In this issue
Even successful, affluent, healthy CEOs can lead (in Henry David Thoreau's words) “lives of quiet desperation.” They're fresh out of challenges. They hate the business. They don't like the community. The family ownership situation is intolerable. They don't want to spend the rest of their lives doing what they're doing. They feel trapped.
The Lowrey family owns an elite private school on 150 acres of land in California's Orange County. Along with the parents, Bill and Mary, the school's founders, three of the Lowreys' married children are members of the administrative staff; the fourth, the only daughter, owns a business with her husband. They all have houses on the property, and the families eat together almost every night—except for the oldest son, Randy, 35, and his wife, Mara.
Royce, 72, was the sole owner of a successful 250-room hotel. He was proud that he and his son, George, 43, had built the company's value to $7.5 million without incurring a cent of debt. George had worked his way into the general manager's job. The father, nearing retirement, wanted to transfer ownership to George but had gotten a late start on his estate planning. He was recently widowed when he came to me for help.
The smell of leather is so alluring that when visitors arrive at Berman Leather Co. they close their eyes and breathe in deeply, before even saying hello. That is the only similarity, however, between my company today and the Berman company that was founded in 1905. Each generation that has taken over has dealt in quantities of leather but has significantly altered the product line, in part due to economic necessity but primarily due to a new entrepreneurial spirit. And during each transition the outgoing generation has had enough sense, and humility, to encourage change.