positive turn and are often beneficial to both family and enterprise. More discussion can mean fewer faulty assumptions on the part of either generation about what the family's relationship will be to the enterprising endeavors in which they are involved and, in particular, what any individual family member's role will (or will not) be.

But don't wait for the final hour.

Why plant the seeds early?

Teens who go off to college knowing that their parents own a successful company may very well set out with less motivation, believing that they will have some fun and then automatically enter the business. A different set of problems can arise when a child attends a great college and works diligently, assuming he or she has earned a place in the business—but then discovers there is no open position in the family firm. If that child has an older cousin who is already working in the business, the family might create a position for the child in order to be "fair" (since the cousin already has a job there), even though the added expense can't be justified and the need doesn't really exist. Other times a parent pulls hard on a child to coax him or her into the business when the child might prefer to pursue other passions and interests. Out of love and loyalty to the parents, the child might end up in the family firm, doing work he or she doesn't enjoy.

There are many more examples of poor outcomes when communication isn't open and expectations aren't managed before major life choices are made. Conversation along the way minimizes surprises for everyone as people make their choices, and helps the family develop a common vision for what they are trying to achieve together.

What to discuss and when

Middle school is an excellent time to start having these conversations in developmentally appropriate ways. There is plenty that can be done even earlier with elementary-school-aged kids in a casual, pressure-free and fun style. Remember, this is not about setting compensation or making hiring decisions; it is about opening minds, communicating and relating what you as parents value most about life, family and sharing.

Elementary-school-aged children. As a family therapist, I have helped young kids and their families deal with very serious issues, such as death, a major illness, divorce and more. It is possible to talk to kids about almost anything in a productive and thoughtful way if the discussion is conducted at their developmental level.

Some basic rules of thumb will guide you: Be honest, approach the topic in a way that is comfortable for you and engage your child's natural curiosity and interest. If he or she seems bored or annoyed, back off and find a new approach. This is not a conversation you want to push on young kids; it should unfold naturally. Young kids love to have their input on "adult" topics respected, and they often have brilliant thoughts to share. Be sure to encourage their playfulness and don't worry about answers from elementary-level kids that do not make sense to an adult businessperson.

Be supportive of their attempts and come up with "what if" scenarios to help them see different sides to their responses. If a child says everyone in the family should be allowed to work in the business, you might respond, "That is really nice that you want to see everyone have a chance to participate. We also value keeping many family members involved. What if there are not enough jobs for everyone and not enough money to pay everyone who wants to be part of the business?"

Middle-school-aged children. Kids this age are going through massive physical and emotional changes yet are more than just hormones, acne and tumultuous peer relationships. Their brains are developing rapidly and they are becoming deep thinkers as well. These young folks are capable of thinking about the meaning of life (as well as dating and how un-cool their parents are), and they might surprise you with their responses.

For middle-school students, you might set the stage directly by telling them that you'd like their thoughts and opinions about the family business. Get their views on some of the challenges that families typically grapple with as a new generation matures and decisions are made about whether they will be involved and how. Among the many areas that can be discussed are:

• How to figure out how new family members enter the business.

• How family members will be evaluated and assessed over time to make sure they are being good contributors. (This also assumes and relates the value that family members need to contribute: to give and not just take.)

• How to decide how much family members get paid.

• Who can become an owner?

• Is there a fair way to treat family members who choose not work in the business in terms of estate planning?

For this conversation, it is quite helpful for the senior-generation members to clarify their values and show how they are living by them. (The importance of identifying values and instilling them in children has gained acceptance with progressive enterprising families around the world. Many good articles on this topic have been written.)

For example, do the parents support the possibility of the children doing work they are passionate about even if it means the children won't be part of the family business? If so, it is important to get this across to the children so they don't feel pressured to join the business when it is not their passion. Similarly, if meritocracy is a family value and it is expected that family members must earn what they get (rather than getting things simply because they are family), this value will inform the conversation.

The lesson: Talk more, start earlier, have fun

The shift from a generation ago has been quite positive. Then, families waited until someone died to discuss wealth transfers and did so through attorneys in sterile and formal ways. Now, many families consider the late teens and early twenties to be an acceptable age to begin grooming stewards of family wealth and humans of good character. The next leap is to fully integrate the newest members of enterprising families, starting in their earliest years. This lifelong, organic integration of family, values and sharing will create stronger families and healthier societies. 

Jeff Savlov is president of Blum & Savlov Inc., a family business consulting firm in Highland Park, N.J. ( 

Getting the Discussion Started

Questions for middle-school-aged kids:

• Should payment for work in the family business be related to what people get paid for the same job in a similar non-family business? Should it be higher or lower, and why?

• What if more than one family member wants to be the boss or president?

• If two or more siblings are both really good contributors to the family business, is it possible they can share being boss or president? If so, what will happen if they disagree on something important?

• How can we tell if the senior generation (mom, dad, uncle, aunt, etc.) stays around too long? What are your ideas about how to handle that situation? (Simply asking this question conveys to the next generation that the senior generation recognizes there is a time to hand over the reins before death, or is at least willing to look at the issue of passing the baton at some point. Not all senior-generation members value this; tailor this question to your personal values.)

• How will we be able to tell if a family member is not doing a good job? How should that be handled? Is it possible to handle this situation without harming family relationships?

• Can you think of ways that being both family members and business partners can be a problem for us going forward? How might that make us a stronger family?

• Owning a business means it is yours. You decide to keep it or sell it to someone else for money. You hire the person who runs it if you do not run it yourself. Some owners get paid without working in the business. Do you think owners should always work in the business? Why or why not? What if an owner does not work there and does not know how the business runs? What should that owner's role be?

• Your cousins are all older than you and your brother. They will be old enough to try working in the business before both of you. What if when you are old enough to work there isn't enough room for more people? What if there is room for you both but your cousins have so much more experience that they will run it without much of a chance for either of you to take a lead role?

• What would it be like to have Mom or Dad be your boss? Do you think you could work your way up to being our boss? What could go wrong for us as a family?

• How will it feel if your younger sister/brother excels in the business and becomes your boss?

• What if one of you works in the family business and makes a lot of money and the other becomes a schoolteacher and makes a lot less? Will this be a problem? Do you have any ideas about how to handle it?

• All families get into arguments and disagree at times. How can family members disagree and still work together well? Can you think of rules that would help?

• If you won $100 million in the lottery, how would you spend your life?

Questions for elementary-school aged kids:

• What do you like about sharing? What is hard about it?

• When are the times you really enjoy being with the family? When it is not fun?

• You have some of your best laughs with your siblings and also your most angry times. Why is that?

• Do you ever feel like you do not get enough attention from Mom and me? Is there a way we can do a better job of having "alone time" with each of you and "whole family time," too?

• What do you know about our family business?

• What would be fun about working with Mom and Dad (brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles), and what would be not so much fun?

• Do you think knowing we have our own business might ever stop you from doing something different with your job and life--something you might like more than our business--when you grow up?

• How do you and your (sister/brother/cousin) struggle with sharing things now? Are there rules about sharing now that you think might be good rules for working in our business together?

• Who in our family works in the business, and what do they do?

• How do we get along at work? How do we get along as a family when we all get together?

• What do you think it would be like to work with (brother/sister/aunt/grandma/cousin)?

• Are you good at cooperating? Who in our family is the best at it? Who needs to work on it?

• For each person in our family, can you name something they are very good at?  —J.S. 

Copyright 2015 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact

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January/February 2015 Openers

At age 13, Scenic Root knows her way around the Root family office. In fact, she has a desk there.

Under the tutelage of her father, Preston Root—president of the Root Family Board of Directors—and her mother, Lynn Root, Scenic has been engaged in dialogue about her family's legacy and its current business activities. She participates in family meetings and has been learning about philanthropy and financial responsibility.

Scenic is a fifth-generation descendant of C.J. Root, founder of the Root Glass Co., which designed and manufactured the original, distinctively shaped Coca-Cola bottle, patented by the company in 1916. The Root family subsequently sold the glass company but continued their association with Coca-Cola. The family, who in the 1950s moved their business from Terre Haute, Ind., to Florida, built what eventually became the U.S.'s largest independent Coca-Coca bottler.

In 1982, the Root family sold its 57.5% stake in the Associated Coca-Cola Bottling Co., where Preston's father, Chapman S. Root, had been CEO and chairman. Today the Root Company manages a real estate portfolio and other family investments from its headquarters in the Daytona area—Florida's "Space Coast." The Root Family Museum, part of the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach, Fla., features Coca-Cola memorabilia and other Americana.

Scenic participated in a panel entitled "Raising Kids Successfully in a Successful Family Business" at the Transitions West 2014 conference in November. She impressed attendees with her insights on family connections. Spending time with family members is more important than receiving gifts of material things, Scenic said at the conference. "If you have someone to actually do something with," she said, "that's so much better than just getting stuff."

In a recent interview, Scenic offered a young person's perspective on life in a historic business family. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Family Business: What makes you the most proud about your family history?

Scenic Root: Knowing how committed everyone is. My family's really big, and everyone cares about working together. So I'm really proud of that. They're always going to be there for each other.

FB: How many family members are there?

SR: About 33.

FB: How did you learn about your family history and your family office? How did you learn what a family office is?

SR: I really just started going there with my dad when I was little. I used to go with him to work when I didn't have school, and now I go there and I have an office. I sometimes go there to do my homework, and I help around. I shred papers there. I share an office with my grandma's secretary.

We have the [Root Family] museum in our neighborhood, and when I go there, I learn a lot about [the family history]. I started going there when I was three or four. And since a lot of my grandma's and grandfather's stuff is in there, it makes it easier to learn about it, like the Coke bottle. It all started to fit together when I really started to get involved in going to the museum and working at the office—not working, helping around—and being a part of the office. And that's when it really just started to come together for me.

FB: What are the best things and the worst things about being a member of a family with such a great history?

SR: The best thing is that we have so many people in our family, so if you have a question about the family business or anything, you can ask anyone in the family, and they'll be able to help you out. If anything, they'll just always be there for you.

And the worst thing is, since we have so many people in our family, it's kind of hard to get to know everyone . . . because it's not like you sit down with someone for an hour and just talk to them about what they like to do or what their favorite color is. But I wouldn't say it's a bad thing, because I do know a lot about my family. I would just say things that we would need to work [on], put more time into. . . .

Last night my cousins were here from California, and [one of the cousins] went away to boarding school when he was little, and he said that he never got to know his parents because he went to boarding school for middle school and high school and [also went away to] college. So now he's trying to make up all the time that he didn't get when he was little. Because you're never going to get that time back if you waste it all.

FB: What happens at your family meetings?

SR: I get to miss school for the family meetings. Last year, I was there for a PowerPoint about finances, [although] I really don't understand that too much. All my family is in a room together. Everyone in my family is there; usually there's only one or two people missing. So it's fun to just sit around and be able to watch the PowerPoints and take notes and be there with all my family.

FB: Hearing about finances must give you an idea of the topics you want to learn more about.

SR: I love to ask questions about things . . . because you're not going to know unless you ask questions.

FB: Do family members live outside of Florida? Do they come from all over?

SR: We have some that live in Hawaii and Idaho, and some that live in California. So we're all spread out across the world.

FB: Have you heard people arguing, or having differences of opinion?

SR: Not really. They have different opinions, but it never turns into an argument or anything.

FB: Are the meetings very formal, with people having to raise their hands to talk?

SR: It's pretty formal. We have presenters from different offices that sometimes come and talk at our family meeting. [At those sessions] you usually have to raise your hand to comment. But when we have conference calls with just my dad's brothers and sisters, it's usually just like, if someone stops talking, then you can comment.

FB: Your family reunions also include soccer games.

SR: Those are really fun. It happens during our family reunion, probably a little bit closer to the end.

FB: People get very competitive, I understand.

SR: Oh, yeah. They do get competitive, but not in a bad way. Because [some of] my cousins played soccer when they were in middle school or high school. And they are really good. So it does turn into a competition, but not like rough or anything.

Last year we ordered shirts. We had white shirts with a red Coke bottle on them, and we had red shirts with the white can on them. They were really cool.

FB: How do you feel about the family no longer having the glass company and no longer having the distributorship? It's still an important part of your identity, right?

SR: We still talk about it all the time. Even though we're not truly owning it, it is still a part of us . . . I think we're still really committed to it.

We have one of the original Coke bottles in our office. It's [placed] so all the workers can see it, and I think that's really important to have that there, too.

FB: Why is it important for the whole family to spend time together?

SR: If you go a couple years without seeing your family, it's not like they're your family, it's kind of like they'd just be friends to you.

I see my family all the time, whether it's at the family reunion or when they come down to visit us. If you spend time together, you're just going to build those memories.

FB: They're not just your cousins and your friends, you also have a business relationship with them. How does that feel?

SR: I love that. Because when I get older, and get really involved with the family business, then they'll kind of be my work partners, I guess you can say. So I'll get to see them a lot more, I think. And I think we'll have different opinions then, because I think boys and girls have different opinions about different kinds of things. But I think we'd work great together.

FB: Is your family teaching you responsibility about money?

SR: Our family personally, we have a budget for each one of us that's set every week. If we go over, then it's going to go down the next week. I babysit for kids I know, and when I get the money, I have a bank that I keep it in. And every year, for Thanksgiving, we take some of the money out of the bank and we donate it to charity. And we do food boxes for Thanksgiving, and we donate the food to less fortunate people. And I think that's really important to save your money so you can do important things like that.

FB: Your dad uses the space program to teach you important lessons. Has that always been a part of your life?

SR: Ever since I was little, we've been to all of the launches. When I go there, or watch it on TV if it's really far away. . . , we do turn it into lessons, like, how much work goes into building a rocket. It's not something you just can do overnight, it's something you need to work on for years and years.

One of the lessons was trust. You can't just build a spaceship overnight and trust that it's going to go up the next day. Because that's not how it works. You need to be able to take your time until the thing gets strong enough that you can trust it. That was one of the lessons I really remember, and one of my favorites, too.

FB: There are a lot of possibilities out there.

SR: I think that hard work is the most important thing. If you don't push yourself to do something, no one else is going to push you to do it. So you have to take control of it, and you need to push yourself so that you can do it. And no one else is going to do it for you. You're going to need to be able to make those decisions if you're going to be fully committed to something.


The article "Leupold and Stevens sets its sights on enduring family ownership" (FB, March/April 2014) contained some inaccuracies about the history of Leupold and Stevens Inc.

Norbert Leupold was the president of Leupold and Stevens from 1968-72. Robert (Bob) Stevens was the president from 1972-83. Bob Stevens passed the presidency on to Werner Wildauer in 1983.

Copyright 2015 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information,

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Brat patrol

Most parents want their children to enjoy a higher standard of living than they had. But when does this loving aspiration cross the line into raising a spoiled brat?

For owners of successful family companies, the dilemma is no small matter. These parents have the ability not only to give their children expensive toys, debt-free schooling and exotic vacations, but also to offer them lucrative jobs—whether or not the kids’ credentials and talents would land them a high-paying position outside the family.

Especially in tough economic times, it’s tempting to rescue your offspring from the frustrations of an arduous job search by creating positions for them in the family firm. But what will be the long-term effect on your business? Those who decide against offering make-work jobs face another quandary: If your children are used to receiving everything they ask for, how will they react when you tell them the company employment policy can’t be altered for their benefit?

Several articles in this edition of Family Business address the topic of next-generation entitlement, and how to teach your children to be responsible stewards of the family’s wealth. Even after the recent economic turmoil, it seems that a growing number of people are confronting these concerns. A Boston Consulting Group study released in June found that the number of millionaire households in the U.S. rose 15% in 2009, to 4.7 million.

Fortune magazine reported in June that America’s two richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, had met with billionaires and their spouses and asked each ultra-wealthy family to promise at least 50% of its net worth to charity. (In August, Buffett announced that 40 wealthy individuals and families had agreed to do so.) Billionaires can afford to give away half their money and still have enough remaining to ensure their heirs will live comfortably. Yet before the Gates-Buffett meetings, most had not donated nearly that much, Fortune reported. Based on IRS data from 2007, the Fortune report said, the U.S.’s 400 biggest taxpayers had a total adjusted income of $138 billion and took slightly more than $11 billion as a charitable deduction, or about 8%. When you adjust the amount deducted because deductions are limited for very large gifts, Fortune noted, the percentage changes only to 11%—which is just 1% over a tithe.

Of course, most family business owners aren’t worrying about what to do with an extra billion. Even so, they’re hoping to avoid raising an entitled SOB (“son of boss”). At the “Transitions” conference presented by Family Business and Stetson University last April, John O’Brien—co-founder with his wife, Lee Ann Howard, of Howard & O’Brien Associates Inc., an executive search firm in Cleveland—said his young kids are told to divide their $5 allowance in three parts: “some to keep, some to save, and some to give away.” That sounds like a great way to start.

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Developing productive and competent offspring in families of wealth

In families of wealth, there is an increasing concern about raising unmotivated children. More and more parents are seeking advice on addressing the challenges of raising their children or grandchildren to become responsible, self-reliant adults who contribute to society. For the affluent parent, wealth can complicate the already daunting challenge of raising self-sufficient offspring.

Warren Buffett has been quoted as saying he wanted to give his children enough so that they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing. The derogatory connotation of the term “trust fund baby” resonates with individuals like Buffett. They want their funds to pass to their children without becoming a de-motivator.

Parents, by their actions as role models and their relationship with their children, explicitly or implicitly facilitate the children’s development. Yet the methods for accomplishing this objective are rarely addressed in a systematic manner.

Since every child is different, there are no standard approaches that can be guaranteed to work with every child. However, we have found that there are several guiding principles for raising successful offspring, and we can offer some ideas for helping your children develop the competencies needed by every responsible adult owner of wealth.

Promotion of autonomy and adaptability

Autonomy is the ability to think for oneself—to look at the world through one’s own eyes. Adaptability refers to the ability to cope with both normal developmental change and unexpected crisis. Both autonomy and adaptability in offspring appear to be closely related to healthy family functioning.

Researchers W.R. Beavers, M.D., and J. Lewis, M.D., found the following characteristics in families whose offspring were judged to be successful:

1. Clarity of communication around roles and responsibilities, structures and rules, marked by non-accusatory, direct statements.

2. Clear parental leadership through aligned approaches and teamwork.

3. Promotion of autonomy in all individuals. Parents defined themselves clearly, invited children to respectfully define themselves and embraced the need to respect the separateness and diversity of others.

4. Parental negotiation and compromise in order to find mutual-gain solutions. Parents honored the premise that there is no one right answer and that humans are not -perfect.

5. Flexibility in family functioning. They handled transitions and unexpected changes well and were open to using outside input and resources, such as extended family, religious congregations, support groups and professional advisers.

6. Acceptance and comfort with the entire spectrum of emotional expression.

Research reveals that parents’ failure to present a united front is one of the strongest predictors of unsuccessful offspring. Therefore, I strongly recommend that each parent quickly scribble down a written answer to a series of questions such as these:

• What is important to us and our family?

• What are the values that we want our children to learn?

• What do we want them to remember from our teachings and parenting?

• What kind of relationships do we hope they will have?

• To what purpose to we want to apply our family’s financial good fortune?

• To what degree do we each believe that money should be used as a form of control?

After you have recorded your personal answers to the questions above, sit down with your partner and work to find a statement you can both fully support.

Promotion of intrinsic motivation

Research reveals that efforts to motivate an individual with external rewards will fail if the individual perceives that the reward is designed to control him or her. Unfortunately, all too often children believe they are being controlled by their parents’ and grandparents’ expectations and wealth. The challenge is to interact with our offspring in a manner that generates self-motivation to become productive contributors to society.

Children who are emotionally dependent on parental approval are less likely to internalize a sense of self-control. When we keep our children dependent by rewarding specific behavior with either money or emotional support, we destroy intrinsic motivation; our emotional approval and our money become the motivators.

Human beings can control only those personal choices that involve their own behavior; the ability to control others is non-existent. (We can influence them, perhaps, but we can never control them.)

Unfortunately, most of us have been acculturated to perceive that in any situation with unpalatable consequences, we are being controlled. For example, teenagers faced with the prospect of losing a driving privilege if not home by curfew will assert that they are being controlled. They don’t typically see their option of choosing to stay out later in exchange for sacrificing the privilege of using the automobile for a week. Parents, too, rarely see that there really is a choice involved. Their intent is to make the child come home by curfew or face dire consequences (not only the loss of driving privileges but also criticism and the application of guilt).

A sense of personal control contributes to an individual’s ability to function at high levels and to cope with stress. Rarely in life do we have actual control over external factors. But the more we perceive ourselves to be in control of our lives and our circumstances, the more motivated and productive we will be.

We achieve perceived control when we possess information about events that will occur or knowledge about the process involved in making a decision. With information about the process or the outcome, we can be ready to respond or know the consequences of certain actions based on that knowledge.

For parents, there are a couple of key considerations. The first has to do with how we promote a sense of personal control and responsibility in our offspring. The second consideration has to do with how much knowledge and information we believe is appropriate to share with our offspring at various ages. Again, defining an approach shared by both parents is essential to success.

The increase in perceived self-control is closely linked to a reduction in oppositional, rebellious behavior. Family conversations that generate a sense of inclusion and information are critical to the development of intrinsic motivation.

Promotion of self-esteem

Recently a great deal has been written about the importance of developing a “wealth identity.” However, being comfortable with “who I am as a person of wealth” requires a foundational sense of “personal identity”—knowing who I am as an individual in this world, with or without wealth.

It is clear that enhanced self-esteem is closely tied to the ability to define the self. At the simplest level, this means the ability to calmly express a preference—the “right” to express one’s own emotional response to a situation.

The challenge is that this ability can be developed only in an environment of respect and tolerance. At the parental level, the keys to success are (1) eliciting from offspring their opinions, preferences and emotional responses to both daily activities and special events; and (2) treating their responses with respect and curiosity. Unfortunately, children’s expression of opinion or emotion is often stifled by remarks that ridicule or sound critical and judgmental.

At the family level, offspring must come to recognize that inquiries about their preferences do not imply an offer to gratify that choice. It is another level of maturation to recognize that one can express a desire without insisting that one’s preference take precedence over all others.

Another aspect of defining self is internalizing a sense of one’s heritage and family values—the principles that guide choices and goals. Every successful individual has a comprehensive system of ideas about human nature and the nature of the reality we live in. While often not articulated or written down, it serves as a guide for living—the drivers that determine the course we take in life and how we treat ourselves and others.

A core part of creating a solid personal identity is accepting oneself. Self-acceptance is a willingness to accept one’s strengths and limitations without self-criticism or judgment. It involves a rational respect for reality, including the facts about our human nature, our unique gifts and our personal needs. When I know my inherent worth, I am less vulnerable to internalizing others’ judgments and able to avoid negative self-talk and self-judgment. I am comfortable taking responsibility for myself and my own behavior. A major benefit of self-acceptance is the ability to achieve mastery of self—to calm one’s emotional reactions, thereby encouraging a rational response to stressful situations.

As parents address these issues with their offspring, they are actually growing and solidifying their own identity. It appears that many adults haven’t made explicit the values and principles that guide their daily lives. That absence of clarity makes it more difficult to model both self-acceptance and the process of defining self.

Promotion of perceived self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is defined as an individual’s belief in his ability to control outcomes in his life. The greater one’s sense of self-efficacy, the greater the belief that one can obtain a desired result—“get things done” and “make things happen.” Research confirms that a high sense of self-efficacy is a better predictor of career selection and success than actual ability, prior preparation, achievement and level of interest.

A high sense of self-efficacy contributes significantly to the development of intellectual abilities and to academic achievement, career advancement, tenacity in the face of problems, implementation of creative and innovative solutions, and management of job stress.

How do our offspring learn that they have mastery over choices in their lives? Most often they learn from failures, from problems, from adversity. Adversity and challenging situations are opportunities to struggle through, to find a solution, to become creative. If parents “bail out” the kids, the children are actually robbed of a valuable opportunity.

Our offspring need an opportunity to learn problem solving, focus and perseverance. They acquire a sense of personal mastery—“I can!” Experience with failure redefines success. A colleague’s daughter stated that after she initially fails at something, when she finally succeeds she takes more credit for her successes and appreciates them more fully. Facilitating this process is our challenge as parents.

Keys to healthy family functioning

Every parent faces the challenges of dealing with the different strengths and weaknesses of each child. For the affluent, there is the added complexity that each child seems to have a unique perception of what having wealth means.

The foundational principles described here are essential in encouraging offspring to be self-sufficient, self-motivated, productive, resilient and resourceful human beings with high self-esteem. These issues are interactively dependent; each builds upon the others, and there is significant overlap. Facilitated family interaction centering on these principles can be very effective.

Mark N. Voeller, Ph.D., is the principal of Dialogue Solutions Inc., Dallas-based family business consultants for succession, governance and conflict management ( He works with families who enjoy the benefits of shared wealth.

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