At the Helm: Stan Chen

By Patricia Olsen

A few minutes with the CEO of Telamon Corporation, Carmel, Ind.

Generation of family ownership: Second.

2015 revenue: Approximately $800 million.

Number of employees: 1,400 globally, including contractors.

Years with the company: Twelve. I started here after college but left for business school at Stanford for two years and then returned.

First job at this company: Packing boxes in the warehouse.

At what age? Twelve. At 22 I was an account manager. I was growing one of our small businesses, so I had a handful of accounts.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: Negotiation. I learned that it's not all about trying to drive down the price. It's trying to find an optimal conclusion for all parties.

Most memorable thing I learned from my mother: Generosity. It's about what someone needs, not what they deserve. Growing up, you learn about meritocracy. You might say you're willing to help someone out if they meet a certain standard in your mind, but my mother didn't worry much about those things. If a person needed something, she was willing to help.

Best thing about this job: The privilege of being able to lead people.

Worst thing about this job: Trying to manage personal relationships in the midst of professional disagreements.

One of our greatest successes: Shifting from telecommunications, where we got our start, to industrial manufacturing, a very different sector.

Best advice I ever got: Risk and reward are always correlated. If you want to achieve meaningful reward, you have to risk meaningful failure.

Quote from our company's mission statement: Simplify business.

On my wall: I have several pieces of artwork from my children, ages 6 and 5. I cherish the fact that they spell things phonetically and generally incorrectly. Even though I want them to learn to spell, I'll miss this phase.

One of my greatest accomplishments: I don't have any yet. I've been given a tremendous opportunity since my father retired last fall, and hopefully I'll be a good steward, but I'm a young guy.

Best thing about working in a family business: Being able to wear a lot of different hats and being exposed to roles I was in no way qualified to do. But I could learn on the job, and I'm a better professional as a result.

Worst thing about working in a family business: Managing personal relationships and trying to maintain some level of family harmony even though there's professional conflict from time to time.

Advice for other family business leaders: Try to make sure the shareholders and the board members understand each other, and particularly that the board understands the shareholders' interests. Ironically, that can be challenging in a family business when those two groups are the same people.

On a day off I like to. . . play video games with my children and try to plan an aspirational vacation with my wife. If I have time left, I'd try and engineer a trade for one of my fantasy sports teams.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: We're very involved in supporting our local church and some other Christian causes. We also have a company foundation focused on education and the arts, two areas that are an integral part of Chinese culture.

Books I think every family business leader should read: Family Business as Paradox, by Amy Schuman, Stacy Stutz and John Ward.

I realized I had emerged from the previous generation's shadow. . . once it was formally announced that I was stepping into the CEO role. People within the company looked at me a little differently and started treating me a little differently.

Future succession plans: Our third generation, my sister's children and mine, are quite young. We're busy teaching them to be respectful and humble, and we'll let the rest work itself out.

Words I live by: Romans 11:36: From him, through him, and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen..

Copyright 2016 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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May/June 2016

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