Family Leaders to Watch

We recognize the work of those who strive to unite family members in support of the family enterprise.

In order for a family business to survive past the third generation, the extended family must resolve to put their personal interests aside and make decisions that are best for the business. The larger and more diverse the family grows, the more challenging it is to achieve that goal.

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Haws Corporation family governance builders

Keeping family members united as business partners involves a range of duties, even in harmonious clans. Important efforts include managing the logistics of family meetings, raising sensitive issues diplomatically, educating young family members and married-ins about the family’s history and legacy, spearheading the family’s philanthropic activities and developing systems for efficient family communication.

When a family business enjoys success, the work of the CEO and the board is often publicly acknowledged, but the family champions who serve in less formal roles are just as essential. In this special section, we celebrate those who work to bring their families together.

 

Bill Yoh
Day & Zimmermann, Philadelphia, Pa.

Over a 25-year career at his family’s century-old business, Bill has held a number of leadership roles, including managing a $350 million P&L, launching multiple enterprise-wide transformation initiatives, and representing the company locally, nationally and internationally. As a third-generation owner and leader of the family’s governance and succession efforts, he has a personal view of the complex dynamics behind large, multigenerational family businesses.

Day & Zimmermann (D&Z) offers services to the engineering, construction and maintenance, staffing and defense industries and is ranked by Forbes as the 181st largest private U.S. business.

“Bill has always had a passion for our business and how the family and the business support each other,” says Hal Yoh, D&Z’s chairman and CEO and a fellow G3 owner. “He networks with other business families and is good at applying their lessons to our situation.”

“Bill is great to work with on succession and governance,” says Mike Yoh, president of D&Z’s munitions business and a fellow G3 owner. “He understands the importance of developing strong relationships within and across generations. My kids value their time with Uncle Bill, or 'UB,' as they call him.”

Bill has written and published Our Way, an award-winning biography of his father, Spike Yoh, D&Z’s retired G2 chairman and CEO. The book chronicles the history and evolution of the Yoh family and the company.

“Working with Bill on the book showed me how committed he is to the longevity and continued success of Day & Zimmermann as a family business,” Spike says. “He understands the best ways to instill family values and the importance of family harmony to business success.”

Bill also serves as a keynote speaker and facilitator on topics including governance, family dynamics, giving back and the faith journey.

“D&Z has a great responsibility and opportunity supporting the livelihoods of 43,000 employees and their loved ones, as well as serving customers and communities all over,” Bill says. “In the more than two decades since we succeeded our father, I have been blessed to work with my brothers (and, more recently, with my nieces and nephews as well) to accelerate our success as a family business.

“We look for ways to make D&Z sticky to the family and the family sticky to D&Z, because what worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow.

“I am excited about our ongoing journey of difference-making and impact.”

Meghann Harker
Cargill, Wayzata, Minn.

Meghann is a fifth-generation married-in family member and mother of four. She manages the family governance for her generation of shareholders and began an educational program for the next generation of family members both for her branch and for the entire family. She continually seeks to expand her knowledge of family governance and life balance.

Cargill, a provider of food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services, is one of the top 10 largest global family companies.

“I married into the Cargill family about 10 years ago. To say that was intimidating was an understatement,” Meghann says. “Over that time I have taken every opportunity offered by the company to learn about it. This has included trips to facilities, personal development courses and director training. On this journey I came to see a need for more space for conversations to be had. We are going through a generational transition and, needless to say, there is much to discuss.”

Meghann has focused her energies in two areas: “One, to create space and bring people together to have conversations and forge relationships; and two, a program bringing all the children of the family together to learn about the company, create shared experiences and build relationships.

“As nothing is ever truly finished in the family enterprise arena, I would say that all of my work is still very much in process, stumbling and faltering, yet persistently moving forward. My goal of perpetuating our family legacy for generations to come is a labor of love.

“The privilege to be a part of a company that has the power to do so much good in the world is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. To be good owners, we must have a clear vision and solid relationships, and be firmly rooted in our values.

“Creating the space for these topics to be discussed by the family is where I can make a lasting contribution, allowing the company to continue making a positive impact around the globe.”
 

Dayna Manning
Mary Kay Cosmetics, Addison, Texas

Dayna is a third-generation shareholder in Mary Kay Cosmetics, a company started by her grandmother, Mary Kay Ash, more than 50 years ago. Today, Mary Kay is known as a world leader in direct sales.

Although Dayna does not work at the corporate office of Mary Kay, she has always been passionate about the legacy her grandmother created. Mary Kay wanted to create opportunities for women to thrive, and that belief in the potential of all women has impacted hundreds of thousands of women worldwide.

Fifteen years ago, the descendants of Mary Kay began attending a one-day yearly business meeting. Although the meetings brought everyone together, they didn’t speak to the family bond and the legacy left by Mary Kay.

After attending a Family Business Transitions conference six years ago, Dayna realized that the family had an opportunity to expand the business meeting into a family bonding weekend that would also serve to teach the NextGens about the traditions and legacy of the company. Also at that time, Dayna and her sister Gena formed the Golden Rule Family Foundation, creating a vehicle for family members to mentor the younger generation on philanthropic giving.

Shortly after, with the help of a family business consultant and the family’s financial advisers, the Golden Rule Family Governance Council was born. Dayna volunteered to chair the council. She worked with the other council members to create documents and guidelines for the family as well as plan the annual Family Seminar, named in honor of the annual Mary Kay Seminar, which brings Mary Kay beauty consultants together for fun, fellowship, education and recognition.

Dayna’s experience as an event planner was especially helpful in turning a one-day meeting into a three-day family reunion complete with meetings and a service project as well as time for family bonding and fun.

“Over the last six years, I have seen the family come together to a point I would not have thought possible,” Dayna says. “Each year, we are having more family members attend and are seeing the younger generations step into leadership roles, which emphasized the importance of the work the council is doing.”

Steve Lytle
The Agnew Family Enterprise, Vancouver, Wash.

Steve is a fourth-generation investor in The Agnew Family Enterprise. He’s been an actively engaged participant for over 25 years in both informal and formal roles, including beneficiary, trustee, employee, CEO, member of the board of directors and chair of the family ownership council.

The Agnew Family Enterprise was founded when Samuel A. Agnew, Steve’s great-grandfather, acquired control of the Eastern Railway & Lumber Company in March 1920.

After Sam’s death in 1965, the next two generations began diversifying the family’s holdings into commercial real estate and beverage distribution. They eventually formed Columbia Distributing, which would become one of the largest licensed beverage wholesalers in the United States.

In 2012, the family owners sold the distribution business and formed today’s Agnew Family Enterprise. The enterprise today is made up of a single-family office with investments in natural resources (including Sam’s legacy timberlands), commercial real estate, private equity and marketable securities, and a family foundation that makes grants to non-profit organizations in communities in which family owners live and work.

Since 2004, Steve and his family have intentionally sought to create and renew their “100 Year Family Enterprise” by holding regularly scheduled meetings with an agenda focused on ownership communication, cohesion, clarity and competency. They ultimately produced a governance and decision-making system that features documented family and investor agreements, a family ownership council, a foundation board of directors and a family office board of directors that includes independent directors.

“Whether it’s been washing beer trucks, serving informally as a scribe as we created our family constitution, leading our operating company or working alongside passionate and competent family members and independent directors on our board of directors, serving our family enterprise has been among the greatest challenges and joys of my life,” Steve says.

“We’ve been blessed with amazing human and financial assets, and I’m fired up to see how our 17 (and counting?) ‘adulting’ G5 family members choose to use these assets to pursue our mission of multigenerational family member wellbeing.”

Carolyn Brown
Mannington Mills Inc., Salem, N.J.

Carolyn was appointed chairperson of the Campbell Family Council in 2013. Along with that position, she serves on the board of directors of Mannington Mills Inc. and is appointed to its audit committee and strategic planning committee.

Mannington Mills, founded in 1915, manufactures a diverse line of commercial and traditional flooring.

In her role as chair of the family council, Carolyn leads a small, elected team of family members who head up the council’s committees: governance, social activities, education, communication and philanthropy. The council, which meets quarterly, sets family policies (such as the family employment policy) and governance structures (such as the shareholder agreement), in addition to planning family meetings and educational programs.

The family council’s overarching goals are to educate future generations to be good business owners and stewards and to promote family business ownership for the future success of the company.

The council believes that it is critical to keep the wider family, beyond just the current shareholders, aware of and engaged in the business. Long-term, this is achieved through good communication vehicles and by providing inclusive family activities and programs.

“I’ve always been very interested in, and proud of, our family business,” Carolyn says. “As a child, my siblings and I would regularly visit our local plant, which was literally in our backyard. Now, at the board and council level, I can personally make an impact on its future as a family business.

“Remaining a family business for over 100 years is not automatic. It takes dedication on all fronts. I want to make sure that our fifth and sixth generations, as rising leaders, are prepared for business ownership and leadership.

“I’m proud that our family council efforts over these last six years of setting governance structure, communication and family cohesiveness have helped to impact that goal.”
 

Gary Ackerman
Gaudin Motor Company, Las Vegas, Nev.

Gary’s family business, founded by his grandfather George Gaudin, began on a lettuce farm in rural central California in 1922. Today it is a modern automotive retail business with several locations.

“Every single day I work at Gaudin Motor Company, I draw on the history and values of my ancestors,” Gary says. “I am fiercely proud that I am in our founder’s direct line, having spent almost my life at my father’s side, including as his successor at Gaudin.

“Even before leading Gaudin Motor Company, I thought it was crucial to communicate our family history. Our showroom walls are lined with the Gaudin family story, plus parallels with the Ford and Porsche stories. I felt it was my responsibility to preserve our story and the values it represents so these can be passed on to subsequent generations. The same values that made us successful in the past will do so in the future.”

Gary originally looked into working with a ghostwriter to produce a family history book. He ultimately decided to create a video history and hired Julie Miller of Life Story Media. “I wanted the Gaudin story told in our family’s own words, voices and images,” he says.

Gary compiled a list of family and team members to be interviewed on camera and reached out to family members who kept photos, articles and documents. Miller and her team made several trips to Las Vegas and Southern California to conduct the interviews and sift through the photos and archival material. Gary was interviewed three times. He sent the rough cut to his family for comment and worked with Life Story Media to make revisions.

“The response has been great,” Gary says. “I believe it has strengthened relationships among family and all who work at Gaudin.”

The video, “Driven by Integrity: The Gaudin Family Story,” emphasizes family traditions in and around the business and shows how the business, and the family’s approach to running it, has kept the family bound together for four generations. The video received a 2018 Telly Award in the categories of Branding and Biography.

The company uses different versions of the video in marketing as well as new member orientation and ongoing cultural training in its stores.

Miller says Gary “is not only a highly respected leader of this iconic company, he is also keenly aware of what his family taught him.”


Harriet ("Heidi") Girardoni
Cowles Company, Spokane, Wash.

Cowles (pronounced “coles”) is a family-owned holding company that operates a portfolio of legacy companies and invests in disruptive technology through its own venture capital fund. The operating companies are engaged in media, forestry, newsprint manufacturing, real estate and insurance sales.

Harriet, known to her family as Heidi, became involved in the family council about eight years ago. She started as the education committee co-chair and then became the chair.

“My roles and responsibilities include collaborating with the committee members and outside facilitators to create annual educational workshops with the overall goal of deepening the collective wisdom about our human capital,” Heidi says. Workshop topics have included emotional intelligence, entrepreneurship/resilience, fiscal diversity and philanthropy.

“I recognized that there would soon be an opportunity to engage the rising fifth generation with meaningful topics, and in cooperation with each other, and that our family reunions could soon take on a more important role in their personal development.”

“When our family adviser retired in 2017, she left us with an important task: to create a family constitution that would be our guide towards the future of our family enterprise and family governance. I am now a member of the newly formed constitution committee as well as the executive committee to the family council. We have been engaging the entire family assembly in a process of distilling our family and business values and creating a family mission and vision that recognizes the visions of our forebears, while actively charting a path forward.”

Anne Cowles, Heidi’s second cousin by marriage, says, “What makes her special is her calm, caring thoughtfulness in how she communicates, which our large group of G5 has embraced and look to her for advice and counsel.”

“Although I am not engaged with the family business, I see myself as a cultivator of our relational estate,” Heidi says. “We have both an opportunity and a responsibility to nurture our relationships as a broad family group within a fifth-generational family enterprise.

“We are diverse — geographically, financially, vocationally, politically — and I see that as a strength for the future. My personal vision for the family is to promote a family system that nurtures every one of us individually as well as in relationship, so that each person can fulfill their potential, contribute to the family enterprise and/or pursue their own dreams.”

Harry ("Paddy") McNeely III
The Meritex Company, St. Paul, Minn.

Paddy is the CEO and chairman of The Meritex Company, which operates a national real estate investment and management business in eight markets across the United States. The 103-year-old company largely employs non-family professionals who manage the business in concert with an independent fiduciary board.

The second, third and fourth generations of family members are active, engaged owners, working closely together as shareholders who are united around the goal of building a thriving multigenerational enterprise.

Paddy and his five siblings have developed highly structured communications tools built on the foundation of an annual governance and strategic calendar, which provides context for each quarterly board meeting. Between meetings, Paddy, as the only third-generation member employed in the company, communicates business updates to the shareholders and board.

Family shareholders hold annual meetings, which include a discussion with the independent board members and company management, led by Paddy, to inform owners how the business is performing and create unified support among these key constituencies.

In addition to these formal, longstanding practices, Paddy and his five siblings have held weekly conference calls for more than a decade. These calls are primarily devoted to common concerns, including governance and broadening participation in shareholder affairs among the fourth generation.

“Paddy has united all stakeholders in support of the business through a combination of providing timely top-notch data, promoting 100% transparency of information, and fostering open and ongoing conversations that include everyone’s voice and perspective,” says his sister Cara McNeely.

“Setting up an atmosphere in which every family member knows they have an equal voice at the table drives a collective and coherent vision that we all can then rally around as we work together to put into place the elements that are necessary to meet our next set of goals. Paddy has also pushed to educate the next generation about the business and the family values.”

“The McNeely family, with Paddy at the helm, have created a culture of inclusiveness where everyone in the family and the company is committed to working together for success, something referred to by everyone in the company as ‘The Meritex Way,’ ” says Mary Daugherty, an independent director on the Meritex board. “It permeates throughout the family and the company and is led by Paddy. Paddy is humble and attributes the culture to his family, but there is no way the culture could sustain itself without Paddy walking the walk every day.

“I am sure the family has internal disagreements, but I have never seen evidence of it,” Daugherty says. “They all understand the importance of working together with purpose and support Paddy in the business.”

“When you ask Paddy what his job is, he doesn’t say ‘CEO.’ He says, ‘I work for my siblings,’ with a smile,” says Jon Keimig, director of the University of St. Thomas Family Business Center, where Paddy serves as board chair.

“As the business leader, I am fortunate to work with very engaged and well-informed family shareholders, a deeply committed independent board and a team of exceedingly professional employees,” Paddy says. “Most importantly, all of us are dedicated to a deeply held common vision and growth strategy for the business.

“Given our outstanding foundation, I am excited about the great efforts of our family to perpetuate the business for our next generations, our employees and the customers we serve.”
 

Nancy Bruns
Dickinson Family Business Enterprise, Charleston, W.Va.

Nancy is a seventh-generation owner of the Dickinson Family Business Enterprise. She serves on the board of directors for the family’s companies, sits on the investment committee and heads the strategic planning committee. She will become board chair in June 2020. She has been actively involved in family governance as well as the businesses since 2010.

The family businesses started in 1817 in the Kanawha Valley of western Virginia (now the region around Charleston, W.Va.). William Dickinson was a salt producer. This business evolved over the decades to three companies: Southern Land Company, natural resource management; Hubbard Properties, the family’s investment holding company; and Quincy Coal Company, commercial real estate.

Recognizing that being a G7 was a rarity in family business, Nancy started discussions with the greater family to ensure that the current, active generations were good stewards for future generations.

There was also the challenge of family engagement with the businesses. Through her leadership, the investment committee was formed in 2010 and the family council was created in 2015. There is an active strategic planning committee as well as a charitable giving committee.

When Nancy started getting involved, a family board of three members made all decisions. Now there are more than 15 family members involved in different aspects of the family and business.

“Being part of G7 in a family business is a gift but comes with great responsibility,” Nancy says. “The challenges increase as the family grows exponentially.”

The goal of the board is “to plan for the businesses to be strong and well-positioned for future growth for the next 100 years,” Nancy says. “Family members need to do their part, too. Income will not keep up with the growth in family numbers, so we have to rely on our family bonds. We need to love each other enough to want to come together to manage assets together.

“It is important to do work on the business side as well as the family connection side. One cannot be successful without the other.”
 

Tura Synhorst
Coca-Cola Bottling Co. High Country, Rapid City, S.D.

Tura “works closely with her brothers to lead their company and has helped to grow it through some very difficult family health issues,” says Rebecca Zabel, business development manager of the Prairie Family Business Association. “In the past year she has coordinated an effort to memorialize their company story and created a video that tells their story, shares their values and emphasizes the hard work and dedication her family puts into the company.”

“Every family business has a story to tell,” Tura says. “However, our family had never taken the time to capture our story, either in writing or through a video until last year. In August 2018, I was honored to have the opportunity to lead a project to create a mini-documentary of our family’s story as one of 67 remaining independently owned Coca-Cola bottlers in the United States today. The project was made possible as an initiative of The Coca-Cola Company, which wanted to document various family bottlers’ legacies.

“I worked with a four-person production crew, filming from sunup to sundown over the course of five days, capturing family, employee and local community partner interviews along with footage of our gorgeous Black Hills market and sales center.

“This work created an extremely powerful tool for our business with many uses — to reinforce our company culture across existing and new territories, to onboard new employees, to engage government and other community partners and, last but certainly not least, to educate and perpetuate future generations.

“I was able to share our mini-documentary at the Prairie Family Business Association’s annual conference in Sioux Falls, S.D., in April 2019. The feedback from the families in attendance was overwhelmingly positive, and I hope that by sharing our story, it inspired other families to capture their story.

“I feel very blessed that we were able to film my father, our second generation, as part of this process. He suffered a tragic mountain bilking accident in 2014 and sustained life-threatening injuries as a result. For me, having my dad on film telling our story for all future generations to come is truly priceless.”

“Tura understands the importance of bringing family together and starting conversations early regarding transition, leadership and succession plans,” Zabel says.

“As part of the third generation, I am proud of our legacy, remain grounded in our roots and am passionate about stewarding the business into the future,” Tura says. “I believe that future generations will benefit immensely by watching our family business story come to life through our mini-documentary and that by working together, we will defy the odds and successfully transition our family business to the fourth generation and beyond.

“I believe that we can do this by instilling in future generations our faith, values, passion and commitment, along with teaching them to cherish and respect our heritage.”
 

Stacy Mello
A. Duda & Sons Inc., Oviedo, Fla.

Stacy began her career in 1996 as marketing manager in her family’s business and has risen to become senior director of ranch and resource management for DUDA, a diversified land company. Her career has included roles within business operations and corporate services. She has worked in areas of strategic planning, communication and governance; supported executive management and the chairman of the board; and managed family/shareholder relations. She currently leads two business division of the company.

As a fourth-generation family member, she is passionate about the family business and has served on the Duda Family Council since its inception in 2004. She has served as chair of the 11-member council since 2013. She fosters ways to connect members of the Duda family to one another and to the business they own together.

The council works on behalf of the 215-member Duda family (third through sixth generations) and more than 150 shareholders. Key council accomplishments in the last few years include surveying the family to identify their “collective voice” of expectations, increasing engagement at two annual meetings, hosting location tours, sponsoring small-group discussions, maintaining a common technology platform and launching “Duda University.”

“I was blessed to grow up on a DUDA location around our company’s people and products,” Stacy says. “Later, I lived with my grandparents, witnessing their devotion to God, church and others. Those foundational elements cultivated my passion for the business and the family.

“After working in the business for 23 years, I value the impact the company has on the lives of others — our employee family, communities and partners.

“With 15 years on our council, I love seeing two new generations continue our legacy and find new ways to grow together so we keep making an eternal difference (our family mission).”

Jill Jensen
Jensen Precast, Sparks, Nev.

Jill, a second-generation owner of Jensen Precast, sits on the board of directors of the company, which designs, engineers and manufactures precast concrete products. She chairs the board’s family council, oversees the company’s community engagement committee, and guides the firm’s employee communications initiatives.

“Our family is grateful for Jill’s leadership in keeping us focused and successful as a team during family council gatherings,” says her brother Eric Jensen, president of Jensen Precast. “She also drove efforts to engage our employees in supporting local community service organizations through a matching donations program. We believe in giving back to the community, and Jill has succeeded in making it a companywide effort.”

Jensen Precast celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018, and Jill organized celebrations at the company’s manufacturing facilities across Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada. The efforts gave employees a sense of pride, and the Jensen family gained a heightened sense of togetherness as they looked back on five decades of growth.

“We’ve grown so much as a family and as a company,” Jill says. “Our 50th anniversary celebrations gave us a chance to reflect on the business my dad, Donald Jensen, built from scratch, as well as how I grew up along with my sister, Megan, and my brothers, Eric and Kurt, to become part of the Jensen Precast legacy.

“I’m so grateful for my family and for having the chance to contribute to our business in a meaningful way.”

Rajesh Shah
MS International Inc., Orange, Calif.

Raj is the co-president of MS International (MSI), an importer of countertops, flooring, wall tile and landscaping products. He “has helped not only the growth of MSI, but the Shah family overall,” says his father, Manu Shah, MSI’s founder and CEO.

Raj’s parents, Manu and Rika Shah, are immigrants with nine and eight siblings, respectively. “This means the overall family is large and spans over numerous states and countries,” Manu says. Raj has more than 70 cousins.

“It has been Raj’s goal to keep the family ties very close,” Manu says. The family holds family reunions every two years. More than 60 people have attended each of the gatherings, with ages ranging from under 1 to over 80.

At the most recent family reunion, Raj coordinated an event in which 20,000 meals and 500 backpacks were packed by 100 family members for the local Orange County community. The family has also built two kitchens in India that serve 50,000 meals per day to children. A charitable matching program enables all family members to receive a match for either money or time they donate to charitable causes.

Raj created a digital family tree that goes back 13 generations and includes more than 300 people. Every two years it is updated and signed by those who are living. “He is currently working on a family newsletter that will be published quarterly,” his father says.

“Raj has worked to help family members when they are in any type of distress,” Manu says. “Our family has provided education, finances, homes, jobs and loans to those in our family who are in need.

“He spends significant time with the younger members of the family on guidance as it relates to school, relationships, jobs, etc. Many family members also have had internships at MSI.”

“It’s hard to call this ‘work,’ as coordinating and developing the ties and relationships within my family is so rewarding,” Raj says of these efforts. “Many of my favorite childhood memories were when the extended family would get together.

“Our family has many traditions that go back hundreds of years. To this day we still follow many of them, even if the kids think we are crazy.

“Today I realize that for all the young and old in the family, there is so much to gain from each other. Within my family we have teachers, doctors, business leaders, cooks, lawyers, engineers, accountants — all with numerous passions and personalities. With this diversity, it would be negligent not to enhance the relationships and networks within the family.

“A family business enables us to share like values and extend them to future generations. A business run by family gives us the ability to be a steward of the future. We get to decide the short-, medium- and long-term goals that not only benefit the company but the family and community around us.

“There are few organizations that yield this much influence on the family unit, the economy, the community, the environment, etc., as family businesses do. Successful family business growth has proven to be the most effective way to grow a family, community, economy, nation and world.”

Amy Billings
J.E. Dunn Construction Group, Kansas City, Mo.

Amy is a fourth-generation owner of J.E. Dunn Construction Group and a primary driver behind the formation and success of the Dunn Family Council.

Using her untraditional entrepreneurial background, Amy understood the challenges a startup family council would face and consequently took over the heavy lifting associated with both generating ideas and seeing those ideas through to execution. In the process, she has formed tighter bonds with extended family and gained a deeper understanding of the interpersonal dynamics that accompany a family-based venture.

A standout initiative of Amy’s is the high school internship program, a summer session spanning four weeks that offers both hands-on work and interactive meetings with employees. Through this program, younger family members gain a basic understanding of the complexity behind J.E. Dunn and learn there is far more to a construction company than what is found on a job site.

While there is no pressure for family members to join the company, Amy believes that early exposure can make the possibility of working at J.E. Dunn more tangible for younger members and provide a timely opportunity for mentorship in their area of interest.

“The success of J.E. Dunn has created ample opportunity for giving back, whether it is to our employees, our community, or by being better stewards of the environment,” Amy says. “I am proud to be part of a business and a family that promotes a sustainable and viable future for both current and future generations.”

Debbie Morrocco
Mancini Companies, West Greenwich, R.I.

Debbie, a third-generation member of the Mancini Family Companies, is one of three primary shareholders. She chairs the ownership council and sits on the operating company boards. The family business consists of four business units: flooring, beverage distribution, real estate and investments. The beverage platform serves Rhode Island and Connecticut, and the flooring platform serves the region from Maine to Florida. Debbie has worked in both flooring and beverage distribution with a focus in human resources.

“About five years ago, my youngest child of four graduated college, and I started to transition back to work in a more meaningful role,” Debbie says. “Since then I have established the Mancini Family Office, the family council and the ownership council.

“In the early stages of the development of the family office, three generations of our family worked together to define our family values. As a family, we acknowledge and champion the diversity and talent of our family members and remain united and connected as a family by nurturing and strengthening each other.

“Some of the principles we live by are to reinforce family harmony, commitment and unity; to promote family and business continuity among generations; and to facilitate clarity, communication and transparency, continually working to improve ownership literacy.

“Our family office governance structure provides a framework for shareholder decision making as we transition from three primary shareholders working in the business to 12 shareholders, including active and inactive minority partners.
“We are finishing up our fifth year of holding regular family meetings, and each year we all learn something new from one generation or another.

“I am proud of our family legacy. The generations before us have built strong family relationships and have paved the way for us and future generations to lead from a position of strength.”

Copyright 2019 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

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