Governance

Although many people have encountered MacLean-Fogg Co.’s products, they probably haven’t noticed them, unless they’ve looked at the hardware that sits atop telephone poles or the parts inside car exhaust systems and transmissions, such as gear blanks and wheel nuts.

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Murray Berstein, founder of Nixon Medical in New Castle, Del., was determined to take the right steps to ensure the future of his medical apparel and linen business when he and his sons hired a consultant in 2002. The consultant began outlining the most effective methods to pass the enterprise to the next generation.

Murray listened intently, his eyes filling with tears.

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In commemoration of Family Business Magazine’s upcoming 30th anniversary, later this year we will honor 30 family businesses that have exhibited exceptional progress in business governance, family governance, business growth and family engagement. This has given me the opportunity to reflect on how our magazine has helped shape the development of the family business field in general and its corporate governance in particular.

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Travis Klassen was a 25-year-old high school dropout working for his family’s Canadian trucking company, Valley Carriers, when he started studying business leadership and realized how little he knew about the family business. How was the company structured? What were its financials like? Was the company making enough money to provide jobs for him, his brother and his cousins that would support them as their families grew?

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It's a topic that tends to generate strong, often surprisingly emotional reactions: how to manage the governance concerns of a family enterprise. If nothing else, those in the room typically snap to attention and become engaged when the topic is brought up.

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My question concerns a family-owned real estate development company with extensive commercial and residential holdings. It's been in business for three generations. The company is small in manpower, as it chooses to outsource most of its services. The Gen 3 CEO is the only family member in management. However, the company is owned by many family shareholders. The CEO likes this dynamic just fine! He gives his real-estate-agent daughter and her company all the listings for residential property sales.

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The Duchossois Group Inc. has come a long way since its founding in 1916 by A.J. Thrall and his brother-in-law as Thrall Car Manufacturing Company, a small freight car component repair shop.

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Whether your family oversees one or more operating companies or a family office that manages investable assets, the word "risk" usually connotes concepts such as overconcentration, lack of diversification and lock-up periods. But as social media use has taken the world by storm in the last 10 years, every family should also be considering potential risks to their reputation.

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Craig Lloyd used to sit his three daughters down every Christmas and ask how they would handle the family real estate business if he died suddenly.

The business was still relatively small, and this annual conversation was as close as the family came to having a formal meeting.

Craig and Pat Lloyd's three daughters, however, did not want to start their holiday celebration this way.

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It's almost impossible to walk into a hospital, supermarket or public bathroom without encountering a GOJO product. Though Akron, Ohio-based GOJO Industries Inc. is best known for its Purell brand of hand sanitizer, its owners' mission goes far beyond keeping hands clean. Through a unique broad-based structure called the Kanfer Family Enterprise, the family that owns GOJO has reinvented the classic family business model to create an organization that allows every family member to work in his or her preferred setting, yet still be part of the family business.

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