Succession: Taking Charge

Friends Christopher Martin, 29, and Cam Murphy, 30, both succeeded entrepreneurial parents as leaders of growing businesses.

Martin is president of American Health Associates. The company, based in Davie, Fla., was founded by his mother, Debbie L. Martin, in 1990. He joined American Health in 2013 to help the company acquire MEDLAB from bankruptcy. Before joining American Health, he founded a software company with two college friends.

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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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In the fifth generation, twin sisters went separate ways professionally while keeping the family together.

 

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Wolfgang Puck, Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey may be rock stars in the cooking world, but all foodies owe a debt of gratitude to Frieda Rapoport Caplan. A pioneer in the produce industry, Frieda almost singlehandedly introduced Americans to once-exotic, now commonplace produce items like kiwifruit and spaghetti squash. Had it not been for her, many U.S. consumers would never have tasted shiitake mushrooms, Belgian endives or passionfruit sorbets.

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For more than 145 years, Graeter's Manufacturing Co. has built its success on steadfast adherence to its process: making ice cream by hand, one batch at a time, in 2.5-gallon French pot freezers, regardless of the technological innovations adopted by competitors.

The company has withstood the challenge from mass-produced ice cream. What almost destroyed it was a rocky generational transition.

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It took courage and spunk for two adventurous young men to launch an advertising agency in Detroit in 1929, when the country was teetering on the brink of the Great Depression.

Lawrence Michelson and Leonard Simons were fresh out of high school, with no clients and no experience. Advertising as we have come to know it was in its infancy.

Michelson and Simons' optimism paid off. The business they launched, now based in Troy, Mich., and called Simons-Michelson-Zieve Inc. (SMZ), is still going strong, three generations after its founding.

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Kelly Conklin, 36, became president of Gordon's Window Décor last year when her father, Gordon Clements, passed the torch—literally. (Clements decorated a yard light and presented it to his daughter at a company party in a gesture Conklin calls symbolic, moving and goofy.)

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A career spent in Hawaii working with rare and precious gems to make beautiful jewelry might sound like paradise to many people. For brothers Gale and Flint Carpenter of Big Island Jewelers in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, it's been a way of life since the business was founded in 1983.

Now both brothers are approaching retirement—Gale is 59 and Flint is 66—and they've begun turning over the business to Gale's son Chance Carpenter, 28, in what is planned as a multi-year process.

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At a conference table in the sleek, contemporary headquarters of Friedman Realty Group, a real estate investment and management firm in Gibbsboro, N.J., Brian K. Friedman and his son, David, are reflecting on issues that have taken center stage for them: analyzing risk, their business future and structure, as well as continuity, succession planning and exit strategies.

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Nick Perrino's response to his son Joe was blunt: "You're going to blow up this business with your stupid ideas."

Nick had transformed Home Run Inn Pizza from a neighborhood tavern into a 600-seat restaurant on Chicago's southwest side. Joe shared his father's ideas about growing and expanding the family business—yet Nick called these ideas "stupid."

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