Transitions West 2014 Report

The conference emphasized celebration and planning.

Attendees at Transitions West 2014 explored ways to honor their family companies' past successes while securing the future of the family enterprise. The conference, held Nov. 12-14 at the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey in California, drew 220 participants; 76 families were represented.

Before the official opening of the conference on Wednesday, November 12, first-time Transitions attendees and others who wanted to reinforce their knowledge attended a session on "Family Business Basics." Family Business Magazine editor-in-chief Barbara Spector provided some insights into the Transitions experience. JoAnne Norton, a consultant with the Family Business Consulting Group, explained basic family business terminology and concepts. Peter Begalla, Family Business Magazine's conference and education director, offered suggestions on how to get the most out of the conference.

Landmark anniversaries

The opening program on Wednesday evening started with a panel discussion entitled "Milestones: Using Anniversaries to Celebrate and Grow the Family Business." Sam Gault, president of Gault Energy & Stone; Luconda Dager, president of Velvet Ice Cream Company; and Jamie Richardson, vice president of corporate relations at White Castle Systems, described how their companies capitalized on major anniversaries as an opportunity to develop family cohesion, communicate family values and market their companies. Jeff Saccacio of PwC served as moderator of the panel.

After the panel session, Andrew Taylor, executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings, delivered the opening keynote address.

The welcome reception that followed the keynote speech included a birthday cake in celebration of Family Business Magazine's 25th anniversary.

Transferring ownership

Thursday, November 13 began with a panel presentation on the subject of "Passing the Torch: Planning a Transition of Ownership to the Next Generation." At this session, senior-generation family business leaders addressed the delicate art of retiring and preparing to give up control. They also spoke about methods of transferring ownership, including ESOPs, buyouts, gifting, financing and trusts. Don Freeman, chairman of Freeman; Jim Warjone, chairman of Port Blakely Companies; and Steven High, chairman of H.J. High Construction Company, were the panelists. Moderating the discussion was Patricia Armstrong of Abbot Downing.

Conference participants then split up into groups based on number of family members involved directly or indirectly with the family business: small (one to ten family members), medium (between 11 and 25 family members) and large (more than 25 family members). Each group analyzed a case study developed by the Kellogg School of Management's Center for Family Enterprises. Facilitating the discussions were Mark Haranzo of Withers Bergman, Bryant Seaman III of Bessemer Trust, Lloyd Shefsky of the Kellogg School, JoAnne Norton of the Family Business Consulting Group, Dirk Jungé of Pitcairn and Scott Winget of Ascent Private Capital Management.

Family leaders and healthy kids

"Family Leadership Roles and Responsibilities" was the topic of a discussion moderated by Rhona Vogel of Vogel Consulting. This session examined the key role of the family leader, as opposed to the leader of the business. Speakers were John Reininger, chief relationship officer at The Clemens Family Corporation; Barb Quasius, treasurer and CFO of Windway Capital Corp.; and Antonio Luis Ferré Rangel, chief operating officer of Grupo Ferré Rangel.

A session entitled "Raising Kids Successfully in a Successful Family Business" focused on key developmental tasks, issues and proven approaches to raising healthy children in a business family. Sharing their stories were Michael Basore, president of TKM-Bengard Farms, along with next-generation member Myles Basore; Henry Hunte II, director and family council chair of H.G. Fenton Co.; and Preston Root, president of the Root Family Board of Directors, along with next-generation member Scenic Root. Anna Nichols of Altair Advisers LLC moderated the discussion.

Optional sessions on Thursday afternoon offered the opportunity to participate in small-group discussions on a range of topics: family councils, next-generation family members, non-family executives, senior/managing generation members and married-ins.

The day concluded with a group dinner at Killer Shrimp Restaurant, with remarks by Kevin Michaels, second-generation owner of the restaurant.

Corporate culture

The opening session on Friday, November 14, was a keynote interview with Lou Gentine, chairman of Sargento Foods Inc., who discussed his company culture and code of ethics, among other topics. Nancy Drozdow of CFAR was the interviewer.

Gentine and Drozdow's discussion was followed by special "focus sessions" on key topics of interest. Topics were "Creating a Family Social Media Policy" (facilitated by Dirk Jungé of Pitcairn), "Family Employment Policies and Compensation" (facilitated by David Guin of Withers Bergman LLP), "From Business Owner to Family Enterprise" (facilitated by Debbie Bing of CFAR), "Mentoring the Next Generation" (facilitated by Greg McCann of Stetson University), "Communications, Conflict and Conciliation" (facilitated by Lloyd Shefsky of the Kellogg School's Center for Family Enterprises), "Wealth Management" (facilitated by Martim de Arantes Oliveira of Ascent Private Capital Management), "Tax and Estate Issues" (facilitated by Jeff Saccacio of PwC) and "Next-Generation Roles in the Family Business" (facilitated by Shannon Zur of Vogel Consulting).

Family meeting tips

The conference's final panel session offered tips on "Creating the Successful Family Meeting." Sharing ideas on how to make family meetings more robust were Jo Anne Allen, trustee of DWA 1989 Family Trust; Nick Shepard, communications director of the Smith Family Council, Menasha Corporation; Debbie Brown, chairman of Laird Norton Company; and Jeni Carriere-LaDuke, family council member, Carriere Family Farms.

The event concluded with a wrap-up session led by Bob Rock, president of MLR Holdings LLC, and Ronda Ritter Ray, a family director of E. Ritter & Co. Rock and Ray highlighted key points that emerged from the conference sessions.

Transitions West 2014's Platinum sponsor was PwC. Gold sponsors were Bessemer Trust, Abbot Downing, Vogel Consulting and Ascent Private Capital Management. Silver sponsors were the Family Business Consulting Group and CFAR. Bronze sponsors were Withers Bergman LLP, Altair Advisers, Pitcairn, and Kellogg School of Management Center for Family Enterprises. Supporting sponsor was iLEAD. The conference was presented in association with Stetson University. 

Copyright 2015 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact

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