In this issue
Some iconic names in family business are providing us with valuable lessons. As the adage goes, "There's a time to hold 'em and a time to fold 'em." The recent decisions by the Washington Post Company to sell its namesake newspaper and by the Forbes family to explore a sale of Forbes Media LLC show an appropriate concern for the long-term interests of their shareholders. Their decisions also show foresight and courage.
These are clearly large companies and household names, but the lessons they can teach us apply to family businesses of all sizes, in every industry.
Paul Sr., a true entrepreneur, spotted a need in the marketplace for a well-made widget. Little did he envision the wild success of his enterprise. With this success, Paul Sr. realized he could provide employment for his offspring and that one day the business might be theirs. The eldest second-generation sibling became a physician; the other three joined the business and over the years became successful managers in their respective departments. All of the four siblings married and had their own offspring.
Family businesses have become increasingly sophisticated over the last few years and are embracing best practices of other companies, both private and public. One way for family companies to add value is by incorporating best practices of public company boards. Public companies have improved many of their processes and procedures, partially in response to new regulations. Many of these practices can benefit privately held family businesses.
Normandy Farms in Foxborough, Mass., dates all the way back to 1759. Founder Francis Daniels, a French army officer (born François Guideau) who had been taken prisoner by a colonial privateer and brought to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, purchased the farmland. In 1971, in response to declining profitability of the family farm, Daniels' descendants established a campground on the site. Today Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort operates 400 campsites and generates $2.5 million in annual revenues.
For as long as anyone could remember, philanthropy was a way of life for the Jackson family (a pseudonym; the family's case is a composite based on several client families). Through their family foundation, three generations of Jacksons had found meaningful roles shaping and overseeing the family's philanthropy; the fourth generation was just getting involved.
The TV commercial begins with a family at the beach. A wife asks her husband a question about their investment portfolio. "Let me ask him," he says, and turns to the man on the beach next to them. The ad emphasizes the benefits of access to a financial adviser.
The Sanmartí family has been producing artisanal pasta since 1700, when Isidre Sanmartí founded Pasta Sanmartí in the village of Caldes de Montbui in the Catalonia region of Spain. Eighth-generation member Carles Sanmartí, 58, heads the company today. His daughter Berta Sanmartí, 32, joined the company four years ago and works in finance and administration.
Before the sun has come up, the crew of the trap net boat Linda Lee is on deck preparing for an early launch from the lower harbor of Marquette, Mich., in search of Lake Superior whitefish. If it's a long run, 30 miles up the lake, the crew might not return to dock until late afternoon. Their workday won't be over until the catch has been filleted.
Size of company: We sell about 7 million or 8 million K'NEX sets a year.
Number of employees: About 200.
Years with the company: Eight.
First job at this company: General counsel. In 2009 I was promoted to president and CEO.