In this issue
Young family business members must prove themselves to a variety of constituencies: their parents, other relatives, non-family employees, community members and others who might prejudge them because their last name is on the door of the company. While they are learning about the family firm, they must also learn how to manage a variety of relationships.
When twin sisters Jenny Dinnen and Katie Rucker took over MacKenzie Corp., an analytics firm in Lake Forest, Calif., in 2013, they immediately realized that the business needed some new focus in order to remain competitive. Their father, Don Vivrette, had founded the company in 1985 and named it after his mother, Kathryn MacKenzie Vivrette.
It’s two days before the season opening of Morey’s Piers, three boardwalk amusement parks in The Wildwoods, a New Jersey seaside resort about 90 miles outside Philadelphia. On this April afternoon, stands are being stocked with candy and stuffed animals at Morey’s Surfside Pier, and the famous Curley’s Fries have drawn the attention of the bird population. A sweet scent on the breeze suggests that the funnel cake fryer is also getting a test run.
When Tom Pickens and his wife, Kelly, suddenly died in a plane crash, the shock left their children and grandchildren in disarray. The Pickens family had lost not only its beloved patriarch and matriarch, but also the leaders of the family’s $500 million produce business. Although Tom and Kelly were in their late 80s, they had continued to run and own the business Tom had founded decades before. (This is a real case, with identifying details changed.)
The Morey family’s debate over whether to add admission gates in front of their seaside amusement piers was fleeting.
Financial challenges make it harder for the leaders of a family business to choose between rational business goals and compromises designed to resolve a family’s emotional conflicts and financial needs.
A NextGen’s entry into the family business is a joyous occasion for most families. It symbolizes family closeness and — at least potentially — continuity of the family enterprise. NextGens bring pride in the family and passion for the business that were inherited from their elders. They also bring fresh ideas and new perspectives they acquired during higher education and work experience outside the family firm.
In Game of Thrones, the hit HBO series based on books by George R.R. Martin, families ruthlessly protect their interests. While it may be a stretch to describe them as “family businesses,” through real estate ownership (including castles), various trading relationships and support for broader stakeholders in the communities they oversee, they resemble many “family enterprises” we have profiled in Family Business. And, like family enterprises, they focus on creating long-term value for the family — which in Game of Thrones means over centuries.