In this issue
By Margaret Steen
The Duchossois Group Inc. has come a long way since its founding in 1916 by A.J. Thrall and his brother-in-law as Thrall Car Manufacturing Company, a small freight car component repair shop.
By Barbara Spector
No matter how well your relatives bond at family meetings, these gatherings have limitations. If your family is large and dispersed, it's impractical to meet more than once a year and, inevitably, some family members won't make it to the meeting.
When it comes to family businesses, evidence suggests that which does not kill them makes them stronger—stronger than other enterprises. Family businesses tend to enter challenging economic times better prepared than others, with a more conservative orientation and far less debt.
Many of my colleagues express frustration that their clients are resisting or delaying implementation of expertly (and expensively!) crafted strategies. Our best-laid plans are only as good as our clients' willingness to follow them, and when clients drag their feet in acting on good advice, they can seem downright irrational. Most of the time, when there appears to be no rational basis for a client's inaction, the client knows something the adviser doesn't, and the adviser must dig deeper to uncover the impediment.
It's a topic that tends to generate strong, often surprisingly emotional reactions: how to manage the governance concerns of a family enterprise. If nothing else, those in the room typically snap to attention and become engaged when the topic is brought up.
By Barbara Spector
Successful family council meetings are often elusive. Picture a family council meeting where the CEO and patriarch sit frustrated, waiting for several members to show. Some members are distracted. Others are having side conversations. The patriarch checks his watch. The meeting was supposed to start seven minutes ago. He rereads the agenda as stragglers trickle in slowly. The meeting finally begins once the youngest son walks in, 13 minutes late.
Corporate governance. Yawn.
The words are long and drawn out—just like board meetings. You don't have time to sit in a boardroom. You've got production and sales to worry about, and you're down two customer service people. You're running a family business, not a multinational corporation. Governance takes care of itself, right?
Kolt Kyler is a 9-year-old farm-working, grandmother-helping, pig-raising honor roll student. He's also a baseball player—and a Chicago Cubs fan. That's how he got his 15 minutes of fame.