Highlights from Transitions East 2014

By FB Staff

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Transitions East 2014, which took place March 26-28 at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay in Tampa, Fla., drew a record 281 attendees. Eighty-eight families were represented at the conference, which was presented by Family Business Magazine and Stetson University's Family Enterprise Center. The conference theme was "Leading the Business and the Family: Succession, Governance and Legacy."

Family business basics and recent trends
Transitions East 20104 officially opened with a brief discussion by Family Business editor Barbara Spector and Stetson University Professor Greg McCann on recent developments in the fields of family business research and consulting.

The first panel discussion of the conference focused on family enterprise succession. Stan Sheetz, chairman of Sheetz Inc.; John Kittle, vice chairman of Kittle's Home Furnishings; and Steven W. and Robert J. High, respectively chairman and president of H.J. High Construction, spoke about their family companies' challenges and successes in transitioning to the next generation.

Non-family leadership
Keynote speaker Chris Herschend, vice chairman of Herschend Family Entertainment, kicked off a full day of conference sessions on Thursday, March 27 with an address entitled "Beyond ‘Agent' of the Family: How Non-Family Leadership Helps Your Family Thrive." Herschend's remarks were followed by a panel conversation focusing on non-family executives and board members in the family business. Two pairs of family and non-family executives, both from Grand Rapids, Mich., served as panelists: Hank Meijer, and Mark Murray, co-CEOs of Meijer Inc.; Tim Schad and Robert Bockheim, respectively the family chairman and CEO and the non-family president of NuCraft.

Leading the family
Family councils, family foundations and family meetings were the subject of the next panel conversation. Panelists were Mary Schmid Daugherty, a board member of Crescent Electric Supply Co. and an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas; John Neretlis, property manager of Rowntree Enterprises; and Andrew D. Pitcairn, chair of the Pitcairn Family Council.

Later in the afternoon, the audience gathered in the Audubon Ballroom for a conversation about key family documents, such as family constitutions, mission and values statements, shareholder agreements and family policies. Serving on the panel were Bruce Lemire-Elmore, a director of Port Blakely Companies; Alicia Clemens, a member of the Owners' Advisory Council of the Clemens Family Corporation; and Marc Wittwer, COO of Boulevard Home Furnishings. Sample family documents were shared and discussed with attendees.

Legacy and human capital
Friday, March 28 opened with a panel discussion on "Leveraging the Family Business Brand, Legacy and Human Capital." Panelists Kyle York, chief revenue officer of Dyn and a member of the Indian Head family; Wendy Yuengling Baker, chief administrative officer of D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc.; and Wanda S. Ortwine, chief family officer of Luck Companies, discussed how family firms can leverage their brands and human capital to grow the current business, and leverage capital and legacy to create new businesses.

A subsequent panel, consisting of next-generation members, discussed what young people want and need from the family business in order to become major contributors. Speakers were Alex Schwan of the Schwan Companies; Erica Boyle, vice president, administration, at the Complete Logistics Company; William J. Barrett of Menasha Corporation; and Will Hollis, a Stetson student.

The three-day even closed with a keynote presentation by Campbell Brown, vice president and director, Midwest Division, at Brown-Forman. Brown's talk was entitled "Building Family Engagement Through Strong Governance."

Transitions West 2014 will take place November 12-14 at the Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey. For information, see www.familybusinessmagazine.com/transitions.

 Photo credit: Celia Jeffery

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