Highlights for Children Inc. has an iron-clad mission for both business and family, with one supporting the other. The business mission is steadfast and has been in place since the launch of the magazine: “to help children grow in basic skills and knowledge, in creativeness, in ability to think and reason, in sensitivity to others, in high ideals and worthy ways of living — for children are the world’s most important people.” The company even had the final phrase trademarked.
To complement the business mission, the third-generation leaders put together a mission statement of their own. It was one of the first tasks of the family council when it was formed in 1993. The family statement, the product of a process facilitated by a third party, outlined how they would stay together as a family and as good stewards of the company their grandparents founded.
All 13 members of that generation agreed to the statement in 1997, says Pat Mikelson, the family’s third-generation historian and archivist. “We have simply been willing to look at our philosophy as our foundation.”
In part, the statement says:
The bond which holds us together is our desire and willingness to continue the work of Garry and Caroline Myers. We agree to subject our immediate self-interest to our long-term common goal of maintaining the integrity and viability of Highlights for Children Inc.
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Now in the fourth generation of leadership, the family council continues its work helping family connections and communication, including a “Fun With Purpose” committee for annual gatherings and what the G3 statement refers to as “unscheduled leisure time” together.
The rising generation decided to have a summit of their own, as the generation before them had. “One of the outcomes of [holding fourth-generation meetings] was a desire for us to re-express a mission statement,” says fourth-generation CEO Kent Johnson Jr. “How we wanted to support the company, mission — how we want to interact and continue perpetual ownership.”
The fourth generation’s version addresses how family relationships will feed the stewardship of the business and emphasizes that the family is at the root of its success.
Their mission statement, also ratified by every member of their generation, reads in part:
We acknowledge the need to nurture both the health of our own individual families as well as the greater multi-generation extended family in order to succeed in the continuous support of the business that unites us.
Across the generations is a “unified commitment” to staying private and family-owned, Johnson says.
“I think our leaders in the family and the business over the years have always felt that one of the things that happened to help grow and thrive was a focus on the mission,” he says. “The connection to family and connection in values would be difficult to maintain if we weren’t a family business. We consider the company an emotional asset to the family rather than a financial asset.” — April Hall