Leadership: Business

At the Helm: G.A. Taylor Fernley

Generation of family ownership: Fifth.

About the company: We’re an association management company with the distinction of having founded the industry in 1886.

Number of employees: We have 10 employees as well as strategic partners.

First job at this company: Assistant to the assistant to the leadership team.

At what age? 26. Still young and finding myself, I painted houses for a year after college. I was one of five sons, and in the early 1970s my father asked me if I wanted to work for the company. He said I’d have to work for another company first, so I joined an industrial supply house for two years. When I started at Fernley & Fernley I drafted letters, worked on special projects, and sat in (quietly) on management meetings. I learned a lot about every part of the company in a short time, otherwise known as “trial by fire.”

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: Never forget the most important part of being in a family business is that you have the opportunity to work twice as hard as anyone else. It was good advice because it’s a 24/7 job.

Best thing about this job: Changing employees’ lives by developing them to go out in the world and contribute to society. When employees leave, some of my colleagues here get upset. However, they should be happy because we have positioned someone to broaden themselves professionally and go out and continue to grow. Support those who depart. Never burn your bridges; keep those relationships going. Some people have come back, a tribute to our organization. 

Our greatest success: The fact that we’ve been in existence for 134 years and we’re still a family business.

Best advice I ever got: “No” is just the first step to “Yes.”

Quote from our company’s mission statement: We ruthlessly adhere to four core values: Integrity and Ethics, Client-centric Philosophy, Thought Leadership and Social Responsibility. 

On my desk: I keep a 3 x 5 card on my desk that says, “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standard they set for themselves.” I can’t expect anyone to maintain a work ethic that I don’t model daily myself.

Best thing about working in a family business: The ability to launch fresh, entrepreneurial ideas unencumbered by a long, drawn-out hierarchical structure. I like it when people throw out ideas and we can implement them in short order.

Advice for other family business leaders: Even though it’s a 24/7 job, never forget — family first, business second.

On a day off I like to … go fly-fishing, play golf  and do yard work. I love yard work because you’re free to think. Fly-fishing and golf are therapeutic. They relax me and give me time to think.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: I’ve served Big Brothers/Big Sisters as president of the local chapter and a national board member, and my wife has been very involved in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We’re very active in the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, and I’m on the board of the Philadelphia Police Foundation.

Books I think every family business leader should read: Lincoln on Leadership, by Donald Phillips; Execution, by Larry Bossidy, and Creating Competitive Advantage, by Jaynie Smith.

I realized I had emerged from the previous generation’s when … my parents stopped asking questions about the company at Thanksgiving.

Future succession plans: My son Kyle has been with us 10 years and has largely been running the company for three years. I focus on strategic partnerships and business development and am gradually turning the reins over to Kyle.

Words I live by: In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years. 

Copyright 2020 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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.    

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At the Helm: Chris Thorkelson

Generation of family ownership: Second. Pat Lloyd, my mother’s sister, started the company with her husband, Craig, in 1972.

Company revenues: $150 million.

Number of employees: Just over 200.

First job at this company: At 11, I swept new construction sites and picked up debris. I returned during Christmas break my last year in college and gained a better understanding of the business. After college I became a framer, and moved up to superintendent, project manager, VP of construction, VP of development and then COO.

At what age? I was a framer at 23. I took over from Craig as president and CEO in 2016, when I was 37.

Most memorable thing I learned from my aunt and uncle: To work hard, to be dedicated to communities we do business in and to relationships we have as a company, and to give back.

Best thing about this job: Helping others fulfill visions and dreams — family, employees and the community.

Our greatest success: Our people and our culture, which are one and the same. It’s the makeup of who you are and how you’re perceived to have the ability to build the right team and attract good talent so people consistently have good experiences with your business.

Best advice I ever got: A board member once said that the key ingredient to life’s successes is the lifelong relationships you build. I had just traveled to meet with him, so that resonated with me.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: Vision and mission, improving quality of life.

On my wall: Pictures of my family. As a family business we want to encourage that look and feel.

One of my greatest accomplishments: The work we do with non-profit organizations.

Best thing about working in a family business: The control around giving back and helping others. It’s not always about the bottom line. It’s also about our family values, high ethical standards, profitability and giving back.

Advice for other family business leaders: Be invested in and intentional about succession planning and the transition of the family business. Also, always remain open to your family members’ thoughts, opinions and ideas.

On a day off I like to … spend time with my family and friends. We love to go to our cabin in Minnesota and welcome friends and relatives all over the Midwest to join us. In winter we like to get out to the Black Hills and ski and snowmobile.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: As many as we can. Some of our larger contributions go to the YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, Children’s Home Society, United Way, Make-A-Wish, Call to Freedom, Hope Coalition, Great Plains Zoo, Glory House, Avera Health, Sanford Health, St. Francis House, Levitt Shell, Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership, Southeastern Behavioral Health, Dakotabilities, Volunteers of America, Catholic Church/schools, Bishop Dudley House, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Center for Active Generations and EmBe (a Sioux Falls organization that offers programs and services for women and their families).

Book(s) I think every family business leader should read: Books by Michael Porter, such as Competitive Strategy. I also like Understanding Michael Porter, by Joan Megretta.

I realized I had emerged from my uncle’s shadow when … we expanded into multiple states and markets in 2019. We also grew substantially locally. People are seeing our leadership team taking things to the next level. We like to say that Craig didn’t retire, he rewired. We have 130 or 140 different real estate entities, and he still likes to handle the assets, as opposed to operations.

Future succession plans: Before I took over, we had an advisory board, and when I moved up we established a board of directors. They’re keeping our leadership team focused. Everyone on the team has a plan, including me, although my children are both under 10, so it doesn’t include them.

Words I live by: Give and you shall receive.       

Copyright 2020 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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.     

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At the Helm: Patricia Walllwork

Generation of family ownership: Third.

Revenue: More than $135 million.

Number of employees: Over 500.

Years with the company: 16.

First job at this company: In high school, I worked in the plant washing crates and buckets by hand and loading jugs on the line. After college, law school and working as a civil defense attorney, I came back to Milo’s as the vice president and general counsel in 2004.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: Everyone deserves the same respect, no matter whether they are the janitor or the chairman of the board.

Most memorable thing I learned from my stepmother: In a family business, it’s okay to sometimes have a “hissy fit.”  

Best thing about this job: Having the opportunity to continue our family’s legacy while making the lives of our associates, customers and consumers sweeter one sip at a time. 

Best advice I ever got: What matters is the outcome, not whether you are right. I wish I had learned that at a much younger age.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: Consistently manufacture, market and produce the highest-quality teas and other natural beverages in the world. 

Memento in my office: Shovel from the groundbreaking of our new plant currently being built in Tulsa, Okla. 

One of my greatest accomplishments: The opportunity to build our regional tea company into the fastest growing, #1-selling tea item in the U.S. grocery channel through a highly engaged and dedicated team working in a family culture. Other highlights include building out an independent board of directors and codifying our corporate responsibility programing, including a 1% giving-back promise, diversity and inclusion programming, and being a zero-waste manufacturer.

Best thing about working in a family business: Continuing your grandparents’ and parents’ legacy while layering on the next generation’s vision for the future of the organization. 

Worst thing about working in a family business: Knowing your family’s legacy and that of the hundreds of associates that dedicate themselves to your mission and strategy depend on you.

My advice for other family business leaders: Exceptional governance with a matching cadence is the key to providing non-employee family shareholders the ability to remain engaged, while giving employee-shareholders and the leadership team the roadmap for success for all stakeholders. 

On a day off: Exercise and reading are my daily outlets, but for real decompression I like to travel to far-flung destinations with my family to remind me how big, diverse and exciting the world and life are. 

Philanthropic causes our family supports: Through “Milo’s Makes a Difference” programming, we focus on women/children/education and environmental stewardship. Personally, we support the arts, the humane treatment of animals and causes to break the cycle of poverty.   
 
Books I think every family business leader should read: On the family business front, Keep the Family Baggage Out of the Family Business, by Quentin Fleming. My go-to business books are Good to Great, by Jim Collins; Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish; and The Metronome Effect, by Shannon Byrne Susko, our strategic planning coach. On leadership, I think all the Patrick Lencioni books are great to read with your team. 

Future succession plans: Our G4 are all still quite young, so we are just beginning this important process.

Words I live by: Trust and honest communication are the most important elements of any successful relationship.

Copyright 2020 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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.    
 

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At the Helm: Crystal Maggelet

Generation of family ownership: Second. We’re a holding company that owns various petroleum  and healthcare businesses, and an investment portfolio. My father started Flying J, a travel center operator, and we purchased a convenience store company called Maverik from our cousins in 2012. 

Revenue: $4 billion.

Number of employees: 7,000 across our companies.

Years with the company: 10 as CEO.

First job at this company: I was on the board of directors at age 18. I worked for the company in the refining division for a couple of years after college, but left to attend Harvard Business School. Afterward I returned and started Crystal Inn hotels, and my father and husband joined me as partners.

At what age? I was 22 when I first worked for the company.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: The best deal is when both sides feel good about it.

Most memorable thing I learned from my mother: My mother had no college education and married young. She taught me that I could do whatever I wanted and to believe anything was possible. She led by example and started a Diet Center franchise company later in life.

Best thing about this job: I have the opportunity to be in many different situations, and I learn something every day.

One of our greatest successes: Emerging from bankruptcy after oil dropped from $140 a barrel to $30 a barrel in 2008. At the time, we didn’t have the financial structure to weather that. We’d had excellent professional management, but the CEO resigned and I took over in 2009. (My father passed away in 2003.) We spent a year and a half restructuring and paid everyone back. We have made great progress since then, doubling the size of our family enterprise.

Best advice I ever got: Listen to people, don’t talk over them, and be considerate. Have integrity in all you do. Also, you don’t have to know everything. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help because most people are happy to.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: Building value to last.

On the wall: Family photos, which indicates how important my family is to me.

One of my greatest accomplishments: Getting the EY National Family Business award in November 2018.

Best thing about working in a family business: Our employees, and being able to impact our economy. You can make a difference.

My advice for other family business leaders: Separate family and business. Do what is best for the business, not what is best for the family.

On a day off I … like to do anything with my family, especially take active vacations. I also like outside activities, including skiing and running.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: We focus on education. We provide college scholarships and support elementary schools in Utah.
 
Books I think every family business leader should read: I like to read books about other family businesses and how they have been successful. Recently I recorded our history in a book.

I realized I had emerged from the previous generation’s shadow when … I found that our employees, outside vendors and community leaders respected me for the work I’ve done as CEO.

Future succession plans: I have four children, ranging in age from their teens to their early 20s, who have all expressed an interest in the business. I think it’s important that they get an education and work outside the company first. I’m hopeful that at least one of them will step in, but in the meantime we have great executives leading the business. We have plenty of options.

Words I live by: Believe in yourself and work hard.

Copyright 2020 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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

 

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At the Helm: Sue McCollum

Generation of family ownership: Third.

Revenue: $415 million.

Number of employees: 612.

Years with the company: Eight. I formally started on Jan. 1, 2011, when my late husband, Todd Epsten, CEO, was ill with brain cancer. He passed away in 2012.

First job at this company: Executive VP. Prior to that position I was always in the background. I had represented the company in the community and served on the company’s advisory board.

Most memorable thing I learned from my husband: The importance of legacy. To own a business is a privilege, as is being able to run that business in a way that allows you to leave a legacy for your family, your community and your employees. When Todd was sick, many thought the company would be sold. However, for him, keeping the company thriving for the future was a way he could live on and provide a legacy for his children, the people at Major Brands and the community. It’s been my job to bring that legacy to life.

Best thing about this job: The people I get to work with at Major Brands, day in and day out, are the absolute best thing about my job. Throughout all of our challenges they had my back. They inspired me to keep going.

One of our greatest successes: Surviving the legal, emotional and business challenges that engulfed our company after Todd passed away. As a result of his passing, competitors and suppliers challenged the liquor laws governing Missouri and tried to force Major Brands out of business. Instead of backing down, our entire company stepped up and together we thwarted attempts from the biggest players in our industry to put us out of business.

Best advice I ever got: Be authentic. Be confident. Be competent.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: Our mission drives what we do. Our values drive how we do it. Major Brands is dedicated to being a high-performance distributor of premium beverages, whose commitment to excellence is reflected in our portfolio of products, and our relationships with customers and suppliers, our employees and our support of the community. Our core values are performance, integrity, respect, teamwork and community.

One of my greatest accomplishments:  Stepping in to lead Major Brands during my husband’s illness, and successfully navigating and surviving the myriad of unprecedented challenges that followed his death. It’s become my story, not just my business story. While doing so, I raised two sons and completed law school.

Best thing about working in a family business: It’s easier to think long term and find creative solutions and collaborations. An example of this is the Family Emergency Fund I founded for the employees at Major Brands. I’ve learned that not all problems can be fixed, but with compassion, we can make some problems easier to manage. That’s one of the privileges of owning a family business. We can find many ways to support the team that supports us.

My advice for other family business leaders: Leadership matters. You personify your company. Take the opportunity to build a company that reflects you and your values. Determine what you want your legacy to be and go about creating it every day.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: We have always believed that we build our business by building the communities we serve. Major Brands offers thousands of free rides home on holidays each year to promote responsible consumption. Causes we support include Meals on Wheels, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and local parks, museums and educational institutions, such as Washington University of St. Louis. 

I realized I had emerged in the industry when … I received the Women’s Leadership Council Icon Award from the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America in 2018. That year I was also a regional winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award and was one of four family business finalists for the national EY Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Future succession plans: I have a different perspective on that than others. The one thing I learned is that there is no certainty. I anticipate a strong future and legacy, which can happen in a number of ways.

Words I live by: Every experience you have is meaningful, so create meaning out of every experience you have.

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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

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At the Helm: Dave Henderson

Generation of family ownership: Third. We lease, develop and manage medical office buildings and have developed over 330,000 feet of office space. Our business was started by my wife’s family in the early ’60s.

Company revenue: Under $100 million.

Number of employees: 12.

Years with the company: 30.

First job at this company: General manager. Before this I spent 15 years in the electronics industry. My father-in-law asked me to join the company, and I said I’d give it two years. It’s hard to believe it’s 30 years later.

At what age? 37.

Best thing about this job: Working with terrific people and developing the real estate so world-class healthcare services can be provided in our community.

One of our greatest successes: Devel­oping an integrated cancer center as a result of years of focus groups and physician meetings and discussing the deficiencies in our community on how care was being delivered. That led to the opportunity to work with Stanford Health Care so that our vision could become a reality.

Best advice I ever got: Deliver difficult news within the first two minutes of the conversation and build the conversation from there. Too often people who have difficult news talk for a few minutes before they get out what they actually want to say. Finally you hear, “Well, you probably wonder why I called you into my office.”

Quote from our company’s mission statement: Our goal is managing and developing first-class medical office buildings and influencing medical services that will meet the changing needs of our medical community.

On my wall: A framed picture, Lighthouses in the Storm. There’s a guy standing outside the lighthouse with his hands in his pockets looking calm as ever while the water is rising 15 feet around him. I model much of what I do after that picture, because if you reflect chaos as a leader, you can only imagine where everyone else will be.

Best thing about working in a family business: Having a son join the business. We discussed it and planned it for over a year and are enjoying the professional and personal rewards of the decision. Greg has been with us for seven years, and it’s been wonderful to watch his skills develop related to what’s needed in the business.

Worst thing about working in a family business: There’s always a balance between developing the business and managing family expectations related to distributions. It’s a lifetime journey. My wife’s grandmother saw the business developing, but for six years she wondered if she’d see any money. One also realizes that business decisions and discussions are hard and on occasion will impact personal relationships.

My advice for other family business leaders: Balance between family and business is essential. Get outside help when you start sensing an imbalance.

On a day off I like to … see friends and family members, particularly grandchildren, and play a few holes on the golf course.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: Cancer CAREpoint in San Jose, Calvary Church in Los Gatos and Rotary Club.
 
I realized I had emerged from my father-in-law’s shadow when … I didn’t feel I had to agree with him.

Future succession plans: I have three children, two in their 30s and one almost there. We’ve alluded to discussions but haven’t planned yet. In a pinch, the board would meet, the chairman would take over, and Greg would be responsible for day-to-day operations.

Words I live by: You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, just know how to attract smart people to the room and listen to them.

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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

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At the Helm: Scott Hunt

Generation of family ownership: Second. My father and three brothers started the business, and my brother Britt is our biggest distributor.

About the company: We have over 7,700 locations in 30 states and three foreign countries. We’re a turnkey operation in convenience stores. The business model is a crossover between restaurants and these stores.

Number of employees: I have approximately 56 in my group. Under the Hunt Brothers brand, we have over 480 systemwide.

Years with the company: Years ago I worked for my uncle for 3½ years, and then I worked in financial services for 18 years before I returned. This time, I’ve been here 16 years.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: To be vocal, to be a leader and to speak up or go against everyone else if you believe in something. I have no problem with that. But I’ve got a building full of people who are passive, and they don’t always talk when you get them around a table, so I hired a consultant to work with our senior leaders and mid-management. We try to encourage healthy conflict.

Most memorable thing I learned from my mother: You can make a difference without making a big deal about it. She was very quiet and gracious and did a lot for people behind the scenes.

Best thing about this job: Watching people grow with the company and enjoy its success. We’re about four times larger than when I came, but not because of me.

One of our greatest successes: In 2001 the first-generation brothers were still selling pizza supplies, and we made the decision to rebrand the company and put our name on it. It took us four years, and since then we’ve been able to raise our profile so much that we’re the largest company in our industry.

Best advice I ever got: You don’t have to know everything. Partner with people and ask for help, because successful people want to help you.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: We have four sentences, but the one that seems to get the most traction is, “Be a blessing.” That can take a lot of forms.

On the wall: On a whiteboard across from me, I’ve written the entire history of our organization. I’ve also got three posters of our family’s successful Nashville businesses behind me.

Best thing about working in a family business: Continuing the family legacy and having the ability to make good long-term decisions that may not make as much sense short-term if you only focus on short-term results.

Worst thing about working in a family business: Working with family can be difficult. Also, the challenges that it brings to non-family members.

My advice for other family business leaders: Surround yourself with great people and get outside help.

On a day off I … hope I’m on the water. I have a boat named Blind Squirrel, and there are a lot of lakes around here.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: We have two pizza vans — not food trucks — that we take to community events. Last year we gave away pizzas at more than 250 pizza events. We also support organizations that are partial to children, including Best Buddies International, which pairs high school students with children who are challenged, and Rocketown, a faith-based youth outreach center in Nashville.
 
I realized I had emerged from the previous generation’s shadow when … I really didn’t. I came into the business late, when my father was having some health issues and my brother asked me to help. I had a concussion after a car accident and I never would have joined otherwise.

Future succession plans: I’ve been actively focused on them for five years. That’s the reason the consultant is here. I don’t have a successor yet. My daughter’s a lawyer and my son just recently transitioned into the business. My brother would have to step in if anything happened to me.

Words I live by: I’ve been blessed, so “Even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while.” Also, “Play chess, not checkers.” The world is changing so fast that we need to get ahead of it.

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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

 

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At the Helm: Deryl McKissack

Generation of family ownership: Fifth.

Company revenues: Approximately $30 million.

Number of employees: 140.

First job at this company: Founder, president, president of the board of directors, CEO and chief bottle washer. I broke off from the original McKissack & McKissack and started my own company with the same name in 1990 with $1,000, an OK business plan, and my family’s history.

At what age? 31.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: To continue to work hard and be good to people. He was against getting handouts and thought you should be able to get work on your own merit. My father and our earlier ancestors grew up in a different time. He got projects that included black colleges and work from larger contractors. We were also more segregated then.

However, you can’t always get work based on merit, no matter how good you are. Often, contracts are awarded to companies that have long-term relationships and connections with decision makers. If you are not “members of the club,” it’s harder to get the work. Many minority- and women-owned companies are not given the same consideration. People are hesitant to change. At McKissack, we’ve worked hard to overcome these obstacles to build a great portfolio of work. If your company doesn’t have quality projects under its belt, you won’t get chosen.

Most memorable thing I learned from my mother: If you can believe it you can achieve it — and, by the way, being a woman is a plus.

Best thing about this job: The people part, which is in line with my purpose in life: enhancing the lives of others while building a business.

Our greatest success: Winning major projects that are significant to the country, including managing the construction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and designing an addition to the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas.

Best advice I ever got: Hire people for where I want to be, and not for where I am.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: McKissack & McKissack, through agility, innovation and ­collaboration, delivers unique solutions to our clients, positively impacting the built environment and our communities.

On my wall: A photo of my grandfather outside one of his buildings. It reminds me of his strength, what our family has been through, and the discrimination he faced in the early 1900s. If he can overcome that, then what I face today is not that bad.

One of our greatest accomplishments: Working on the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It represents the history of America, not just African-Americans. People love every aspect of it.

Best thing about working in a family business: Getting to spend quality time with your family and really knowing the person you’re working with.

Advice for other family business leaders: Be proud of your legacy and be true to those who came before you, but also be confident in your ability to make decisions without feeling burdened by what others might think.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: My family is big on supporting education, such as the Living Classrooms Foundation.

Book I think every family business leader should read: The Ideal Team Player, by Patrick Lencioni.

I realized I had emerged from the previous generation’s shadow when … I achieved the salary I was making five years after starting the company.

Future succession plans: I have a great staff. I’m not sure my daughter wants to be me; she’s a teenager.

Words I live by: I walk by faith and not by sight. 

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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

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At the Helm: Kari Rihm

Generation of family ownership: Third.

Company revenue: $220 million in 2017 from our three companies: Rihm Kenworth, Rihm Leasing and RMC Truck Parts. Rihm Kenworth is the second-oldest Kenworth truck dealer in the world. RMC Truck Parts ships truck parts globally and delivers them in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Number of employees: 350, including 30 part-time.

Years with the company: Eight. I joined in 2010 when my husband, John Rihm, passed away in 2010. His grandfather founded the company.

First job at this company: President. Prior to my husband’s death, I was on the board and was active once a year, when I attended the annual board meeting.

At what age? 53.

Most memorable thing I learned from my husband: Be generous with time, talent and money with whomever needs it. Also, appreciate employees’ talents.

Best thing about this job: It gives me purpose and pleasure to know that we support a great industry and supply good jobs for hard-working people and their families. One reason I kept the business was that I felt strongly that people had given their entire careers to the company, which had allowed my family and me to have a very nice life. If I sold it, people may not have been treated the same way.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: Rihm Family Companies is a third-generation, family-owned and -operated company focused on providing exceptional service delivered with the highest standards in the heavy-duty trucking industry. Founded in 1932, under the name Rihm Motor Company, Rihm is a growth-oriented company committed to doing the right thing — treating others the way we want to be treated.

On my desk: A glass paperweight etched with a capital R, owned by the three previous owners. When my husband was ill, his sister gave it to me. I keep it to honor the three.

One of my greatest accomplishments: Taking over the business under the worst circumstances and then turning it around and growing it more in the last eight years than it grew in the previous 78, in a male-dominated business. Maybe it took a woman’s nurturing touch. More recently, we built two new facilities, moving from one that was built in 1951. We also acquired a truck leasing and rental business.

Best thing about working in a family business: You get to work with your kids.

Worst thing about working in a family business: You have to work with your kids. Kidding aside, it can be hard to leave work at your office. We try to plan family outings and just have fun.

My advice for other family business leaders: Be firm with your expectations for your kids and your other family members regarding their roles in your business.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: My husband died from a brain tumor, so we support the American Brain Tumor Association, as well as local hospitals. We also support various food distribution organizations like Second Harvest Heartland and Feed My Starving Children, as well as World Vision, the Salvation Army and Union Gospel Mission.
 
I realized I had emerged from my husband’s shadow … two or three years into this adventure. I had 180 days to convince the manufacturer I could be a dealer. Other dealers were suggesting I sell the business to them. After the shock of losing my husband and the grief I felt, it took that long for me to feel like I knew what was going on and to stop prefacing each decision by asking myself, “What would John do?”

Future succession plans: I’ve done some work to organize my estate to pass the business to my children and keep it in the family. We still need to get my son, a vice president, on the franchise contract as the designated successor. My daughter has worked here, and I’ll be excited to watch her career goals unfold when she completes college.

Words I live by: Be prepared, be humble and be truthful.

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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

 

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At the Helm: Satya Tiwari

Generation of family ownership: Second.

Company revenues: $140 million projected for 2017.

Number of employees: 500.

Years with the company: 14. I joined the company in 2004 and became president in 2006. Our parent company in India manufactures rugs and textiles, such as pillows, and we do the selling.

First job at this company: After college I worked in New York in investment banking. When I joined Surya as vice president of sales, we were only a $3 million company selling to a small group of retailers at the time. My job was to understand the customer base and how to increase it, and to grow the company.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: Passion for the business. He loved what he was doing. Keep your word, and think long-term.

Most memorable thing I learned from my mother: Enjoy the simple things in life.

Best thing about this job: I get to do a lot of fun things. I get to travel all over the world and meet all kinds of people.

One of our greatest successes: We were able to weather the recession. Even in the worst days, you’ve got to be present. We knew fewer people would be buying, but if we tried hard enough, it would be an opportunity.

Best advice I ever got: Always believe in yourself, in your capabilities. Don’t second-guess yourself.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: To be the most customer-centric company offering the best selection of products and simplifying the buying experience.

One of my greatest accomplishments: Diversifying into multiple channels. We started selling to rug stores. Now we sell through furniture stores, interior design communities and ecommerce.

Best thing about working in a family business: You’re building on something multigenerational. Every decision is not about current profit or thinking short term, it’s more about building a legacy. There’s pride in being a custodian of the family business. It’s fun and it gives you perspective. My goal is not the next five years, it’s the next 30. How do I build this business so the next generation can take it to the next level? How do I set it up so they win? I feel I have long-term options people in public companies don’t have.

My advice for other family business leaders: Make tough decisions fast and have a clear objective.

On a day off I like to … enjoy the fatherly life. I have three young children.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: Our biggest cause is Food for Education. Other charities include Project Mala, which works to eradicate child labor from the carpet industry in India; the March of Dimes; and the Pain Free Patriots Program to help veterans get help for their pain. We try to stick with three or four every year.

Future succession plans: My kids are very young, but it’s never too early to start planning. I’m building a leadership team by hiring from different industries so if something happens to me abruptly we’ll have a team that can step in and fill the void. They’ll be custodians of the business until someone emerges from the family that can lead it. But I don’t want one of my children to earn the leadership role because they’re in the family, I want them to earn it because of their merits. My goal is to bring this to a level where it attracts the best candidate. If that happens within the family, that’s great. If not, it’s still great as long as we continue to build value for our customers.

Words I live by: Show up every day. Learn from yesterday. Yesterday is today’s memory, tomorrow is today’s dream. Make the best of today.

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