January/February 2015 Openers
A young family member shares her viewpoint on family and business.
At age 13, Scenic Root knows her way around the Root family office. In fact, she has a desk there.
Under the tutelage of her father, Preston Root—president of the Root Family Board of Directors—and her mother, Lynn Root, Scenic has been engaged in dialogue about her family's legacy and its current business activities. She participates in family meetings and has been learning about philanthropy and financial responsibility.
Scenic is a fifth-generation descendant of C.J. Root, founder of the Root Glass Co., which designed and manufactured the original, distinctively shaped Coca-Cola bottle, patented by the company in 1916. The Root family subsequently sold the glass company but continued their association with Coca-Cola. The family, who in the 1950s moved their business from Terre Haute, Ind., to Florida, built what eventually became the U.S.'s largest independent Coca-Coca bottler.
In 1982, the Root family sold its 57.5% stake in the Associated Coca-Cola Bottling Co., where Preston's father, Chapman S. Root, had been CEO and chairman. Today the Root Company manages a real estate portfolio and other family investments from its headquarters in the Daytona area—Florida's "Space Coast." The Root Family Museum, part of the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach, Fla., features Coca-Cola memorabilia and other Americana.
Scenic participated in a panel entitled "Raising Kids Successfully in a Successful Family Business" at the Transitions West 2014 conference in November. She impressed attendees with her insights on family connections. Spending time with family members is more important than receiving gifts of material things, Scenic said at the conference. "If you have someone to actually do something with," she said, "that's so much better than just getting stuff."
In a recent interview, Scenic offered a young person's perspective on life in a historic business family. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Family Business: What makes you the most proud about your family history?
Scenic Root: Knowing how committed everyone is. My family's really big, and everyone cares about working together. So I'm really proud of that. They're always going to be there for each other.
FB: How many family members are there?
SR: About 33.
FB: How did you learn about your family history and your family office? How did you learn what a family office is?
SR: I really just started going there with my dad when I was little. I used to go with him to work when I didn't have school, and now I go there and I have an office. I sometimes go there to do my homework, and I help around. I shred papers there. I share an office with my grandma's secretary.
We have the [Root Family] museum in our neighborhood, and when I go there, I learn a lot about [the family history]. I started going there when I was three or four. And since a lot of my grandma's and grandfather's stuff is in there, it makes it easier to learn about it, like the Coke bottle. It all started to fit together when I really started to get involved in going to the museum and working at the office—not working, helping around—and being a part of the office. And that's when it really just started to come together for me.
FB: What are the best things and the worst things about being a member of a family with such a great history?
SR: The best thing is that we have so many people in our family, so if you have a question about the family business or anything, you can ask anyone in the family, and they'll be able to help you out. If anything, they'll just always be there for you.
And the worst thing is, since we have so many people in our family, it's kind of hard to get to know everyone . . . because it's not like you sit down with someone for an hour and just talk to them about what they like to do or what their favorite color is. But I wouldn't say it's a bad thing, because I do know a lot about my family. I would just say things that we would need to work [on], put more time into. . . .
Last night my cousins were here from California, and [one of the cousins] went away to boarding school when he was little, and he said that he never got to know his parents because he went to boarding school for middle school and high school and [also went away to] college. So now he's trying to make up all the time that he didn't get when he was little. Because you're never going to get that time back if you waste it all.
FB: What happens at your family meetings?
SR: I get to miss school for the family meetings. Last year, I was there for a PowerPoint about finances, [although] I really don't understand that too much. All my family is in a room together. Everyone in my family is there; usually there's only one or two people missing. So it's fun to just sit around and be able to watch the PowerPoints and take notes and be there with all my family.
FB: Hearing about finances must give you an idea of the topics you want to learn more about.
SR: I love to ask questions about things . . . because you're not going to know unless you ask questions.
FB: Do family members live outside of Florida? Do they come from all over?
SR: We have some that live in Hawaii and Idaho, and some that live in California. So we're all spread out across the world.
FB: Have you heard people arguing, or having differences of opinion?
SR: Not really. They have different opinions, but it never turns into an argument or anything.
FB: Are the meetings very formal, with people having to raise their hands to talk?
SR: It's pretty formal. We have presenters from different offices that sometimes come and talk at our family meeting. [At those sessions] you usually have to raise your hand to comment. But when we have conference calls with just my dad's brothers and sisters, it's usually just like, if someone stops talking, then you can comment.
FB: Your family reunions also include soccer games.
SR: Those are really fun. It happens during our family reunion, probably a little bit closer to the end.
FB: People get very competitive, I understand.
SR: Oh, yeah. They do get competitive, but not in a bad way. Because [some of] my cousins played soccer when they were in middle school or high school. And they are really good. So it does turn into a competition, but not like rough or anything.
Last year we ordered shirts. We had white shirts with a red Coke bottle on them, and we had red shirts with the white can on them. They were really cool.
FB: How do you feel about the family no longer having the glass company and no longer having the distributorship? It's still an important part of your identity, right?
SR: We still talk about it all the time. Even though we're not truly owning it, it is still a part of us . . . I think we're still really committed to it.
We have one of the original Coke bottles in our office. It's [placed] so all the workers can see it, and I think that's really important to have that there, too.
FB: Why is it important for the whole family to spend time together?
SR: If you go a couple years without seeing your family, it's not like they're your family, it's kind of like they'd just be friends to you.
I see my family all the time, whether it's at the family reunion or when they come down to visit us. If you spend time together, you're just going to build those memories.
FB: They're not just your cousins and your friends, you also have a business relationship with them. How does that feel?
SR: I love that. Because when I get older, and get really involved with the family business, then they'll kind of be my work partners, I guess you can say. So I'll get to see them a lot more, I think. And I think we'll have different opinions then, because I think boys and girls have different opinions about different kinds of things. But I think we'd work great together.
FB: Is your family teaching you responsibility about money?
SR: Our family personally, we have a budget for each one of us that's set every week. If we go over, then it's going to go down the next week. I babysit for kids I know, and when I get the money, I have a bank that I keep it in. And every year, for Thanksgiving, we take some of the money out of the bank and we donate it to charity. And we do food boxes for Thanksgiving, and we donate the food to less fortunate people. And I think that's really important to save your money so you can do important things like that.
FB: Your dad uses the space program to teach you important lessons. Has that always been a part of your life?
SR: Ever since I was little, we've been to all of the launches. When I go there, or watch it on TV if it's really far away. . . , we do turn it into lessons, like, how much work goes into building a rocket. It's not something you just can do overnight, it's something you need to work on for years and years.
One of the lessons was trust. You can't just build a spaceship overnight and trust that it's going to go up the next day. Because that's not how it works. You need to be able to take your time until the thing gets strong enough that you can trust it. That was one of the lessons I really remember, and one of my favorites, too.
FB: There are a lot of possibilities out there.
SR: I think that hard work is the most important thing. If you don't push yourself to do something, no one else is going to push you to do it. So you have to take control of it, and you need to push yourself so that you can do it. And no one else is going to do it for you. You're going to need to be able to make those decisions if you're going to be fully committed to something.
The article "Leupold and Stevens sets its sights on enduring family ownership" (FB, March/April 2014) contained some inaccuracies about the history of Leupold and Stevens Inc.
Norbert Leupold was the president of Leupold and Stevens from 1968-72. Robert (Bob) Stevens was the president from 1972-83. Bob Stevens passed the presidency on to Werner Wildauer in 1983.
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