Family Business Q&A: John Reininger

A brief chat with a family business stakeholder.

John Reininger

Chief Relationship Officer, The Clemens Family Corporation


What is your company background?

JR: We were founded back in 1895 by our great-great grandfather, John C. Clemens. The business we’re involved in, I tell people we are trying to feed the world. We’re an integrated producer making virtually every product you can from a pig.

What generation of family ownership do you represent?

JR: I would be the fourth generation. As it stands today, we have the third, fourth and fifth generation in the business.

What is your specific role in the family business enterprise?

JR: I am the Chief Relationship Officer. I spent a lot of time connecting our family and our shareholders to the business. I’m kind of a liaison between the business and the family and the shareholders. I also spent a lot of time developing younger family members to get them engaged and prepared to enter the business world. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, it doesn’t matter, but just try to get them prepared to be successful in the business world.

How many shareholders does your company have?

JR: It changes almost every month. We have 284 shareholders right now. The family size is 668. There are a lot of members. The youngest family member is 32 and the oldest is 65.

What do you find the most rewarding about being involved in a family business?

JR: The most rewarding part is that I really enjoy working with the younger kids and interacting with them and getting them exciting about the business. And then hopefully getting them on the right educational path so that they can be prepared to enter this business or somebody’s else’s business. I want them to be prepared to go somewhere. If they don’t get prepared and they don’t do proper planning, then they show up here anyway as the employer of last resort.

What is the dynamic between family members and members of the business that are married in?

JR: We’ve got 24 team members that are family members that are working in the business, and probably 10 of them are in-laws. The in-laws are easier to bring in than blood relatives, to tell you the truth. This family is really unique with its size and culture and the scope of it. And if you’re born and raised in it, I don’t think you really realize the uniqueness of it. But if you come in from the outside, you could see that uniqueness. A lot of the in-laws have had to work somewhere else before coming here so they have an appreciation.

What are the biggest challenges in working with family members?

JR: The biggest challenge you have is entitlement. What’s really interesting -- and where it comes from -- is if I’m trying to engage with a younger family member, the challenge is their parents get in the way. And that’s the challenge where the parent thinks the child is the next CEO. The reality of it is they may or may not be, but at the end of the day every parent thinks their kid should be the next CEO. Sometimes it’s hard for them to understand there is only one CEO and it may or may not be their child.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about working in a family business?

JR: Work somewhere else before you come here. And I am an in-law. We call ourselves the "first-round draft picks." The best piece of advice you can get is to go somewhere else and prove yourself and gain an understanding of being successful in a business because of what you’ve done and not because of your last name.

— Rob Chakler 

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