Nov 13 2014


The Grand Finale for the Forum series this year could not have been held at a more intriguing venue or on a more beautiful evening.  The Adventure Aquarium ballroom view of the shark tank and the sunset over the Philadelphia skyline was stunning. But the drama of the setting did not overwhelm the content of the meeting. As I wandered through the group before the meeting, I witnessed the camaraderie of colleagues celebrating their uniqueness as family business owners.

Chris Herschend, third generation member of Herschend Family Enterprises (HFE), is a skilled speaker and teacher. With his self-effacing comments about his (lack of) hair peppered into the story of a unique family business, he was a captivating speaker.  The HFE is 100% family owned but 0% family run. I was surprised to hear that the HFE Board is comprised of only two family members, of nine total. Family members are not prohibited from working in the business, but they are not required or even encouraged to do so.  Chris said that although 0% family run is unusual, trends are shifting in this direction.

Chris shared thought-provoking ideas throughout the evening, such as:

  • “Find out what makes you fully alive and we are behind you!”
  • “It wasn’t always this way and it won’t stay this way”
  • “Family business is not an engineering challenge but a gardening challenge.”

But my personal favorite was “Family business is a springboard, not a life source” because I think it applies to every family business. Chris challenged us to use our family businesses as springboards to success for everyone the business touches, employees as well as family members.  Family businesses can launch careers, develop leaders, forge bonds, and create legacies. They create a safe environment for risk-taking that encourages personal and business innovation – to dive right in. It can support the individuals who aim to achieve great things – to spring into the future. It can support individuality – to do whatever dive you want. It can support healthy competition – to hold business “Olympic Games.” But, most important, it can create an environment for both family and non-family members that encourages them to be the best they can be.

As we end the 2014 year of learning and look towards 2015, let’s consider how we will use our family business springboard to launch our businesses, employees, family members and ourselves into the future.


Strategic Business Advisor with DVFBC, PhD,  MBA



Add Your Own Comment

Mail (will not be published) (required)