Presented by BDO
Family Business CEOs to Watch 2022
Amid myriad challenges, these business leaders have excelled at steering the ship.
Over the last two years, CEOs have jettisoned their original strategic plans and adapted on the fly to wave after wave of unexpected challenges: a global pandemic, supply chain issues, social unrest, inflation and the Great Resignation.
Through it all, the 23 business leaders featured here have run their companies with a steady hand, maintaining (and even increasing!) value for family shareholders and strengthening bonds with employees.
Some of these chief executives are founders of their businesses. Others have expanded the family enterprise, and still others have transformed the family’s legacy business into a completely new entity.
The members of our Family Business CEOs to Watch Class of 2022 are non-family and family, blood descendants and married-ins from all over the United States plus Canada and Colombia.
Whatever path they took to the executive suite, all of them have a deep respect for family enterprise.
“Family business and entrepreneurship is in my blood, in my DNA, and fundamentally is a core part of who I am both professionally and personally,” says Philip Katen, president and general manager of Plastikos Inc., an injection molding and mold-making company based in Erie, Pa. “And I passionately believe that family businesses play an absolutely critical — and, unfortunately, all too often overlooked and undervalued — role in the health and economic success of our cities, our regions, local communities and ultimately of our nation.”
William Lyles IV
President and CEO
Lyles Diversified Inc., Fresno, Calif.
Will Lyles graduated from Purdue University in 1981 with degrees in civil engineering and economics. He spent his early career within the Lyles Construction Group, serving as a project engineer, project manager, division manager, president and chairman of the group. The Construction Group is engaged in infrastructure, HVAC and plumbing construction throughout California and in northern Nevada.
Lyles Diversified Inc. (LDI) was founded by Lyles’ grandparents in 1945 as a pipeline construction company. Through diversification, the family businesses have expanded to now include divisions in construction, multi-family rentals, development, agriculture and investments.
Over the last 15 years, Lyles has served as vice president and president of LDI and is now its president and CEO. His responsibilities have expanded beyond construction to include oversight of both liquid and illiquid investments as well as involvement in LDI’s other divisions. He has also been very active in family continuity and governance activities, as the family hopes for the business to continue through multiple future generations.
Lyles currently serves on the University Advisory Board of Fresno State. Previously, he served on the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship advisory board at Fresno State. Within YPO/WPO, Lyles served as the second Construction Network chair as well as the initial forum chair for both the Construction Network and the Family Business Network.
“Will is recognized as a leader by field workers, executives, family and community stakeholders,” says his sister, Annarie Lyles, president of the Lyles family council.
“Well liked and trusted, Will is a long-term thinker with a strong grasp of business cycles. He is guiding the next phase of our enterprise’s evolution; for example, establishing a board with independents. He has grown the investments divisions, including adding venture capital into the portfolio.
“Will started out as a newly minted engineer in 1982 and since then has been involved in growing the operating businesses to a level where they are nationally ranked as environmental service providers.
“Although Will has only been in the CEO role for a year, he has been instrumental in growing the share price at a double-digit rate over decades. Will cultivates talent and lets good people put their skills to work. He has introduced processes to bring clear goals and metrics to the management team and the family council. Perhaps most importantly, Will manifests our business’s and family’s values.”
“I have been very fortunate to have been born into a family business that I love,” Will Lyles says. “Preceding generations of family members and employees created a culture of high ethics, shared success and accomplishment that we attempt to live up to and to expand on. Our core values remain constant as we adapt to changing times, methods, tools and approaches.
“My grandparents believed that employees are partners. All salaried employees have an ownership opportunity through our ESOP. Company leaders can own stock directly. Leadership salaries are relatively low, while bonuses can be high. We delegate authority as much as possible, while retaining accountability. The result has been low employee turnover and success in developing next-generation leadership.
“Given our construction roots, we are in the business of taking measured risks. A guiding philosophy articulated by my father is to ‘Risk a branch, but never the trunk.’”
“We have expanded the concept of employees as partners to working with trusted partners. Our multi-family division is a second-generation partnership with another family. Much of our development work is pursued with various partners. Our construction company is excelling in joint venture partnerships with engineering firms. Our venture capital investments are through a general partner I have known since third grade.
“Our family moto is ‘Stronger Together.’ The family is exceptionally connected and supportive of the business. We have an active family council focused on continuity of the business into future generations of employees and owners.”
Co-founder and CEO
UnoEth, Oakland, Calif.
Xiomara Rosa-Tedla, born and raised in Sacramento, Calif., kicked off her career in advertising after graduating from San Francisco State University. She then switched gears from advertising and attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising's fashion merchandising graduate program, which led to a new career in buying and merchandising in home decor for Potteru Barn Teen.
During her time in the corporate world, her father, Dagne Tedla, gave her an artisan-made leather messenger bag from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This bag would spark the birth of their business, UnoEth. (The name is a mash-up of the Spanish word for “one” and the first three letters in “Ethiopia,” where Tedla was born.)
Tedla’s gift to his daughter was one of several leather goods he brought home as gifts after a trip to Ethiopia to visit family. Rosa-Tedla then designed several styles, her father helped their artisan partner obtain his export license, and thus UnoEth began. The company was established in February 2015.
UnoEth is a father-daughter brand that partners with artisans in Addis Ababa to craft handmade leather handbags, totes, backpacks, duffels and accessories. Rosa-Tedla and her father help their artisan partners launch their own businesses and hire other artisans to handcraft the leather pieces. Their mission is to duplicate their business model around the world, one artisan at a time.
“Her featured social entrepreneurship projects are specifically and intentionally designed to economically benefit the Ethiopian and African artisans behind her iconic products,” says Monika Hudson, director of the University of San Francisco Gellert Family Business Center. “In addition to supporting its Ethiopian artists, the company’s steady growth rate has allowed it to concurrently employ local San Francisco Bay Area residents, despite the impact of the global pandemic on retail shopping habits.”
Hudson notes that the center featured Rosa-Tedla in an interview “because of her thoughtful inclusion of her father as part of the company’s longer-term strategic plan.”
“With Xio at the helm of this daughter-father design and import business, UnoEth is both stable and growing — no small feat during pandemic times,” says Lucy Quacinella of Multiforum Advocacy Solutions, a repeat customer and family friend.
“I often wonder if it was inevitable that, as the only child of an Ethiopian father and Puerto Rican mother, two social entrepreneurs, I would form a business, which was inspired by them and the history of our family, both in the United States as well as the countries of my parents’ origins,” Rosa-Tedla says.
“Family was always at the center for both of my parents, and there is no way that their example could not have rubbed off on me.
“It was a gift from my dad — a messenger bag that friends and strangers kept asking me to get them — that inspired the founding of UnoEth. And who else was going to accompany me on this journey? Of course, my father, in the form of connections with international trade organizations and Ethiopian artists, and my mother, in the form of legal advice and her own 20-year, self-formed law firm.
“Both Puerto Rico and Ethiopia have struggled with the issue of independence from colonial control for many, many years. I try to honor both of these histories in my company’s naming as well as its emphasis on celebrating Ethiopian artisans in our promotions and charitable contributions.”
Larry H. Miller Company, Sandy, Utah
Prior to becoming CEO and board member of the Larry H. Miller Company, Starks was president of the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment. During his time with the organization, he has helped develop its growth strategy, led mergers and acquisitions, and overseen the award-winning renovation of Vivint Arena, home of the Utah Jazz.
The Larry H. Miller Company began with a single automotive business purchased in 1979 and is now a portfolio of businesses in real estate, health care, finance and lending, and entertainment and sports.
Starks is the governor’s Olympic and Paralympic Advisor, a Utah Board of Higher Education member and chair of EDCUtah. He is a past chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Directors and served on the Weber State University Board of Trustees. He is a graduate of Weber State University.
“I have known and worked with Steve for several years in his role as the CEO for the Larry H. Miller Company and have observed him display an abundance of strengths: passion, vision, versatility, innovative problem solving, contagious enthusiasm, genuine humility and exceptional leadership,” says Michael Montelongo, who served as an independent director for the company from 2015 to 2022. “In short, he has taken a beloved brand and exceptionally successful family-owned company and made it stronger and better for future generations.
“Steve has an outstanding track record of consistent and high performance. As president of the Utah Jazz and the Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment business, he built a very successful and highly competitive franchise and profitable enterprise. He has taken that experience to his CEO role.
“Few executives combine Steve’s intellectual stamina, excellence in corporate leadership and governance, a servant’s heart and the ability to anticipate and navigate challenges. These qualities, combined with his singular ability to develop a high-trust environment, create consensus, build strong teams and effectively engage with both the Miller family and the board are what enabled Steve to lead the company and its stakeholders through and out of the pandemic’s volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity to achieve a soft landing.
“And it was during this extraordinary period that the company executed several significant transactions. Steve expertly led his team in selling the Utah Jazz business and also the company’s esteemed auto dealership business. In between these divestitures, he successfully acquired a skilled nursing facility business.
“I have seen him effectively and genuinely engage with everyone by treating, respecting, dignifying and serving others as they would want to be. This is also why he has been very successful in attracting, training, engaging, developing and retaining top diverse talent.
“Steve Starks has worked tirelessly to achieve a healthy top and bottom line, create and nurture an inspirational corporate culture, promote and protect the Larry H. Miller brand and foster strong business and family governance. His exceptional leadership has put this enterprise in a strong position to ensure generational continuity.”
“Larry and Gail Miller built the Larry H. Miller Company on the solid foundation of their values,” Starks says. “The Miller family instilled those core values into our company culture, and it’s an honor to work side by side to fulfill our mission to enrich lives.
“Our fundamental base of guiding principles and values never changes for us, and at the same time, the Miller family is nimble and innovative — willing to change and adapt. The last two years have been a particularly transformational time for our company. Recent divestitures have allowed us to diversify and strengthen our portfolio, make strategic investments and increase the Miller family’s philanthropic giving.
“I am excited about the future of the Larry H. Miller Company. I look forward to continuing to give back to our communities, developing and engaging our talented workforce and supporting the Miller family’s goals.”
Highland Ventures Ltd., Nashville, Tenn.
Keith Hoogland graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1982 with a B.A. in economics and immediately joined his family business. At the time, the business was a small video rental store called Family Video Movie Club. Hoogland took over as CEO in 1995 from his father, Charlie Hoogland.
Family Video, founded in 1978, grew out of the family’s original business, Midstates Appliances & Supply Company, established in 1946 by Keith Hoogland’s grandfather, Clarence Hoogland.
After becoming president & CEO, Keith Hoogland grew Family Video from 40 to 800+ locations across the continental United States.
Hoogland and Family Video strategically purchased all Family Video retail real estate, located in 22 states. With a real estate portfolio currently valued at over $800 million, Hoogland has expanded the business, now called Highland Ventures, into a full-service real estate conglomerate. The real estate arm, Legacy Commercial Properties, selects and develops prime retail sites for national corporate tenants.
In 2013, Hoogland formed a partnership with Marco’s Pizza, becoming its largest franchisee with well over 100 locations. He has founded, managed and sold other retail businesses centered on real estate under the Highland Ventures umbrella.
Hoogland’s oldest sons, McLain and Ben, have joined the family business. Ben is director of operations, and McLain is president of Hoogland Foods, the largest subsidiary of Highland Ventures.
“Our dad is an incredible leader,” says Ben Hoogland, speaking for himself and his brother McLain. “His leadership qualities have allowed him to take a small video store, build it into a massive video rental chain and then successfully transition into a real estate conglomerate with multiple operating subsidiaries. He is fantastic at change management.
“During all of this change, he managed to bring his employees along by utilizing what he knew they were good at and repurposing them to be successful in the new businesses. He took good salespeople and turned them into great leasing agents. He took hands-on leaders and put them in construction. He was able to do this because he trusts his people and he’s a creative problem solver.
“Our dad’s success is in large part due to the support he gets from his people. It’s not a coincidence that a large portion of Highland Ventures’ people have been with the company for over 20 years. He has cared about his team as people, not as employees. He leads with a very flexible organizational structure, empowering his employees to think for themselves, and through this he gives them a ton of opportunity.
“He lives by his values of hard work, ‘family first’ and creative problem solving, amongst many other things. He has always led by example in terms of putting in the effort that’s needed to run a business and never expects his people to work harder than him. Our dad was a father first, businessman second. He expects his employees to live by the same principles.
“Lastly, he believes any problem can be solved, and his constant energy to work hard to solve each problem in a creative way is inspiring. He pushes his people to continue to think outside of the box in any situation.
“Hard work, flexibility, creative problem solving and trusting his people are all the qualities that make our dad a successful leader, businessman and family man. He has built a culture of trust, flexibility and constant innovation. With him at the helm, Highland Ventures will have many successful years ahead of us.”
“I inherited my passion for our family’s business from my grandfather, ‘Pop,’ and my dad, Charlie,” Keith Hoogland says. “Both of these men were the entrepreneurs who got our business off the ground and engrained a down-to-earth culture, creative mindset and strong work ethic that still exist throughout Highland Ventures’ culture. These ideals are what I have tried to pass on to my children and to the next generation of Highland leaders.
“I believe that you have to work hard and achieve professional results outside of the company before being invited into the company. This idea, along with the idea that you must be in the company to retain ownership, allows generations to not feel a sense of entitlement with our family business. It also allows us to consolidate ownership back to the smallest group possible. This is how we’ve retained and cultivated that work ethic and passion for our business that was so important to Pop and my dad.”
PURIS Holdings, Minneapolis, Minn.
Nicole Atchison leads innovation and business development across PURIS’s portfolio of companies, including ingredient technologies; processing technologies; seed genetic strategies; product development; and go-to-market strategies, insights and support for plant-based brands.
PURIS produces plant-based foods and ingredients from U.S.-based organic and non-GMO sources. The company was founded in 1985 in Oskaloosa, Iowa, by Atchison’s father, Jerry Lorenzen, who is chairman. Her brother, Tyler Lorenzen, is CEO of PURIS Proteins.
Previously, Atchison held roles as project manager and engineer and was responsible for leading the cross-functional team through FDA approval and U.S. commercialization of Stellarex 035, a Class III medical device, for Spectranetics/Covidien. Stellarex launched in 2017, followed by an acquisition of Spectranetics by Phillips.
Atchison holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota and a B.S. in chemical engineering from Iowa State University.
Atchison has built on her father’s focus on action “to lay the foundation for a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren,” says Amber Akemann, director of business development for BDO USA and a member of the Association for Corporate Growth’s Planning Committee. “PURIS has launched a number of new products, is partnering with other firms to create other sustainable product lines and is staking a claim for the future.
“Nicole is a frequent speaker, both on technical matters relating to sustainable food products but also demonstrating leadership qualities relating to the mission, vision and values of her family business.”
“My parents bootstrapped our business for a long time,” Atchison says. “It’s been a long, slow journey. It’s been about building that foundation of each step along the chain before going on to the next one. What we’re excited to do now is determine how we can take the foundation that we’ve built, and the systems/process and the macroeconomics that are changing around, and expand what we’re doing into other world areas or categories.
“The world needs to eat more plant-based nutrition. And over the next 30 years, there’s going to need to be a significant investment in both what we grow and how we process it. If we want to reach our sustainability goals as a population, we must think that way. We don’t think in five-year increments; we think in 30-year increments.”
President and CEO
Lodge Cast Iron, South Pittsburg, Tenn.
Mike Otterman joined Lodge Cast Iron as the senior vice president of sales and marketing in the spring of 2016 and became the company’s first CEO from outside the Lodge family in January 2019. He has more than 25 years of housewares and sporting goods experience at consumer brands such as Coleman, Calphalon, Black & Decker and Kraft Foods.
Lodge Cast Iron, founded in 1896, makes heirloom-quality cookware and accessories. The company operates two foundries in South Pittsburg, Tenn., its home since the beginning.
Over the last three years, Lodge has nearly doubled in size. Otterman has invested in both the business and the South Pittsburg community. Under his leadership, Lodge has expanded the foundry, launched new products, rebuilt the website and developed the Lodge Cast Iron Museum.
“After 120 years of family-led leadership and impending retirement of the last remaining family members in these roles, the organization made a very hard decision to recruit from the outside,” says Lodge family member Bob Kellermann, a former CEO of the company. “They made a very focused effort to find someone who embodied the same DNA as Lodge, and with Mike, you would never know the difference. He is part of the Lodge family, and from the moment we met him, we knew he was ‘our guy.’
“Since joining Lodge in 2016, he has proven his excellent leadership skills time and time again: in his fearless and calm leadership during the COVID-19 crisis, his ability to work in the foundry any day of the week to help in packing or the distribution center when help is needed and to keep close to the front lines; and, above all else, his commitment and dedication to investing in the future with a clear purpose, not only within Lodge but the South Pittsburg community as a whole. We are honored to have Mike Otterman serve as our president and CEO as we look ahead to the future of Lodge.”
“Mike has kept heritage and familial values at the forefront,” says Susanne Champ, vice president of marketing at the company. “He is an ever-determined eternal optimist who eagerly faces challenges head-on, usually with a smile and always with an intense desire to win and win big, and molds a corporate culture that will endure.
“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging for the entire industry. While we saw success in increased demand with the rise of at-home cooking, we, like many people and companies, faced other hardships as we worked to manufacture product and ensure the safety of our entire foundry and corporate team.
“Mike was there every step of the way to help our team navigate those tough waters and care for our people, and he ultimately brought a sense of calmness in the face of fear. As we move forward from those early days of the pandemic, he has continued to do the same in new business challenges impacting the whole industry, like inflation and supply chain. Above all else, Mike possesses an ability to focus on what’s important during these tough times, breeding trust among the organization.”
“Not often do you find a company-employee relationship that has been so uniquely beneficial on both a financial and yes, emotional level,” Otterman says. “I joined Lodge months after losing our youngest child to cancer, and the company literally adopted me while Bob Kellermann and Henry Lodge, leaders of Lodge for nearly 50 years, helped our family to heal.
“Fortunately, it was a great fit, and over the course of the next six years, I was able to help the company transition to a new phase of growth while engaging and building on the amazing values that the company was founded on in 1896. Care for our employees and our community comes first, and that is done with trust, transparency and respect.
“With the addition of a new executive team, focus on brand and product development and investment in new production facilities, the Lodge business has thrived. At the same time, the Lodge family shareholders have warmly embraced the transition from a family-led company to outside leadership, and their commitment to people over profits remains stronger than ever.”
ABC Recycling, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
David Yochlowitz has worked in his family business since he was 15 years old. ABC Recycling, Western Canada’s largest scrap metal recycling company, operates 10 locations throughout British Columbia, Alberta and Washington State, with 230 employees.
From 1981 to 1987, Yochlowitz worked in all areas of operations in the non-ferrous and ferrous sections of ABC’s Burnaby, B.C., location. This involved manual labor and running all yard equipment, including forklifts, trucks and cranes.
He started full-time in 1988, at first as a sales representative. He then took over as the head of sales, directing the sales representatives as well as taking charge of all procurement and sales of material. He added the responsibility of overseeing all operations before becoming CEO in 1998.
Yochlowitz has served on the boards of various recycling associations, including as president of the British Columbia Chapter of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries and vice president of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Institute of Recycling Industries.
During his tenure, ABC has grown from 50 to 230 employees and from two to 10 locations, including its first U.S. facility at the Port of Bellingham, Wash. The company’s revenues have grown year over year since he assumed leadership of the business, notes his cousin Karen Alko, the manager of community relations at ABC Recycling. Yochlowitz and Alko lead their fourth-generation family shareholders council.
“David is deeply committed to treating all of ABC’s team members like family,” Alko says. “The company has many benefits, including an Employee and Family Assistance Program, RRSP [Registered Retirement Savings Plan, a Canadian plan similar to the 401(k) in the United States] matching, an Employee Referral Program, and training and mentorships. Many of ABC’s leaders were first discovered as laborers or operators in the yard. The company has recently embarked on a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion change initiative, spearheaded by ABC’s VP of People and Culture, another example of David’s commitment to creating a positive workplace culture.
“In 2022, ABC implemented an Indigenous Peoples Commitment Policy in order to strengthen relationships with Indigenous Peoples where we live and operate. The commitment includes educating all staff about the history of Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the resulting long-term impacts of colonization.”
“My passion for our business comes from my grandparents’ influence,” Yochlowitz says. “My grandfather was a Jewish immigrant from Poland in 1911 and started the foundation of our company in 1912 with his dad.
“They put everything they had back into the company, always supported our community and helped many people. They instilled integrity, compassion and generosity into our family and business and lived humble, simple lives.
“I am passionate about making sure these values live on as we continue to grow the business and look to pass the torch to the fifth generation and beyond.
“We have a social purpose: We exist to preserve the world’s resources, building thriving communities by accelerating metal recycling.
“I am passionate about making sure through our company we continue to make positive contributions to our community. The larger and more successful that we become, the greater our contributions and community impact will be.”
NOW Health Group Inc., Bloomingdale, Ill.
Jim Emme has been a member of the NOW management team since 1995, initially as chief of operations and then as president of NOW Foods. He was promoted to CEO of NOW Health Group (NHG) in 2014. NHG comprises Puresource, a Canadian distributor and manufacturer of natural health products; The Fruitful Yield, a chain of 12 natural food stores in the Chicagoland area; and NOW Foods, which manufactures more than 1,400 dietary supplements, foods, sports nutrition and personal care products that are sold in more than 70 countries.
Emme has decades of experience in the design and management of food manufacturing and distribution operations. He has been instrumental in NHG’s global expansion efforts and in developing its facilities in North America.
“Jim has a caring heart and has extensive involvement with and focus on our employees,” says Patti Paulson Otto, senior HR manager at NOW Health Group, who has worked with Emme for more than 25 years. “He ensures NOW has a very competitive compensation strategy and top-notch benefits for our employees and their families.
“Jim’s expectation is that each employee is listened to and treated fairly and in line with our core values of respect and dignity. Jim strongly promotes open communication.
“Despite the pandemic and all of the uncertainly and adversity that came with it, Jim led the company with a clear vision and a steadiness, and our sales skyrocketed.
“Jim is a relationship builder. Whether working with the family, board of directors, shareholders, customers, vendors or employees, he seeks to learn from everyone. He will not shy away from conflict and will do everything he can to flush issues out for the best possible outcome. He will listen to feedback, incorporate it and seek to learn from all levels within our company.
“He is passionate about being better than yesterday, encouraging our people and pushing our business forward. He is hard-working and will hold you accountable so you can truly learn or see a different perspective.
“Jim is on the board of directors and works very closely with the family to carry on their legacy and to ensure that the next generation is successfully brought into the business. It is natural to have differences of opinion within a family, and Jim manages it with transparency, collaboration and an open mind.
“Under Jim’s leadership, our wholesale total sales growth is up 108%, operating income has grown 109% and our employee count has increased by 36% to support this growth.”
“I have worked for NOW Health group since January of 1995, and was hired by the company founder, Elwood Richard,” Emme says. “I reported directly to Elwood and worked with him for 22 years. Elwood was not only the head of our company, but a true servant leader of the organization and his family. He led the company with the culture and values of honesty, integrity and respect. He expected his company team to properly represent these same values in our daily work lives.
“I am not a member of the Richard family nor an owner of their company. I am the steward of their organization and investment in this company, and responsible for the support, success and well-being of the nearly 1,800 team members who work for NOW Health Group. The Richards have empowered me to do the right things for the right reasons in my role as CEO, which makes my job very rewarding. I never feel pressured to compromise on those values just for the sake of more profits. The Richard family is very benevolent to our associates and always put others first in their expectations.
“I share the values of the Richard family and am very grateful for the opportunity they give me to lead their multigenerational organization. I am blessed to have one of the best jobs a person could have, which would not always be the case in a company not owned by such a principled family.”
Colleen Moore Mezler
President and CEO
Moore Research Services Inc., Erie, Pa.
Colleen Moore Mezler has been with Moore Research Services Inc., a marketing research firm, since she joined her mother in 1987. Mezler has significant experience in both quantitative and qualitative research.
Moore Research serves a variety of organizations throughout the United States and globally, from small start-up companies to Fortune 500 corporations.
Mezler is a past chairman of the Insights Association, which promotes the role of intelligence, analytics and insights in driving business impact. She is certified by the association as an expert in market research. She has received many honors from the association, including the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Distinguished Service Award.
She has also been honored by ATHENA International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a global pipeline of women leaders. She has served on the ATHENA International board of directors. In addition, she has received recognition for service to her local business community.
“Colleen took a small, local data collection company started by her mom in 1969 and turned it into a full market research company that completes studies all over the world.,” says her husband, Frank Mezler, vice president of Moore Research.
“Colleen loves her company and the workers she employs. They know she has an open-door policy and they can see her about any issues they may have. She invests in her employees by encouraging future growth opportunities and pays for any training to help them succeed. She invests in them outside of the company by offering full medical health care coverage, with no employee contribution, and offers a company-sponsored IRA program.
“Colleen encourages employee input on the jobs and the processes performed because she realizes that she doesn’t know it all and that the employee who performs these actions may have important insight.
“Lastly, Colleen frequently uses the term ‘team’ or ‘family’ in meetings or gatherings because that’s what they are to her — more than just employees, but individuals she really cares for and is grateful for the work they do to make Moore Research successful.”
“My mother founded Moore Research in 1969 with a card table and a file cabinet, and couldn’t have imagined the success we would achieve in our 50+ years,” Colleen Mezler says. “Our biggest secret to success has been to ability to adapt, grow and change while staying true to our mission, which is to help clients make reliable business decisions. We take pride in the fact that our family name is on every project that we do.”
Second generation (married-in)
President and CEO
Seaway Manufacturing, Erie, Pa.
Prior to becoming president and CEO of Seaway Manufacturing, Jana Goodrich served as vice president. In that role, she had responsibility for several key areas, including operations, engineering, information technology, administration, sales, marketing and retail sales.
Seaway, founded in 1959, specializes in windows, doors and sunrooms. The company began by making custom aluminum storm doors and windows and then developed a diverse line of vinyl and aluminum products.
Before joining Seaway, Goodrich earned numerous honors in each of her professional ventures. She worked as a territory marketing representative for Xerox and as a systems engineer for IBM. She left IBM to raise a family and complete her graduate education.
In 1994, she founded and served as president of Executive Education Services, a management consulting firm, which she ran for many years. The firm provided instruction and consulting for regional organizations, including law firms, service organizations, the Manufacturer and Business Association, SUNY Fredonia, Mercyhurst College, several campuses of Penn State University and General Electric.
Shortly after completing her MBA, Goodrich accepted a full-time position as a college professor at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College, teaching management and marketing. During her tenure at Penn State Behrend, she also worked with the School of Engineering as part of a small team that developed a product development and realization course and the interdisciplinary business and engineering studies program. In addition, Goodrich directed several initiatives in the Sam & Irene Black School of Business.
Goodrich is a member of the City of Erie Mayor’s Advisory Council. She serves as chairman of the Penn State Behrend Sam & Irene Black School of Business advisory board and chairman of the Manufacturer and Business Association board of directors. She is a past member of several advisory boards for national organizations associated with the fenestration industry, including the executive boards of both the National Glass Association and the National Sunroom Association as well as the Window and Door Dealers Alliance.
“Jana has worked tirelessly over her many years at Seaway to continue to grow the company while navigating the turbulence of the economic and building industry downturns in 2009-10,” says her son, Patrick Goodrich, Seaway’s chief operating officer. “She has worked daily in all areas of the business (manufacturing as well as retail side) to empower team members to be the best that they can be for themselves and to support the company.
“She stresses a strong work/life balance, ensuring that employees see their own personal value in addition to what they bring to the business and that they focus on the needs of their families first and foremost, knowing their job is secure. She was also pivotal in the charting us through the daily shifting landscape of the COVID pandemic and its impact on the business, working strongly with our partners in government to reduce our shutdowns and retain 100% of our employees.”
“Building a family business is incredibly rewarding, allowing the family to control the company’s culture while creating a unified path for future success.” Jana Goodrich says.
“Employees’ and customers’ direct access to the ownership creates an enduring and rewarding culture of mutual engagement and commitment, competitive advantage and personal/professional fulfillment.
“While each generation can modify the vision, the commitment, trust and respect cultivated in a strong and healthy family provide flexibility, stability and dedication of each participant for the benefit of all in the ‘company family,’ including employees and customers.
“Children raised in a family business learn what technical and professional/managerial skills are needed to succeed and witness the sacrifices, challenges and value of building enduring personal and professional relationships built on respect and mutual benefit. There are few greater joys than watching your child succeed professionally, especially when they expertly and faithfully carry on what the family has devoted lifetimes to building.”
Junior’s Restaurants and Bakery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Alan Rosen grew up watching his father, Walter, run the original Junior’s restaurant, which was founded by Walter’s father, Harry, in 1950. While in high school and college, Rosen spent his summers learning the business while also acting as a manager at the original Brooklyn location.
After graduating from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Management in 1991, Rosen spent three years working at other restaurants before returning to Junior’s as the director of marketing, with a goal toward expanding the business beyond the original location.
Today, Rosen oversees four restaurants, two retail outposts, retail bakeries and wholesale and mail order operations, which generate over $95 million in sales annually. Junior’s serves more than 5,000 customers daily and sells approximately 30,000 cheesecakes every week.
As the public face of Junior’s, Rosen appears on QVC 50 times every year and has also appeared on dozens of national TV shows. He is also the coauthor of three books, including Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook: 50 To-Die-For Recipes for New York Style Cheesecake. He serves on the board of Fulton Mall Improvements Association as part of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, on the Food Service Establishment Advisory Board in the City of New York and on the Dean’s Advisory Board of Cornell University’s Nolan School of Hotel Administration.
“Alan Rosen is a highly innovative and principled entrepreneurial leader who took a small, local family business and expanded it into a global entity,” says Lauri Union, Nulsen Family Executive Director of the Bertarelli Institute for Family Entrepreneurship at Babson College. Union cites Rosen’s “commitment to keeping his family business aligned with its roots while exponentially expanding its reach and influence.”
“When I was 5 years old, I was coming to work at Junior’s with my dad at 5 a.m.,” Rosen says. “My love, commitment and passion for Junior’s has never wavered; it is a bond that I shared with my dad until his death a few years ago.
“Sometimes, when I’m dealing with business matters, I often find myself thinking, ‘What would he do?’ and ‘What would my grandfather, who launched Junior’s 72 years ago, do?’ It is their guiding principles about Junior’s that I continue to follow today: ‘Put it [your reputation] on the plate’ and ‘Never give your customer the chance to go elsewhere.’”
“It’s not just about the customers, though. It’s also about the staff. We have a set of values that we stress with them from Day One. Equally important, and long before it was fashionable, we have treated our employees like we do our guests: as family. We’ve been offering full benefits for many years, before this became a thing. When an employee has a baby, we buy them a crib. We have celebrations together, and sometimes we have to mourn together. But that is what families do, and we are a family of 850 families. It’s the same for our borough and the city in which we do business.
“I do all that I do with these ideals in mind, and I do so with an unwavering commitment, love and passion. And I will continue to follow these convictions so that the next generation will have the same foundation as I did all those many years ago with my dad.”
President and CEO
Rogers Machinery Company, Portland, Ore.
After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in mechanical engineering, Ragen served as a U.S. Naval officer and worked in a small freight forwarding company. His 25+-year career at Rogers Machinery Company has included assignments in project management and the bid-spec market, branch operations, sales and marketing. He currently works with key clients as he builds out Rogers’ Evergreen vision with lean business principles and best practices in service.
Rogers is a compressed air and vacuum manufacturer that provides custom equipment solutions and equipment for applications across a broad range of industries.
Russell Roman, vice president of Rogers and a longtime friend of the family, cites a number of accomplishments since Ragen was promoted to CEO in 2017: record revenues during and since the pandemic, improved relationships with key strategic customers, an expanded footprint (new locations in California, Texas and Georgia) and an increase in headcount of about 40%.
“He lives the company’s core values and reinforces these in interactions with employees, customers and partners. He embraces change and is transforming an organization to support lean processes and more innovation while preserving the culture,” Roman says of Ragen. “He is willing to try new things and adapt. At the start of COVID-19, he quickly established a transformation program to ensure the company would not fail financially. Over $5 million was saved, no employees were laid off, and sales grew.
“He has a strategic vision, including establishing a new five-year planning process and establishing succession planning. He develops leaders from within Rogers. Many of our leaders and managers started at the entry level.
“He continues to support profit sharing for all employees based on the premise that everyone shares in the company’s success. He supports and hires veterans in the company tradition of being founded by a Navy veteran and his own Navy experience. He advocates learning by establishing Rogers University to support training across the organization. On an individual level, he is an avid reader and brings ideas from business leaders and experts.”
“Growing up, I have vivid memories of Grandpa Novak and Uncle Walt talking about a big project,” Ragen says. “They were animated about the details of staging parts, working late nights to meet a deadline. There was a ship to make in Florida headed for a cement plant in Venezuela. Machines were tested and loaded onto a semi and driven through the night by a husband-and-wife team. The plan came together. Hard work paid off. They made it!
“It feels good to have a product you can touch, that is essential to the infrastructure of our economy, in customer operations ranging from power plants to distilleries, food processors to water-treatment plants. I cheerlead the mission: to have personal relationships with all the stakeholders — valued customers, critical suppliers and beloved, loyal employees.
“We hold one another accountable to perform, making long-term investments in one another. We have fun doing difficult things well.
“In our various markets, we compete against multinational, multibillion-dollar publicly traded companies and distinguish ourselves with personalized customer service and customized, engineered product solutions.
“I have had great mentors along the way and have come to appreciate the care we have taken over generations to provide a work culture, opportunity for personal growth, solid health care benefits and maximum profit-sharing contributions for comfortable retirements.
“Family ownership provides stability long-term. We are preparing the next generation as stewards and servant-leaders that should build upon our experiences for thoughtful, planned growth for the foreseeable future. We love to compete — working together as a team, innovating, solving daily challenges. Our work is dynamic. Wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Pedro Felipe Carvajal
Carvajal Group, Cali, Colombia
Pedro Felipe Carvajal previously served his family enterprise in a variety of roles, including corporate project manager, vice president of corporate strategy, vice president of corporate development and CEO of the Carvajal Packaging Unit. Before joining the family firm, he worked at Banco Intercontinental and Banco Santander Central Hispano in Cali, Colombia, and at eFounders in San Francisco. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., and completed the executive finance program at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, and the executive MBA program from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Carvajal Group operates in the paper and packaging, technology and services, and real estate sectors. The enterprise has a presence in 10 countries.
“I was named CEO on March 30, 2020, and two days later all of our plants were shut down” because of the COVID pandemic, Carvajal says.
“I knew we were facing unprecedented challenges with the first pandemic in over 100 years. Priority No. 1 was making sure everybody was safe; we had to protect the team. Priority No. 2 was liquidity and trying to assess the damage. We had to make sure we did not run out of cash.
“We started working in a ‘crisis room’ on many different projects, pulling different levers to protect the company, because we did not know how long this would take.
“In parallel, I decided to start working on setting a purpose for our company, which included our family, suppliers, clients and employees. After many different workshops, we defined our purpose: ‘We Promote Economic and Social Development by Doing Things Right.’ We then asked our employees to define their personal purpose to make sure it was aligned with our purpose.
“Fortunately, after feeling the pain of 2020, we were able to rise, and in 2021 we had our best year in history. Once you get the purpose right, the profits will follow!”
Fernanda Jaramillo of Lansberg Gersick Advisors says that during the pandemic, “He had to make difficult decisions to keep the company on track; however, he managed to maintain the commitment of his executive team and the morale of the workforce at large.
“Pedro Felipe is a charismatic leader, who treats all people in the organization equally and dedicates the time necessary to forge relationships with people at all levels.
“Since his appointment as CEO, the Carvajal family is very pleased. Pedro Felipe is transparent, provides them with appropriate information at the appropriate time and responds expeditiously to family council ideas and requests.
“Pedro Felipe is one of the most recognized business leaders in our community,” Jaramillo says. “In 2021, several cities in Colombia, and particularly Cali, were the subject of a national strike as a result of the social protest that has been occurring in several Latin American countries. Aware of the need to contribute to closing the equality gaps in our country, Pedro Felipe has assumed a very active role in the team of leaders in the region who are working directly with the young people of the ‘front line’ to find long-term solutions to these complex social problems.
“I’ve known him for almost 30 years, and he’s never let power or professional success change his essence,” Jaramillo says.
MKDA, New York, N.Y.
Michael Kleinberg joined MKDA in the 1970s. The commercial interior design firm was founded in 1959 by his father, Milo Kleinberg.
Under Michael Kleinberg’s leadership, the firm expanded its geographic reach, opening additional studios in Stamford, Conn. (2006), Miami, Fla. (2013) and Washington, D.C. (2019). He led the diversification of the firm into new services and sectors and established connections in the commercial real estate community. He oversees MKDA’s landlord practice area.
Kleinberg advises real estate owners, brokers and corporate space occupiers, particularly on the future of workplace design in a post-pandemic world, and continues to be hands-on in the development of creative and agile design solutions rooted in research, real estate and business.
Multiple family members work at MKDA, and Kleinberg provides mentorship and business advice to the third generation. His brother, Jeffrey, is a partner in the firm and is based in Florida. All three of Jeffrey’s children work for the company: Jarad, as the director of operations in New York; Marissa, as a furniture, fixtures and equipment specialist and project designer in the Miami studio; and Matthew, who works in business development. Michael’s daughter, Arielle, is a marketing coordinator with MKDA; his son, Josh, is currently working at another architecture firm and pursuing his architectural license.
“Michael’s leadership prowess really shone through when the pandemic began. Despite all the uncertainty and office closures — which were especially challenging for MKDA, as our core competency is workplace design — Michael continued to have a positive attitude and took a solutions-based approach,” Arielle Kleinberg says. “The firm became thought leaders on the pandemic, producing webinars, white papers and guidelines on how to safely return to the office. The team also redesigned spaces based on 6-foot social distancing standards, implemented more touchless features and antimicrobial materials, and capitalized on flexible partitions to quickly draw people back to the office.
“Even with the rise of remote work and free-address employees, Michael has remained optimistic about the future of the physical workplace and commercial buildings. He strongly believes that the workplace is not dead — rather, its purpose has changed. Michael has encouraged our team of architects and designers to draw on hospitality-inspired elements and amenities to provide individuals with unique experiences that they cannot get at home. Whether it be a wellness center, speakeasy, event space or outdoor lounge area, these services can function as a tool to draw people back to the office and help attract new talent.
“Aside from his shrewd business sense, Michael understands the importance of raising employee morale through fostering a transparent work environment. Even with the steady growth of MKDA, the firm maintains the boutique, personal charm of a small business. Michael makes a point to meet with every employee (across all four locations) when they start working and comes into the office every day to lead by example.”
“I have always been inspired by my father’s drive, passion and resilience when he established MKDA,” Michael Kleinberg says. “From a young age, my brother, Jeffrey, and I took an immediate interest in design and architecture, which only grew when we would go into the office with my father. We learned how to draw and draft and then shadowed him on various job sites to gain hands-on experience.
“After earning my degree in architecture, I officially joined the firm and jumped right in. From Day One, my dad was my mentor and I was involved in everything — measuring spaces, managing projects and developing relationships with brokers and building owners. MKDA continued on a steady upward trajectory as we targeted new sectors and assisted building owners with various layouts to assist in the marketing and leasing of properties.
“Today, after over 40 years in the industry, the one thing I can tell you is that change is the only constant. This is an exciting time in the world of architecture and workplace design, and I look forward to what the future holds for MKDA as we continue to take on new challenges and locations, to push the creative envelope and to offer clients a trustworthy partner who can deliver on both strategy and design.”
President and CEO
CK Supply Inc., St. Louis, Mo.
Ned Lane joined CK Supply, a distributor of gas and welding supplies, in 1995 after working for 10 years in the gas and welding industry. Lane started at CK Supply as manager of gas operations and then progressed to vice president of sales and executive vice president. He was named president in 2000 and was elevated to president and CEO in January 2021, after second-generation owner Tom Dunn retired and became chairman of the board.
“Ned has worked with G1 owners Paul and Mim Dunn, along with being a trusted partner to our family,” says third-generation executive vice president Brad Dunn. “He successfully oversaw many significant projects and expansion over his tenure and has instilled open-book management principles to help our 150 employees understand the value and impact of their roles.
“He has shifted CK from being a ‘family-owned business’ to a ‘business run on family values.’ He embodies our core values of ‘Driven, Passionate, People-Oriented and Solutions-Focused.’
“He most recently completed a major ownership transition project and was the main orchestrator of fulfilling my father’s exit plan of becoming a 49% ESOP. He has been working and planning over the past seven years with G3 owners to successfully pass along values, knowledge and responsibilities as he plans for his own retirement.
“Ned is a man of integrity and faith and has the gained the trust of the management team and employees through his transparent and fair leadership.”
“What I learned very early in my time at CK was that we truly were a family, and we were managing relations with our employees and customers for the long term — not just quarter to quarter, like many publicly traded companies,” Lane says.
“The message that was clear was that if you take care of the employees, treat them with respect, honesty and dignity, they will lead you to success.
“Having worked with Tom for over 20 years, it was very clear that his values were strong. His personal and business life were based on family, compassion and humility. His goal was to engrain these values in both his family and his CK team. He was successful on both fronts.
“These values helped lead him to a decision at the end of his career to sell part of the company to the employees (ESOP). This meant passing on the need to get maximum value for a strategic sale. He left us with a company that is owned 51% by the family and 49% by the employees.
“It has been equally exciting to see the third generation of the Dunn family get involved in the company. We are in the process of transitioning leadership and responsibilities to them over the next few years. They have had some great lessons from the generations before them and the CK senior leaders.
“I am confident in the succession planning and their continued development. Great things lie ahead for CK. We have a great ownership team: the third generation of Dunns and our CK employees. I am looking forward to continued prosperity for all our owners.”
Argen Corporation, San Diego, Calif.
Anton Woolf joined Argen Corporation in 2000 as an international sales executive, focusing on European operations. He then transferred to the corporate office, where he assumed the role of vice president, focusing on business development and acquisitions. He was promoted to CEO in January 2008.
Argen manufactures precious dental gold alloys and dental zirconia and provides digital dentistry solutions and scrap refining services. The company distributes to more than 100 countries, with subsidiaries in Canada, China, Germany and the United Kingdom.
As CEO, Woolf has strengthened Argen’s core business while diversifying and expanding into new strategic businesses. His assessment of the rapid changes in digital dentistry led him to build Argen’s digital outsourcing center to support and partner with dental laboratories nationwide. The outsourcing center has grown to 95,000 square feet, operating more than 100 milling and 3D printing machines to support Argen’s fixed, removable and orthodontic product lines. He has also increased Argen’s international footprint, expanding and developing the company’s global subsidiaries.
Woolf holds a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Michigan and serves on the Cal-Lab board of directors.
Ian Kang, a tax partner at BDO USA who has worked with the business and the family, notes that under Woolf’s leadership, the organization has experienced unprecedented growth despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Argen added 150 new manufacturing employees and significantly expanded its production capabilities during the challenging time,” Kang says. “Anton put togther a five-year global strategic plan to quadruple the company’s valuation.”
“My passion for Argen is deeply rooted in making a positive impact in people’s lives and making quality products that improve the smile and health of dental patients,” Woolf says.
“My parents, Bertie and Jackie, help found and grow Argen from modest beginnings to the largest precious metal dental company in the world. Their vision was to build an amazing company that would help our customers become more successful and enable Argen employees to grow and develop. These deep-rooted core values led us to diversify our business into significant digital innovations that have empowered our dental lab customers to not only survive, but also thrive.
“Today, my wife, Julie [Argen’s chief operating officer], and I have grown our company into a diversified global corporation with more than 700 team members and 140,000 square feet of manufacturing in San Diego and four global locations. We have laid out a five-year vision, ‘Thrive in Five,’ that will enable us to innovate dental solutions to help our customers be more successful, allow us to nurture inspired employees and continue to grow Argen for generations to come.”
Shooster Holdings Corporation, Margate, Fla.
Michael Shooster is CEO of Shooster Holdings with several portfolio companies in the telephone answering service and virtual receptionists industries as well as the Cloud CCaaS industry. He is also the founder and president of 777 Properties, a commercial real estate development company. He has negotiated the purchase, sale and management of land, offices and distribution facilities.
He has also led construction projects including contact centers, third-party logistics centers and mission-critical facilities, and he has been responsible for numerous building remodeling projects and renovations.
In an effort to continue to support his community for many years to come, Shooster recently developed the Shooster Family Foundation.
“Aside from the multiple successful ventures and his proven track record, Michael Shooster truly stands out as a CEO because of his success in building relationships with people,” says son Logan Shooster, strategic growth analyst at Shooster Holdings.
“People have always been at the core of every decision Michael has made. Because of this, many of Michael’s team members have been working with him for over 20 years. Once employees reach the milestone of 20 years with the company, the business will send employees to any place in the world with a partner for 10 days. Michael is extremely proud to have sent many key team members of the business to locations such as Bora Bora, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, Hawaii, Tahiti and much more.
“Even more impressive than the places that Michael has sent these team members is the amount of team members that stuck around long enough to reach this milestone because of their passion of working for the family business. This type of loyalty is something that every business should strive to develop amongst its team.
“When most people think about a family business, they are typically only talking about the family who owns the business. When Michael discusses his family business, he is referring to every member of the business.
“At one of the portfolio companies, Answering Service Care, the slogan of the business is ‘Smiling Faces That Care.’ This phrase is the core of everything we do and how we go about building our brands. Michael exemplifies this on a daily basis because he knows that to build belief in a brand — it requires buy-in at the top first.
“His passion for the business and the people he works with is evident every day. Michael always makes sure that his team constantly knows how much he truly values them. Michael Shooster is an innovator, a true leader of people and someone that you can always trust to stay true to his word.”
“After my father passed away in 2014, his companies were passed down to my siblings and I: the contact center, Global Response; the answering service, Answering Service Care; and the third-party logistics company, ShipWizard,” Michael Shooster says. “My father built his companies with a focus on people. His people became part of his family. He believed that if you have the right people and they care about their work, the quality speaks for itself.
“In 2019, I had a chance to retire, but the idea of golfing Monday through Friday just did not appeal to me. With four boys in college, and with some expressing various degrees of interest in the business, I decided to try and build a company inspired by the same family values that were instilled in me by my father. This business would be known as Shooster Holdings.
“It’s been an amazing ride, and it feels great to have the opportunity to carry on with a new family business. My whole life I’ve been an entrepreneur. When I wake up every day, I love what I do. I would not want it any other way.”
President and CEO
J.F. Brennan Inc., LaCrosse, Wis.
Matt Binsfeld has served as president and CEO of J.F. Brennan Company since December 2018. Brennan, a 103-year-old family business, is a water-based infrastructure contractor employing nearly 700 people with work locations throughout the continental United States.
Binsfeld served as Brennan’s chief operating officer from 2008 to 2018. During his time as COO, he worked with teams of skilled engineers and trades professionals to deliver technically sophisticated water-focused projects to private industrial, state and federal owners.
Binsfeld fostered and led substantial growth efforts achieved through organic development of the Brennan workforce, launching new business ventures and overseeing the acquisition and integration of strategically important businesses. He and his team have grown sales five-fold through organic and new business acquisition strategies.
As president and CEO, Binsfeld leads and collaborates with teams in setting organizational strategies and delivering financial results in accordance with board directives. His work includes finding, developing and completing acquisitions of businesses that fit the Brennan culture and strategically grow the organization. Human capital development and servant leadership are core values for Binsfeld.
Binsfeld is a board member for the Brennan Companies. He also serves as an outside board member for Trust Point Inc., a financial services company headquartered in LaCrosse, Wis. He and his brothers recently completed a leadership transition from the third generation of family leadership to the present-day fourth generation of leadership.
Binsfeld is president and a board member of the Western Dredging Association and serves on the board of directors for the Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Medical Center Inc., the advisory board for the Marquette University School of Engineering and the Viterbo University President’s Advisory Council.
Binsfeld holds an MBA from Tulane University and a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Marquette University. He is an active member of Executive Peers in Conference (formerly TEC).
“Matt is one of four brothers that are currently in leadership roles at the family-owned businesses, J.F. Brennan and Brennan Marine,” says Jim Naleid of Naleid & Associates LLC. “As one of his executive coaches, I’ve had the pleasure of watching him for the past 10 years grow and lead the company from a Midwestern marine construction company specializing in deep-water and railroad infrastructure and sophisticated waterway environmental remediation to one that now spans from coast to coast.
“Under his leadership, the company has made several acquisitions, opened new markets and built what may be the largest underwater construction dive team in the country. In what can be a dangerous business, safety sits at the top of the company’s core values. He is largely responsible for recognizing the need to establish and clearly define the fundamental values that now permeate the organization.
“The qualities that make him the special leader he is include being a quiet but fierce competitive individual who is a lifelong learner in an unending pursuit of being the best he can be.”
“Our family and business are incredibly fortunate to work on some of this nation’s most challenging water resource related issues,” Binsfeld says. “The work takes us to all corners of America, demands innovation, requires highly skilled teams of people in order to execute, has great importance to the stakeholders we serve and — most of all — is fun. It involves big equipment, is highly sophisticated and often in the public’s eye.
“However, what is most important, the foundation on which our 100-year history is built, are the incredible women and men who make it happen each day. We are known as a family business, but really, we are a business of families. It is inspiring, and our family is blessed, to see our work delivered by exceptional people making a positive impact in their family’s lives and those we serve.”
Jacob L. Brown
Founder & Principal
The Marian Group, Louisville, Ky.
In 2001, Jake Brown founded The Marian Group, which develops residential, multi-family and commercial real estate with a portfolio that includes multiple locations in the Southeastern United States. Through partnerships with nonprofit entities and for-profit investors, Marian produces market rate and commercial projects and develops affordable housing through the use of low-income housing tax credits. Marian is a full-service company, with in-house capabilities for design, architecture, construction, project management and portfolio services.
Over his career, Brown has overseen more $500 million in development, management and construction work. His expertise includes real estate development; navigating complex low-income housing tax credit deals; liaising with federal, state and local government entities and their funding mechanisms; general contracting and construction management; and environmental consulting and remediation. He is a board member of The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
“Jake is a leader that truly understands the needs of a company in this day and age and works hard every day by investing his time into the people,” says his daughter, Katie Smith, the company’s chief operating officer, with input from The Marian Group team.
“Jake’s leadership style of enlisting and empowering others’ initiative and growth was about the mind, but it also had heart. The missions were not just about tangible results, but invested in people and created opportunities for underserved communities.
“Leading by example, Jake encourages others to participate in multiple charities, fundraisers and drives by giving back. There are also the less obvious acts of kindness and dedication that were for no one to see and the testimonials of people and small businesses that have been helped in getting that second chance they so badly needed.
“We have seen the dedication to his team and the quiet strain of taking care of everyone throughout the pandemic. It is the attention to people and the consistency of character throughout a changing world that has made Jake a great leader. Among the team and Jake, there is a mutual respect, supportiveness, and a dedication to excellence.”
“In the beginning, it was easy, or at least I thought so: turn my vision and entrepreneurial drive for the real estate development and construction world into a practical, family-centric, family-driven business,” Brown says. “With the boundless energy of youth, an incredibly strong support system at home (my wife) and probably a fair amount of hard-headedness, I was off and running. Ha! What a difference 25 years makes.
“How do you transfer that desire, that spirit of entrepreneurship, that emotion for everything you have and continue to build, to the next generation of family…and employees? Now, that’s the hard part.
“Let’s talk about a few of the tangibles I believe make our family business work.
“A connection to the family business: Even if they aren’t destined to be a leader in the company, or even work directly in it, all three of my children have a strong desire to be connected in some manner to our business.
“Don’t count out the girls: Given the opportunity, my daughter has become a powerhouse over the last 15 years at the company and will lead us into the future. She is a transformational leader, an incredible motivator and, to her surprise, damn good at sailing this ship.
“Be proactive, and don’t be afraid of risk: As a first-generation entrepreneur, the risk is in my DNA. The tough part is passing on that knowledge to the next generation, allowing the mistakes to happen.
“Embrace technology: Data gives us the edge, the ability to be preemptive, to find those small differences that make a deal a winner. It’s foreign to me, but I’m learning. The kids, well, they’re killing it.
“Know your values: Your company values, much like your family values, keep the company on the rails. Define your personal values, your family values and the company values, and keep them in front of you always.
“I believe we are well-positioned for continued growth. We have transformed from the authoritarian leadership I started with to embrace the strong transformational leadership style of my daughter. In doing so, we are poised to continue to create opportunities for our company in the future.”
Fourth generation (married-in)
Chairman and CEO
Haws Corporation, Sparks, Nev.
Over Tom White’s 25-year career at Haws, he has worked in domestic and international sales as well as operational roles. White established family governance in 2007 and an independent board of directors in 2008.
White was promoted to president and CEO in 2010 and became board chairman in 2015. He earned his B.S. in economics from the United States Naval Academy.
Founded in 1906 by Luther Haws with a patent on the drinking fountain bubbler, the company is known for its drinking fountains, water coolers and bottle fillers. Haws added emergency drench showers and eyewashes to its product mix in the early 1950s. In 1997, the company added engineered product and service solutions for industrial facilities. In 2018, a services business was established to address customers’ compliance needs. In addition to its headquarters in Sparks, Nev., the company has manufacturing and assembly operations in Nevada, Switzerland, Singapore and Brazil and sales offices in the United Arab Emirates, Germany and India.
“Tom White epitomizes stewardship in his role as the CEO and chair of Haws Corporation,” says Greg McCann of McCann & Associates, who along with his colleague Bernadette DeVoe has worked with the family over the last decade.
“As a former naval officer, he brings the discipline, sense of duty and spirit of service to his 25 years leading at Haws. As a married-in fourth-generation family member of this family enterprise, he has worked to maintain the values while innovating and professionalizing the firm. It has become more global, more diverse and, overall, more successful.
“He and the family council have truly worked to make their family’s involvement a strategic advantage to their enterprises, as well as enriching the family. Along with the family council and board of directors (including independent directors), he helped the effort to create a position that was charged with just that, their director of family governance.
“Tom’s leadership is evidenced by a commitment to innovation, integrity and deep devotion to the family. He has been a student of and generous contributor to our field.”
“I have spent enough time with other owning families and advisers to modify a famous quote from Mark Twain: ‘History doesn’t repeat itself among family businesses, but it often rhymes.’” White says. “Family owners share the same challenges, which we often overcome with the wonderful cultures that we create for our people and the good we do in our local communities.
“Family business shareholders often exemplify patient capital, focusing on financial strength and profitability over a longer horizon. At the outset of the pandemic, Haws owners prioritized the welfare of its employees by securing their jobs during an historically uncertain time.
“Some business leaders may disagree with the risk we took on, but we stand by our decision to value more than just the financial returns to the family shareholders. We like to say that it’s not what we do as much as how we behave as a company. That is the luxury of a family-owned business, and it is the reason I have chosen to spend my career at one.”
President and General Manager
Plastikos Inc., Erie, Pa.
Philip Katen and his brother, Ryan, lead Plastikos, Micro Mold and Plastikos Medical, their family’s advanced medical injection molding and mold-making companies.
Philip Katen was previously a senior consultant at Deloitte. He and his management team have implemented strategies he learned through his prior experience as a consultant to much larger companies.
Philip and Ryan Katen founded Plastikos Medical in early March 2019, on Plastikos’ 30th anniversary, and completed construction on Plastikos Medical’s advanced medical molding facility in August 2019. The new facility quickly reached full capacity, and a major expansion recently was completed.
Katen holds an MBA from Duke University and a B.S. degree in industrial engineering and economics from Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering.
“Philip chose to grow the business rather than maintaining the already successful business that was at hand,” says John Williams, a molding manager at Plastikos. “This really invigorated the team and made Plastikos a more attractive place to work for new candidates and potential new customers.
“Philip is a hands-on leader, without micromanaging. It is commonplace to find Philip on the manufacturing floor helping the team. He makes everyone feel important and part of the larger team regardless of their role. Philip empowers the department managers around him and ensures we stay focused on the positive.”
“Phil, along with the ownership group, is always five steps ahead with a clear vision of the future of the business. Property for Plastikos Medical was purchased in the same business park as Plastikos years before construction began, as he saw our growth in the medical industry,” says Danielle Bentley, a molding manager at Plastikos Medical. “He is the first one in and the last to leave as well as working on the weekends and most holidays. His hard work is evident through Plastikos’ continued success and an inspiration to the team.”
“Phil always has his pulse on the business and surprises me with how well he’s in tune with even small details,” says Jesse Barber, corporate tooling project manager at Plastikos. “He’s sharp and holds high expectations for his team, which drives engagement, accountability and efficiency in the organization. Knowing he has your back motivates the team to be their best.
“Phil was instrumental in the strategic direction of the company about a decade ago, leading Plastikos into the medical industry, diversifying our business portfolio, leading to several expansions during that time,” Barber says. “Under Phil’s leadership, Plastikos took a very targeted approach to developing new business partners and has formed great relationships with a select group of customer and supplier partners. Thanks to the diversification and alignment with key partners, Plastikos continued to grow our team and business throughout the pandemic, when other businesses were struggling. That growth trend continues today.”
“I grew up in and around our family businesses, working from a young age, initially tasked with general cleaning duties, cutting the grass and weeding, and performing other basic, entry-level tasks,” Katen says. “Throughout my childhood, our family businesses were always a core topic around the family dinner table each evening.
“When I returned to Erie to join our family businesses, I did so knowing that I could bring my talents and abilities, my training and education, strategy and operations experience, and my personal love and passion for our companies to enable our team to attain ever higher levels of success.
“I have seen the positive impact that our family businesses have had on my family, in the lives of all of the individuals on our team and their families, on our suppliers and business partners, as well as on our local community and region.
“I consider myself so fortunate and blessed to have grown up in a family business that ultimately afforded me the opportunities to grow in my career, to provide financial security and career advancement to the members of our team, to coach and mentor key leaders on our team and enabled me to give back to a number of organizations.”
Acme Paper & Supply Company, Savage, Md.
Ron Attman started his career at Acme Paper and Supply Co. in 1968 and has served in numerous roles. He has helped grow Acme from a paper company to a multi-division business.
Acme is a wholesale packaging distributor that provides foodservice packaging, janitorial equipment and supplies, restaurant equipment and smallwares, retail packaging and industrial packaging, among other offerings. The business serves myriad industries, including hospitality, healthcare, education, sports and entertainment.
Attman served in many capacities on the Network Associates Inc. board. As board chairman and CEO, he oversaw an organization of 72 independent distributors of paper products and janitorial supplies with combined sales of $6.9 billion. His extensive community involvement includes service on the board of Northwest Hospital, where he has been vice chair and secretary, as well as the chair of the Performance Oversight Committee and vice chair of the LifeBridge Development Committee.
Attman holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business.
“My father’s passion for Acme’s success is what inspired me to become a leader within my family’s business,” says son Scott Attman, Acme’s vice president.
“His priority has always been to make everyone at Acme feel a part of the family, taking great pride in knowing every employee on a first-name basis.
“Because of his leadership, we’ve expanded our reach from Maryland to D.C., Virginia and now Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
“Additionally, my father guided us through one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime: the COVID-19 pandemic. He made sure he was accessible and responsive to our clients 24/7. He worked around the clock to make sure vital institutions in our region, including hospitals, retirement facilities, schools and more, had the supplies needed to not only protect staff, but also combat the spread of COVID and stop it in its tracks.
“My father is my biggest inspiration and is a resilient and visionary leader who also takes great pride in giving back, leading by example and serving his community.”
“My parents, Ed and Mildred, started Acme Paper in 1946 selling six products out of a 1,200-square-foot rented garage,” Ron Attman says. “As a second-generation leader, I’m proud to report that today we stock thousands of products, employ nearly 250 associates and occupy more than 10 million cubic feet of warehouse space throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
“My leadership philosophy is the same as my parents’ original philosophy, and that is to guide with respect, dignity and honesty. Being accessible and fostering an atmosphere of open communication and collaboration is something my father practiced that has also guided how I lead.
“At Acme Paper, we view our customers’ struggles as our own. We don’t just sell; we problem-solve. That attitude has also helped us ensure a solid supply chain and a strong reputation. I am proud to carry out my parents’ dream that has also become my own. Acme Paper is a true family business, where numerous family members play a role in its success and every employee is treated as family. I look forward to the continued growth of Acme Paper and instilling our values in new generations of family leaders.”
Energy Products Inc., Madison Heights, Mich.
Brett Smith graduated from Pace University in 2015 and worked on Wall Street as a financial consultant at Joseph Gunnar & Co. as a financial consultant. In April 2016, he joined Energy Products as an account manager. At the time, the company had locations in Detroit and Grand Rapids, Mich.
Energy Products is an industrial battery, charger and utility vehicle dealer and service provider as well as a consumer battery distributor. The company distributes all types of batteries, including automotive, deep cycle, power sports, sealed lead acid, drill packs and consumer cells, to battery specialists throughout the United States.
“The time spent working with our customers and prospects throughout North America was invaluable to my learning of our various products, services, relationships and how our company is strategically positioned to generate unique solutions,” Smith says.
“When my father passed away in October of 2018, I became the president of Energy Products, and we began a focus on long-term, sustainable growth strategies for the organization.”
During the COVID pandemic, Energy Products opened distribution facilities in Texas (2020), Mississippi (2021) and Florida (2022) to reposition and diversify the business and expanded its product lines and services. “Through these strategies, the overall enterprise has grown over 50% since 2018 and has a strong pipeline for future growth,” Smith says.
“Brett is an impressive and highly focused leader of a second-generation family business,” says Jodi Ellis, director of executive recruitment at Harvey Hohauser & Associates. “His professionalism, perseverance and positivity are infectious. He is able to lead a successful organization while maintaining an inclusive and thoughtful culture. He is driven and dedicated with deep purpose.”
“My passion for Energy Products comes from a few different experiences.,” Smith says. “First, watching my father build the business while I was growing up gives me a tremendous amount of pride to carry on his legacy and take it to the next level. The second driving force comes from the team that we have. They have been a stable support as we navigated the passing of our founder, COVID shutting the world down and affecting the supply chain, and many other adversities. We have been able to navigate each of these situations and grow through each one of them.
“The realization that our family business is no longer about my family, but about the families of everyone on our team continues to drive me. I first realized this after we had a few team members that had their family members apply and receive jobs at the company. They are putting their faith in us and turning what we do into their family business as well.”