In this issue
In 1922 Emily Post wrote a bestselling book that defined propriety for the masses and spawned an enterprise that’s now in its fifth generation, putting the lie to historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s maxim that well-behaved women seldom make history. “I think you can change things and still maintain your own ‘civil integrity,’ for lack of a better term,” says Emily’s great-great-granddaughter Anna Post, 33.
During their 30-year partnership, Bill Ramsey and Don Nucci were the public faces of Mann Packing Co. Inc., a grower and shipper of fresh-cut vegetable products headquartered in Salinas, Calif. Bill, in charge of growing and harvesting, was known as “the outside guy” and Don, in sales and marketing, as “the inside guy.’” Over the years their official titles changed, but when it came to running the company they were always equal partners. Their identification as co-leaders was so strong that even their children referred to them collectively as “the Dads” when talking about the business.Closing his fifth-generation family construction business was perhaps the hardest decision Thomas H. Bentley III ever made. He also says it may have been the smartest thing he ever did. “For my son, I was much more likely to create an opportunity for him by looking forward than if I just kept looking back to history,” says Tom, 66. Just a few years after making that tough decision, the Bentleys are preparing for transition to the sixth generation with the same clear-headed, no-nonsense attitude.
Building a family enterprise that enriches the lives of each member while growing the core capital assets can be an incredibly rewarding journey, despite the challenges. While there are many factors at play in determining how a family enterprise continues to thrive (or not) from generation to generation, we believe that one of the most fundamental is the quality of the family relationships.
There’s a good chance that your most unwanted mail arrives in an envelope manufactured by the Tension Corporation of Kansas City, Mo. The fourth-generation business, owned and operated by the Berkley family, makes envelopes for insurance, mortgage, telephone, utility and auto financing statements, plus direct-mail solicitations and advertising. If you’ve received an envelope with a peel-off sticker that resembles a yellow stick-on note (Hot Note) or a bill from Sprint in a two-way reusable envelope, you’ve seen an example of Tension’s handiwork.
Three years ago, Malcolm Cooper Jr., second-generation owner of J.K. Adams Company, made a serious assessment of future leadership prospects at his Vermont-based company. Since 1944, the company, which designs and manufactures high-end wooden kitchenware, has been a valued employer and a significant contributor to the vitality of the southern Vermont region.
In a 1988 article in Family Business Review, W. Gibb Dyer Jr. wrote: “The culture of the family firm plays an important role in determining the success of the business beyond the first generation.” Dyer stated that culture is a bundle of interconnected traits that begin with basic assumptions, usually instilled in the company by its founder. These assumptions establish a foundation for the company’s values, which are defined as the guiding rules for all situations employees face.
One Monday afternoon, Henry Pullman found himself embroiled in a heated argument with his brother George, co-chair of the board of their family business, about compensation for their non-family CEO. George wanted to reverse a decision they had affirmed the week before. He said it went against the family’s values. Henry was mystified. They had worked through a transparent and rigorous process to come to the decision, and he and his brother had been in agreement every step of the way. Where was this coming from?