Haws Corporation family governance builders
Haws, based in Sparks, Nev., and part of Traynor Family Enterprise, was founded in 1906 with the invention of the drinking fountain. The company today provides hydration systems as well as engineered systems for industrial accident emergency response.
In 2007, the Haws family took their initial steps toward building the family governance structure they have in place today.
Tom White, the fourth-generation president and CEO, and his sister-in-law Stephanie Kilroy, who serves on the board as director of family governance, led the effort to create guiding principles, a family mission statement and guidelines for family members in business together.
The family has four meetings a year, including a summer retreat, during which they have developed efforts to raise money for charitable causes.
Under Tom’s leadership and direction, multiple family governance systems and programs were created to support the growing needs of the family business.
“My brother-in-law and I worked closely to develop the family council idea and structure before I sought support from our broader shareholder group,” Tom says. “Once I gained buy-in from both generations of ownership, I conducted a search and hired our first facilitators, who helped up lay the groundwork for our family council.
“The success of that first family council meeting solidified the support of all family members and drove more good outcomes that we continue to build upon. After the first few years, other family members began to relieve me of some of the work, and our progress accelerated.
“Our family governance model continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of our family and our business, and this is only possible because of the ongoing efforts and engagement of our fourth- and fifth-generation members.
“Currently, we regularly hold family council meetings with all generations, with a goal to establish relationships between different branches and to foster education and support of the family business.”
Tom created a family giving committee, through which the third, fourth and fifth generations work together investing money and supporting Haws-sponsored charities. This effort has been led by the two oldest members of G5.
“From the beginning of my career, I developed strong emotional ties to our business because I witnessed its caring culture, its health and safety mission and its benevolent ownership,” Tom says. “As someone who wanted to lead and make a significant impact on an organization, I soon felt that I had found my home.
“Just as others helped me early in my own career, I now enjoy sharing my experience to help develop our rising leaders.”
In the early days of family governance, Stephanie worked to create a family values and family employment handbook, which covered expectations for family members working outside and inside the business.
Today, as director of family governance, Stephanie advocates for the family in a role as family champion within the business, representing the family interest and values within the organization.
Stephanie has worked with the fifth generation to educate them on basic business concepts. They have engaged in cross-training at Haws and have used the platform of the family council to create presentations to give to the family. This is how the value of continual education has been developed within the next generation.
“The purpose of the Haws Family Council was to create unity and cohesion amongst family members, and to instill a sense of pride in the legacy and wonderful history of entrepreneurship at Haws,” Stephanie says.
“The family cares deeply for the company, and honors efforts of family cohesion, education, entrepreneurship and giving back to the community. These efforts are alive and well within the family leadership.”