Lyles Family Enterprise
Bill Lyles Sr. and his wife, Elizabeth, founded W.M. Lyles Co., a pipeline construction business, in the oil fields of Avenal, Calif., in 1945. In the 1970s, the family leaders began diversifying by investing in multifamily housing and development, and in the 1980s they acquired their first manufacturing company. Following the 2007 sale of the co-owned Pelco, a maker of security cameras, the family further diversified into investment partnerships.
Today the Lyles Family Enterprise consists of multiple businesses and ventures in construction, real estate (development and rental), agriculture and investment partnerships. The enterprise employs over 500 people.
Lyles Diversified Inc. is an S corporation that oversees the Lyles family’s construction businesses and provides management and administrative services to the family’s other holding companies. Lyles Construction Group, based in Fresno, is one of California’s largest water and environmental contractors. The family makes investments through two LLCs, Lyles United and Lyles Investments. A joint company advisory board oversees all the family’s businesses.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Family Business honored 30 outstanding family businesses:
There are about 50 family members in the second, third and fourth generations. More than 90% of the combined businesses are owned by members of G2 and G3. No single person has a majority stake. Salaried employees of LDI also own a stake in that company either directly or through an ESOP.
Six family members work directly in one of the business entities. Second-generation member Bill Lyles is president and CEO of Lyles Diversified and chairman of the advisory board. His brother Gerald Lyles is president of Lyles United LLC and Lyles Investments LLC and serves as senior vice president of Lyles Diversified.
Third-generation member Will Lyles is a board director and past chairman of Lyles Construction Group and senior vice president of Lyles Diversified. His wife, Tami, is president and CEO of one of the family’s construction businesses.
Another G3, Kathy Porter, is assistant vice president of shareholder services at Lyles Diversified. In her role, she provides financial reporting and business updates to shareholders. She is also responsible for shareholder communications, including coordination of stock and financial transactions. The most recent family member to join the business is Barrett Ramalho, who serves as IT support coordinator.
Around 2012, Will realized that because the family had spread throughout the country and the G4 cousins didn’t know each other well, the transition of leadership to G3 and the following G4 would be tricky. The family has responded to this challenge by establishing a governance system and positioning themselves as an ownership group dedicated to growing the company, adding value and supporting their ownership goals.
The Lyles Family Council, which had been formed in the early 1990s but had tapered off because generational transition was not an immediate concern, was revived. Third-generation member Annarie Lyles, as council president, leads all things family.
Prior to the revival of the council, family members believed the only way they could contribute to the family enterprise was to work for one of the family’s businesses. Most G3 members had developed careers outside the family enterprise, and few were interested in relocating to Fresno.
Steve Titus, a married-in third-generation member, helped develop a “family brand” to engage family members and inspire loyalty. The brand emphasizes the concept of a family enterprise rather than a family business. It’s centered on the core family values (integrity, education, honesty, loyalty and hard work) and the benefits of being a Lyles family member (family network, financial resources, family social assemblies, internships and careers). Titus also led a project to select and adopt a secure intranet portal offered by a leading vendor. The platform enables the family to collaborate on council projects between meetings and to stay connected.
The family worked with a consultant to create a family development plan in order to build their capabilities as an ownership group. The development plan launched with five areas — governance, education, family/social activities, philanthropy and entrepreneurship.
The extended family meets once a year. These meetings, which previously were held in Fresno, have been moved to other locations. For example, the family gathered in Northern California to tour properties they own as well as other investments. One summer they met in Colorado, where they went whitewater rafting and rode horses in addition to discussing governance issues.
Family council members have reached out to the fourth generation, encouraging them to become involved in the council.
A family employment policy recommends, but does not require, that family members work elsewhere before joining the family enterprise. The family has been working to develop paths to entry in addition to jobs in the construction businesses.