Thursday, November 15, 2012

Family Business Advising Certificate

I would like to thank the New York Family Business Center,  The board of directors felt it was important for me to gain knowledge in the family business field and provided me with the opportunity to obtain a Certificate in Family Business Advising by the Family Firm Institute. The certificate is presented to individuals who have achieved comprehensive professional knowledge and gained significant expertise that can be used as value to family business owners and family wealth clients. The Family Firm Institute (FFI) Certificate in Family Business Advising is designed to increase awareness and exposure to concepts, skills and knowledge necessary to optimize effectiveness as family business advisors and consultants.

“Through completion of the certificate program, Donna Herlihy (that's me) has gained a deeper understanding of the needs of family-owned enterprises and the many roles family business and non-family members play,” said Judy Green, Executive Director of the Family Firm Institute.

I  became Director of the Family Business Center in 2009. Our vision is to create an organization locally that offers education, resources and tools that will inform, strengthen and celebrate family-owned companies.  Our Center’s interactive workshops, roundtables and events , case studies, panel presentations, and educational forums provide NYFBC members access to contemporary solutions grounded in real-world experience.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Family Business Secret to Success

CNY BizX 10/2/2012

I’ve often wondered, what is the secret to successfully running a family business and passing it down generation to generation? Is it in their DNA? Is it the rich environment that children are raised in that frequently revolves around the business? Is it the outside experiences and opportunities family members seek to run the business better with each generation?

Assuming DNA plays only a small role if any, family members must rely on one another and on non-family members to help raise the next generation to take the helm.  It starts with being raised inside the family business, with educational opportunities, leaders, mentors and great decision makers.  The next generation are being educated and mentored now more than ever.

Family members should be educated from a very young age, slowly developing skills and learning the business from the ground up.  For example, Welch Allyn, fourth generation, works very closely with their 5th generation.  Once a year they bring the family in from all over the world for a week to have them work with previous generations.  They teach them the history, the values and how to be good stewards of the company.  This is done with communication and bonding of all generations.

The biggest secret to success that is shared repeatedly from family business experts is communication.  It seems no matter who speaks with us on various topics the underlying message is to communicate with each other.  There are countless stories about lack of even the basic of communication.  Sometimes the current generation has never even asked what the next generation sees as their vision for the future of the company.  If you start early with communicating about all aspects of the business these conversations will come easier when the succession journey begins.

Here are many myths associated with family business:  Family Businesses are all small businesses, working for your family is asking for nothing but trouble, priorities are different in family businesses, family businesses only represent a small sector of our workforce.  Family businesses never make it past the third generation.  However the truth is that family businesses are never the same and can’t fit tidily in a box. Some are large; some are small.  Some have strong family relationships while other might have turmoil.  Some struggle and fail to make it to the third generation, while some survive over dozens of generations.  Locally we have family businesses that fit into all of these categories

Research done by Joe Abstrachan, Ph.D a respected family business expert indicates that there are 5.5 million U.S. family businesses, employing 63% of the workforce and generating 57% of our GDP.  Research and educational opportunities are available in so many forms for the development of future leaders. Executive coaching, trade industry organizations and family business centers are all successful in helping with succession and mentoring and sharing.  Central New York is the home of one of those family business centers, which hold several events a year.  Topics include Succession Planning, Family Business Governance, Conflict Management, and Engaging Family Members in the business.  You can learn more about our events at and find us on facebook.  

Each year the New York Family Business Center  holds an annual summit which was conceived from the Welch Allyn annual education week.  This years’ summit is being held on Veterans Day, Monday, November 12, 2012 at the Lodge at Welch Allyn.  Ages 10 and up are invited to take place in a day full of education for the entire family.  The future generation (10 – 19) will learn leadership skills from Gwen Weber-McLeod, John Eberle and John Liddy.  The current generation will learn about family business governance from our presenting sponsor Wilmington Trust and have educational breakout sessions with Testone Marshall Disenza,CPA and Bond Schoneck & King, PLLC.  We all will be entertained by Yvonne Conte, coached by Gwen Weber-McCleod and enjoy a fireside chat with your peers If you are an owner/manager, spouse or child of a family business this is the place to be on Veterans Day.

Friday, March 2, 2012

We Just Keep Moving Forward

When we set out three years ago this month we knew it would be a challenge to engage our community in a new business membership organization.  There are so many other excellent programs going on; but we knew it would be worth it.  Three years later as we enter our fourth year we can feel our efforts, energies and imagination paying off.   

Therefore I will continue to push our message out to our local and surrounding communities.  Hopefully one of my messages will spark a flame to a family business leader and a new member will emerge.

Recently we had Robert Nason speak at our next generation roundtable regarding the research he did on the longevity of family businesses.  The research seemed to center on the well documented and repeated statistic of “only” 30% of family businesses succeed to the second generation.  In reality the word only was most likely added by consultants and advisors.   The statistic was actually intended to state that family businesses actually outperform other business models.   However planning and preparation is needed and a trusted advisor among so many other components is necessary. 

How many times do you hear your advisor talk to you about your succession plan..  “Lets get started….when are you going to talk about this…..who is your next leader…more and more questions.  But how do you get started?  Where do you start?  Maybe before you start succession planning some basic questions need to be answered.  If you are the founder…When did you decide this was a family business?  Why did you decide it was going to stay a family business?  Etc. and so on.  To help answer these questions a good place to start would be education.  As I read through blogs, message boards, articles, research papers it all comes back to educating the family businesses before, during and after the planning starts and continues.  It is difficult to start work on your succession plan if you are not properly prepared for it.

Here is today’s message - Storytelling…. a great way to learn about family business.  We do that at our center.   We have forums where our attendees and presenters tell their stories, their experiences, there challenges and their successes.  Of course we have educators and consultants and advisors that help us get our educational message out there but we are here to help educate you and help you find your way to preparation, planning, and being one of the many family businesses that succeed to the next generation.

We look forward to meeting you.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Family Not Just Family Business.

That was one of the points that Drew Mendoza made last week when some of our local family businesses got together Thursday morning to participate in a breakfast forum.  He discussed how important it is to act like a family outside the business.  Make sure you have social gatherings with your siblings.  Bring your children to play with their cousins, building the relationship between the cousins can be the building blocks of future teamwork as they get older and start taking their roles in the business.

Another point worth noting is to be careful of what you bring home to your spouse and children.  Bringing home the baggage and the disagreements and sharing too much with your spouse and children about their in-laws and Aunts and Uncle’s can harm the family harmony at social gatherings. 

These are such two small points during the 2 ½ hours that Drew talked to us.  It would be impossible to cover it all.  I think he will have to make a return appearance in 2013 for the NYFBC.  I’m pretty sure the attendees would have stayed longer if he had kept talking. 

See you all next time.  Thursday, March 8th - Alan Andrews will be talking about boundaries.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Next Weeks Event

Murphy Siblings
Murphy & Nolan
We have a great event next week.  Our speaker is from Chicago and is a Managing Partner of the Family Business Consulting Group, but even more important than that we have some great local family businesses attending the event.  The easiest way for me to talk about the event and what you might get out of it is to simply reprint the article that was in Janauary 20th Central New York Business Journal.  Thanks goes to Eric Allyn for helping me with this. 


What can help a family-owned business not fall into the category of Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves in three generations; and instead become part of the growing fourth and fifth generation of family-owned business?  We don’t have to look very hard to see many successful second and third generation family businesses in our community.  Some statistics say that only a small percentage will make it to the fourth.  So is it really going to be a matter of blind luck to get them there?   
On the contrary, most experts state that preparation for the continuity of a family-owned business must start at an early stage.  As founders of a business with young children there are steps you can take to begin this preparation.  Starting with assuming your business will evolve into the next generation(s).  As a parent, promoting partnership, communication, and conflict resolving skills at an early age will encourage teamwork between siblings. Giving them team projects, problem solving events or even planning the family vacation together can create great some great team work skills.   Something to avoid might be telling the oldest “this all might be yours some day,” or putting the oldest in charge of the team building projects, or being negative about the business at the dinner table or family events.
Eric Allyn, 4th generation of Welch Allyn shares that preparing the next generation early through education and building trust in each other is essential from the start.  The Allyn family focuses a lot of activity on educating the next generation, who range in age from new born to 21 years old.  Eric states "We don't provide training on how to best manage the company, or our product lines, or our financial performance.  Instead, we focus our efforts on building trust among the 31 members of the 5th generation.  We have annual team building activities - ranging from 3 generations playing hockey together to a swim across Skaneateles Lake.  Having strong, trusting relationships with one another, coupled with a sense of responsibility in ownership, are our primary goals of next generation development.  Our intent is to ensure that the next generation become great stewards of our business, so that they can keep it family owned into the next generation."

Each stage of a family business is different from the previous and there is no one model that one can follow.  As the ownership moves into the sibling and cousin stage a framework will be needed.  Structure will need to be in place for decision making, leadership, planning, and goal setting.  Meetings will need to be more formalized.  Eric states that outside of the basic steps necessary to address ownership/estate tax challenges, he emphasizes the importance of considering governance changes when moving from one generation to the next.  "The truth is, the way my generation oversees this business - keeping in mind there are 11 in my generation - is very different from how Bill and Lew Allyn managed the company in the 1970s and 1980s.   The governance model needs to adopt as the number of owners increases.  And keep in mind, the 5th generation has 31 people in it (so far!).  One imagines that they will have to re-shape our governance in the future as well".

Your family business could still be a few years away from transition but preparation can begin early.  To learn more about the sibling/cousin transition the New York Family Business Center will have Drew Mendoza, from the Family Business Consulting Group as their keynote speaker on February 9, 2012. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I Have The Best Job

In this day and age of social media and webinars and teleconferences and such, I feel my job is a little old school which may be a little new school for some.  My job is basically to connect people.  You know what I mean?  In the same room, not just names on a screen.  Now that sounds pretty easy but I have to come up with ways to connect people which sometimes is a little difficult with all the demands for time people have.  Specifically, my job is to connect family business owners, leaders, key employees, next gens’ and others.  So the challenges are scheduling - when would be “convenient” for them to come and topics that “might” interest them. 

So why do I have the best job?  Because of the outcome that I can see from actually accomplishing it, maybe even the thanks from the owners when they are connected to someone that can help.  Family Business Owners I have to say are amazing people, and seriously it doesn’t matter which generation.  Some are amazingly creative, entrepreneurial, some are great leaders, and some are finding their way.  But mostly they are nice, yes I mean actually nice.  People you want to be around, people you want to talk to, learn from, listen to, take a tour of the business.  Seriously I know that sounds corny but they have incredible stories, values, are humble and so proud of the people (family) that have come before them. 

So back to my job…. this week was especially showing, I attended two webinars and a teleconference.  Ho Hum…. looking at a screen, listening on the telephone, now granted they were educational and necessary and I did get tidbits from them that I will share soon but no connection was made.   Fortunately one of the webinars, I had three business owners in the room with me.  We did communicate a little throughout the webinar, about what we were hearing so that was good and it made it even more worthwhile. 

In the past few years NYFBC has been able to connect some well known business owners with each other and they have benefited from those connections.  We are very proud of that.  When we have an event someone new is always there and makes a connection with someone else.  It is “nice” to see. 

So next time you have a free morning instead of signing up for a webinar come to one of the NYFBC meetings and meet someone new, see someone from the past.  Connect, reconnect, share, learn from your peers.  Visit our website and see what topic might interest you, you never know who you will see there. 

Loving My Job – Donna

Monday, January 23, 2012

Next Gen Mini Retreat

Al Kryger (Senior Generation)
Sam Kryger (Next Generation)
Missing from Photo Wes Kryger (Next Generation)

Friday, January 20th the Next Generation group held a mini retreat at the Hope Lake Lodge (Greek Peak).  The Krygers, the family behind this incredible resort, were very generous and supplied a beautiful conference room and a delicious continental breakfast.  

2011 ended with the group not meeting in November and December, therefore, the first hour or so was spent with catching up with their businesses and even personal lives.  After the break The Leading Element, Katie Doucette, Susan Burgess & Michael D’Eredita facilitated a session in discussing possible concerns and the successes in the transition of leading their family business.  Each attendee had insights and anecdotes to share with the others.  The bond that this group shares is somewhat unique as they are all from different industries but their commonality is family.  Each time they meet they walk away with something they can use personally or professionally.  In family business the line between personal and profession usually isn’t too thick, and sometimes can be blurred.

This particular group has been meeting for over a year now, frequently new members enter the group and are immediatly welcomed and it is exciting to watch them begin to do business together and offer ideas and suggestions not only with the family dynamics but sometimes with business situations also.

I look forward to 2012 and playing my small role in bringing this group together monthly.