May/June 2013

In this issue

  • From private to public ... and back again

    The tiny stickers on each apple in the supermarket bin are an advertising opportunity. So are the giant graphics that cover the side of semi trucks. For companies to advertise in these places, someone must create the promotional products. One of the leaders in this business is The Vernon Co., a 111-year-old family-owned enterprise based in Newton, Iowa.

    “We’re in the business of helping other companies market themselves and build brand awareness,” says Chris Vernon, the fourth-generation president and chief operating officer. “It’s a fun place to work.”

    Guidelines for an effective family council

    Many families have experienced family councils as a form of governing the family. Almost always, the formation of the family council comes with very high expectations for a vibrant and productive governing entity. Some launch with great success; others struggle to gain enough momentum to get off the ground. Whether you are just starting a family council or have had one for years, much can be gained by considering the lessons others have learned in making their family councils work.

    Recipe for a new generation

    Frank Fat’s restaurant is a Sacramento institution. Located a few blocks from California’s State Capitol building, it was for decades the gathering place for California legislators. The restaurant was as famous for its good food and service as it was for the political maneuverings that took place there. The corner booth was reserved for the most influential politicians, and many bills that later became law were first sketched out on napkins in Frank Fat’s restaurant.

    A scientific field offers insights for family businesses

    Family business struggles are well known to anyone working in the field, whether as a proverb (“shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”), as a statistic (only 12% of family businesses make it to the third generation), through regularly published accounts of prominent families caught up in litigation or through personal experience. Despite having access to professional advisers working to promote intergenerational success, many family businesses continue to struggle. This suggests the need for family business leaders to adopt a new planning paradigm.

  • May/June 2013 Openers

    Study of European listed companies finds family firms stand out


    By Cristina Cruz



    Imagine that you had invested €1,000 in family businesses listed on European stock exchanges in 2001. What do you think your investment would have been worth by 2010?


    When I challenge people with this question, they routinely cast doubt on the performance of family firms. Words like “complacent” and “slow-moving” are often used. The stereotype of the sleepy family firm doing little to create new value is incredibly strong.


  • What keeps you up?

    Family Business Magazine and Stetson University recently held our sixth Transitions conference. While all of these events have been enormously successful, this one in Tampa hit it out of the ballpark with 240 attendees. More than 70% of the attendees were new to the Transitions conference, and most ran businesses that were in the third generation or older. Revenues ranged from $1 million to more than $1.5 billion. However, the pertinent issues were the same for everyone regardless of size!

  • Life cycle management

    In the business world, it’s common knowledge that a company must make adjustments as its products move through their life cycles. When a product has reached maturity—i.e., when sales are stabilizing—the marketing plan must be revamped (or the brand itself must be changed) to win customers’ continued loyalty. If these changes don’t occur, the next life-cycle stage—decline—will follow, and the product will ultimately lose ground to competitors’ newer, more innovative offerings.

  • Flush with history

    Every business family should have a relative like Ellen Golibart, whose late husband helped run Thomas E. Clark Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Silver Spring, Md.

    “Aunt Ellen” may be 94, but her memory and wit are intact, and she is the repository of the family lore.

    Aunt Ellen says her grandfather, company founder Thomas C. Clark, reportedly traveled to work by horse and buggy back in 1891.

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