At the Helm: Chris Thorkelson

By Patricia Olsen

A few minutes with the CEO and president of Lloyd Companies, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Generation of family ownership: Second. Pat Lloyd, my mother’s sister, started the company with her husband, Craig, in 1972.

Company revenues: $150 million.

Number of employees: Just over 200.

First job at this company: At 11, I swept new construction sites and picked up debris. I returned during Christmas break my last year in college and gained a better understanding of the business. After college I became a framer, and moved up to superintendent, project manager, VP of construction, VP of development and then COO.

At what age? I was a framer at 23. I took over from Craig as president and CEO in 2016, when I was 37.

Most memorable thing I learned from my aunt and uncle: To work hard, to be dedicated to communities we do business in and to relationships we have as a company, and to give back.

Best thing about this job: Helping others fulfill visions and dreams — family, employees and the community.

Our greatest success: Our people and our culture, which are one and the same. It’s the makeup of who you are and how you’re perceived to have the ability to build the right team and attract good talent so people consistently have good experiences with your business.

Best advice I ever got: A board member once said that the key ingredient to life’s successes is the lifelong relationships you build. I had just traveled to meet with him, so that resonated with me.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: Vision and mission, improving quality of life.

On my wall: Pictures of my family. As a family business we want to encourage that look and feel.

One of my greatest accomplishments: The work we do with non-profit organizations.

Best thing about working in a family business: The control around giving back and helping others. It’s not always about the bottom line. It’s also about our family values, high ethical standards, profitability and giving back.

Advice for other family business leaders: Be invested in and intentional about succession planning and the transition of the family business. Also, always remain open to your family members’ thoughts, opinions and ideas.

On a day off I like to … spend time with my family and friends. We love to go to our cabin in Minnesota and welcome friends and relatives all over the Midwest to join us. In winter we like to get out to the Black Hills and ski and snowmobile.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: As many as we can. Some of our larger contributions go to the YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, Children’s Home Society, United Way, Make-A-Wish, Call to Freedom, Hope Coalition, Great Plains Zoo, Glory House, Avera Health, Sanford Health, St. Francis House, Levitt Shell, Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership, Southeastern Behavioral Health, Dakotabilities, Volunteers of America, Catholic Church/schools, Bishop Dudley House, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Center for Active Generations and EmBe (a Sioux Falls organization that offers programs and services for women and their families).

Book(s) I think every family business leader should read: Books by Michael Porter, such as Competitive Strategy. I also like Understanding Michael Porter, by Joan Megretta.

I realized I had emerged from my uncle’s shadow when … we expanded into multiple states and markets in 2019. We also grew substantially locally. People are seeing our leadership team taking things to the next level. We like to say that Craig didn’t retire, he rewired. We have 130 or 140 different real estate entities, and he still likes to handle the assets, as opposed to operations.

Future succession plans: Before I took over, we had an advisory board, and when I moved up we established a board of directors. They’re keeping our leadership team focused. Everyone on the team has a plan, including me, although my children are both under 10, so it doesn’t include them.

Words I live by: Give and you shall receive.       

Copyright 2020 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     

Article categories: 
May-June 2020

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