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Active Owners Explain Family's Commitment to Employees

Their brother was in management, but three sisters who in the future would own equal portions of the business weren't well known to the company's 565 associates. All four siblings, aged 35 to 45, worked for years to build their commitment to each other and to their family's business. They announced their commitment to their board and their parents. They collectively decided to continue the business in the generation to come under the best possible leadership, family or non-family.

As future owners not in management, the sisters decided that it was important that the company's employees should have the opportunity to get to know them and to hear about the family owners commitment to the business. So they carefully scripted a presentation, and despite their busy lives as young mothers and community leaders, took their show on the road.

Their 20-minute presentation to small groups included the company's history (their grandfather founded the company succeeded by his son-in-law, their father), their own backgrounds and their commitment to the business future, to the values of the company and the family, and to the company's board. Then the floor was opened for questions and to hear from the associates about their careers and their lives. They had meetings in four states, at about 40 company facilities, eventually meeting with almost the entire staff.

The feedback was tremendous. The director of corporate development e-mailed: Wow! You are showing that we are family! You present yourselves as dignified, articulate, professional and respectful of each other and the associates; classy, involved with each other, sophisticated, warm, caring, emerging as leaders in the business and mature, accomplished women. Thanks for taking the time and demonstrating your concern for our associates. Two division managers gave the feedback that it was impossible to overestimate the effect these visits had on the average company associate, many of whom did not even know there was a next generation. They have succeeded in conveying their sincere commitment to the business, to the associates and their families, and to each other.

When the sisters reported to the company's board concerning their odyssey, their directors had one suggestion. Why share their story only with the associates? Suppliers, key customers and bankers, also concerned about the future of the company, would love to hear their story as well---much to the benefit of the business.

Active owners who understand their roles can be a tremendous asset to their family businesses.





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