In this issue
By Margaret Steen
When Dave and Julie Power's four children were growing up, the family bonded around the kitchen table while folding J.D. Power and Associates' automobile quality questionnaires.
"You would try to pick the job you liked best: stuffing envelopes, putting on stamps or address labels," recalls Susan Curtin, 43, the youngest of the children. A common job for younger kids was taping quarters (an incentive for people to complete the surveys) to the questionnaires, making sure the "heads" side was facing up.
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
Most family businesses of any meaningful size already have a board of directors. If the company is organized as a corporation, a board is required. Yet most of these boards are made up exclusively of family members. If the CEO is non-family, he or she may also serve as a director. Is this the best we can do?
Global companies—public, private and family-owned—compete with everyone everywhere for everything. Good directors can help companies acquire a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. If a company does only what worked in the past, its directors will wake up one day and find that they have been left behind.
Browne's Irish Marketplace, founded in 1887 by immigrants Ed and Mary Flavin, is Kansas City's oldest retail business.
Kansas City has a thriving Irish community. Its St. Patrick's Day parade is the fifth largest in the country. Fourth-generation owner Kerry Browne, 54, describes St. Patrick's as a season, lasting from February 1 through St. Patrick's Day.
Effective communication is one of the keys to happy, healthy and thriving families, so it behooves family members to try to become better communicators. This is especially important for families who work together around shared ownership of family assets. That said, communicating effectively can be challenging even when the message appears simple. Add the unique dynamics of family members running a family business, and communication becomes exponentially more difficult. Yet communication is the key to the success of every interaction, whether personal or professional.
Laura Fluhr, president of Michael's, The Consignment Shop for Women, never planned to join the family business, located on New York City's Upper East Side. The same goes for her co-owner and daughter, Tammy Fluhr-Gates, the store's director of business development and marketing. Mother and daughter have, respectively, master's degrees in education and social work, and each followed different paths after school. But with a family history as notable as theirs, it makes perfect sense that they're carrying on the family business.
Family Business and Positive Psychology, by Scott E. Friedman • American Bar Association, 2013 • 197 pp., $119.95
Author Scott Friedman is the managing partner at the Buffalo, N.Y., law firm of Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP, and his new book is published by the American Bar Association. Despite these legal connections, Friedman devotes a lot of space in Family Business and Positive Psychology to pointing out deficiencies in traditional family business planning, which often emphasizes the creation of legal documents.
Generation of family ownership: Fourth. My brother John is VP of global operations and CTO [Chief Technology Officer], and my brother C.K. is president of Siemon Global Project Services Division. The fifth generation is working here, too.
Key stat: We have customers and sales channels in over 100 countries and employees in about 38.
Years with the company: Thirty-nine. I've held the top position for 31 years.