In this issue
When you’re the ninth generation leading a family business that served George Washington, you don’t want to be the one who screws it up, says Lisa Laird Dunn, executive vice president and global ambassador at Laird & Co. The Scobeyville, N.J., company is America’s oldest distiller and leading producer of applejack and apple brandy, an American-original drink enjoyed since before the colonies became the United States.
Eric Allyn knows his way around an operating company.
Born into the family that owned the Welch Allyn Inc. medical device company in Skaneateles Falls, N.Y. for 100 years, Allyn could tell you all about ophthalmoscope design when he was in elementary school. In adulthood, Allyn ran company business units, headed specialty markets in Japan and served on the board of directors for seven years. “I was raised to be a good steward of the family business,” Allyn says.
If you don’t think onboarding new family members is important, you may want to ask Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for a second opinion. In January 2020, a year and a half after their wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced they were stepping back from their roles as senior members of the British royal family. The move was unprecedented, put a controversial spotlight on the expenses and income of royal family members, and shook the foundations of the 1,500-year-old monarchy.
Few people could have anticipated the year we’re having. We’ve experienced substantial oil price cuts, liquidity issues in the bond market, a dramatic stock market correction and ongoing economic concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thirty years ago, I was faced with a typical family business crisis. My father, the founder of our family-owned industrial fabrics company, Seaman Corporation, had passed away prematurely at the age of 55. The management team and I ran the company out of our headquarters in Ohio, while my mother and siblings worked in one of the company’s divisions in Florida. For several years following my father’s death, I had the support of my family. But then differences started to arise, and it was not long before my family actively disagreed about how to manage the company.
Advisers offer these suggestions for families considering a single-family office (SFO):
• Solicit feedback from the family about potential benefits. Is the primary purpose to bring the family assets under one umbrella, or are you mainly interested in personalized and confidential services? Do you want your family office to promote the well-being and unity of the family over generations?
The move to working from home revealed vulnerability to phishing among family offices that had not set up proper controls for remote access.
As family offices scrambled to respond quickly to the health and safety issues and the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they also had to contend with another threat to their organizations.
Since late January, cybercriminals have been disguising themselves as trusted banks, merchants, co-workers, IT administrators and the like to trick people into divulging sensitive data, according to PwC US.
The changes in the world today are multi-dimensional and complex. Many factors were already in play at the beginning of 2020, but the COVID-19 global pandemic this spring was a black swan event that turbo-charged their impact.
When our MLR Media team — including Family Business and my colleagues at Directors & Boards and Private Company Director — began working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I started wearing hats to our videoconferences to amuse team members, who these days see me only from the neck up. I select the headgear from my collection of chapeaux and ballcaps as well as silly Halloween costumes. I like to keep everyone guessing what look I’ll be sporting when I log on.