Four questions to answer that will help your successors succeed

As current family business owners plan their exits from the business, the conversation with the next generation should be intentional, open and start early. Delays can lead to misunderstandings. Parents who are interested in getting the next generation to consider the family’s business should be ready with answers to these questions.

What is your timeline for exiting the business?

Identifying a date for your full retirement drives the planning process and signals to the next generation that you are serious about their success.  Leave enough time for organizing your financial affairs and for uninterrupted time to answer your successor’s questions about how you have run the business.  Know that economic cycles will impact your timing decision.  Indeed businesses are more challenging to run during economic downturns but most business leaders admit they “really learned” how to run their company when they experienced tough economic times.

Do you see me running this business as a partnership with my siblings or cousins?

Given the desire to treat children equally, parents can implicitly pressure successors to share the business with siblings and cousins in their generation. Be honest about this wish with your successor. Not all children have the aptitude to run a business.  Sibling dynamics influence business operations.  Facilitation may be needed to reduce conflicts and build a high performing team.  Children who are not included in the business operations can still serve important roles in honoring the family legacy as the chief family booster or as an educated and engaged owner providing support for the management team.

What would you think if I made some changes to the business?

Entrepreneurial children are a natural product of the entrepreneurial environment they knew growing up. If owners are exiting a mature business then changes will be made to secure new product lines or reach new customers. Bringing the next generation in to the business generally means new investments in technology upgrades.

When can I meet your most trusted advisors?

Future business owners need to know whom their parents count on for advice and counsel on business matters. They need to create professional relationships with these advisors to assist in succession planning and to facilitate any unexpected transition.

These questions are your opportunity to pitch the business as a ready opportunity to grow the family legacy of community and employee commitment.  Your answers will guide the timing and structure of the succession planning process and signal to future generations your willingness to prepare an intentional plan to give them the best advantage for success.

Families looking for additional resources on succession planning can learn more at

Sherri Noxel Ph.D.
Director, Austin Family Business Program
A.E. Coleman Chair in Family Business
L.W. “Bill” Lane Professor in Family Business Management

Families in business often rely on non-family managers and board members to deliver expertise and insights that aren’t available within the family. Working in a family business can bring a unique set of challenges for non-family managers. The latest edition of the Family Business Connections newsletter has some resources to help both family and non-family stakeholders succeed. Find it here.

Team left to right:
Madeline Mullins, 4th year, Management, Western Precision Products (third generation family member), Tualatin
Zachary Fritzler, 2nd year, Finance, Cleanway Carpet Systems (second generation family member), Hillsboro
Taylor Smith, 2nd year, Finance, Columbia Associates Financial Group (second generation family member), Beaverton
Also pictured is the UVM 2nd year student ambassador Matt Spargo who accompanied the team during the 5-day event.

The team traveled to Burlington, Vermont from January 8th – 13th to participate in the 6th annual Global Family Enterprise Case Competition.  In the undergraduate division of the competition there were 13 international teams from countries including Mexico, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany and Malaysia. Graduate teams representing the US, Australia, Sweden, the Phillipines, Canada and France attended.

The OSU team was assigned to a division with four teams.  After presenting the pre-arrival case, the team placed 4th of four teams.  The following day the team placed third of four teams and on the final day the team again increased their ranking to place second in their division.  At the end of the competition, the team was tied for 8th of 13 undergraduate teams.

At the finalist recognition reception, Judge Randy Waesche came over to the OSU team to congratulation the students on their participation and noted that they should be very proud of what they had accomplished for their first time in the competition. Because two of the three team members were second year students, the OSU team had 8 years of business education prior to competing compared to the competition average of 10.7 years of business education per team.

International team participation and graduate-level caliber of this competition provides an exceptional opportunity to develop professional communication and behavioral skills. Here’s what the team members had to say about their experience:

Maddie Mullins
“As a fourth year student, I can confidently say that attending FECC has been the most challenging, eye opening, and rewarding experience of my college career. While many other teams buckled under pressure, our teamwork and determination allowed us to ultimately succeed and grow together. As a first year team, I am proud that we were able to represent Oregon State University in a positive light. The Global Family Enterprise Case Competition is an experience that I will take away as one of my very favorite memories throughout my time here at OSU. “

Taylor Smith
“Competing in the Global Family Enterprise Case Competition was an amazing experience for me to broaden both my academic and personal horizons. I learned a great deal about public speaking, working under pressure, and networking with peers and industry professionals. The most valuable experience was seeing the opportunities that are available for young professionals all around the world and learning about all of the amazing students of my generation.”

Zachary Fritzler
“I came into the competition extremely nervous, mainly because, in practice for the competition, I had done poorly in terms of my presentation quality. But through the stress and nerves of the 4 hour prep times, and the experience of the competition, I got over my presentation block, and am happy about participating and eager to do it again.”

Congratulations to the OSU Undergraduate team for a great first showing at the competition, and a special thank you to team coach Dr. Sherri Noxel!

For complete information on the Global Family Enterprise Case Competition please visit the University of Vermont’s competition webpage.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Several Oregon family businesses will be honored at the Oregon State University College of Business’ 2018 Excellence in Family Business Awards ceremony Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland.

Port Blakely, a fifth-generation family enterprise headquartered in Seattle, will receive the Dean’s Award for Family Business Leadership, which is sponsored by the college’s Austin Family Business Program. Siblings Gabrielle and Dylan McEntee, fourth-generation leaders of Mo’s Seafood and Chowder, will emcee.

“We’re honored to recognize the achievements of these families who embody our shared values of hard work and commitment to excellence,” said Mitzi Montoya, Sara Hart Kimball Dean of the College of Business. “Family-owned businesses are a cornerstone of the Oregon economy, and as a land-grant university, it’s our responsibility to celebrate and foster a culture of support and shared-learning to help our family businesses thrive.”

Founded in 1985, the Austin Family Business Program provides inspiration, education, outreach and research to support family businesses.

“We’re celebrating a strong group of businesses, from second- to sixth-generation companies, that showcase entrepreneurial families in diverse industries throughout Oregon,” said Sherri Noxel, the program’s director.

The awards feature categories that reflect sound family business practices. Honorees are:

  • Family Harmony: Tec Laboratories, Inc., Albany. Finalists in the category included Abbott & Associates Professional Placement, Inc. of Portland and Nicholas Restaurant of Gresham.
  • Generational Development: C.M. & W. O. Sheppard, Inc., Hood River. Lee Farms in Tualatin and Stehn Family Funeral Homes, Inc. in Milwaukie were finalists in the category.
  • Business Renewal: Forest Hills Farms, Inc., Cornelius. Finalists included C & R Remodeling of Salem and Paddington Station of Ashland.
  • Student Award: Madeline Mullins, Western Precision Products, Inc., Tualatin.

The event begins with a reception at 4 p.m. and the program at 5:45 p.m. Tickets are $45 for the reception alone, $75 for the reception with a buffet, or $25 for children ages 3-10. The Sentinel Hotel is located at 614 SW 11th Ave., Portland.‎

To reserve a seat, register online or contact Melissa Elmore at or 1-800-859-7609.

About the OSU College of Business: The College of Business educates students for success in managing and developing sustainable, innovative enterprises in a dynamic economy. With strong graduate and undergraduate programs, internationally recognized scholarly research, and an emphasis on experiential learning, the college helps students and businesses succeed.

The sixth season of Family Business 360 kicks off on October 11th

Family Business 360 continues to be the top destination for families in Oregon and SW Washington who are working on solving their most pressing family business challenges. Over the past five years, 34 expert presenters have delivered timely family business education to over 1,450 family business members. The sixth season of Family Business 360 launches this Fall with another slate of valuable topics.

October 11, 2018
Business Transition Planning: Balancing Business, Family and Personal Requirements

Don Bielen and Paris Powell of Perkins and Company, along with second-generation family business guest Bruce Burns of Burns Brothers Inc., will talk about how to craft a fair and effective transition plan by taking into account the often competing dynamics of family, personal and business interests. This event will provide an excellent overview if you are new to succession planning or just need another look at the important concepts. Register today to save your seat. More information and registration.

The Family Business 360 program fills in the puzzle pieces intrinsic to family owned businesses; we learn more in a one hour session than we have in years on our own. – Michele Fritzler, Cleanway

The November breakfast event takes a deeper look at non-family managers and senior leaders. At what point should a family business consider bringing in outside managers, and how exactly is it done?

November 8, 2018
More Than Family: How and When to Hire Non-Family Leaders

Most family businesses that plan to transition ownership to the next generation of family also envision continued family management and leadership. What happens when there aren’t family members who have the interest to lead the business, or need more time to develop business and professional acumen before taking a leadership role? Brad Parrott of VergePointe LLC will break down how a family can assess their need for non-family management and offer practical advice on where to look for and how to hire the right people. More information and registration.

The Family Business 360 Program regularly proves to be worth the investment, always providing something to walk away with. Whatever the topic relevant to family business, the meetings are a catalyst that help move an issue from the neglected periphery to the forefront of my thinking. – Andy Tobin, Thermal Modification Technologies

The program concludes 2018 with an online webinar that takes a look at some scenarios that can cause leadership gaps in your family business.

December 12, 2018
Who Will Lead: Identifying Leadership Gaps in Your Family Business

How do you know if you have a leadership gap in your family business, or if the current ownership transition plan will create one? Jim Grew of The Grew Company will lay out several scenarios where leadership gaps occur, including owner retirement, partial sale of the business, and lack of generational development. Through real world examples Jim will share common remedies for each scenario and how they could be implemented in your business. More information and registration.

More breakfast events available in 2019

For up to date information including registration links for all 2018 and 2019 events, visit the Family Business 360 webpage at the Austin Family Business Program.

Total number of Century Farms and Ranches grows to 1,212

Each year the Oregon Century Farm and Ranch Program honors families who have continuously farmed or ranched portions of their original family acreage for more than 100 years. That distinction makes them some of the longest-lasting family businesses in the state.

This year, 12 new families will join 1,200 already recognized Century Farms and Ranches in Oregon. In addition, two families will be honored as Sesquicentennial Farms & Ranches; a designation awarded when a farm reaches 150 years of continuous family operation.

Families will be honored at a ceremony at the Oregon State Fair on Saturday, August 25 at 11:00 a.m. in the Picnic Grove Area. The public is welcome to attend this special event that celebrates Oregon’s agricultural heritage.

The Austin Family Business Program congratulates the Century and Sesquicentennial Farm and Ranch families being honored in 2018:

J.G. Kuenzi Farm, H.M.K., 1917-Lyle and Nelson Kuenzi, Kuenzi Brothers Farms, LLC

Watts Ranch, 1910- James C. Watts

Brown Farm, 1912-Chris E. Brown

Wilsonview Dairy Inc., 1918 Don, Desi, Derrick, & Kaycee Josi

Henry W. Jones Farm, 1918-Steve & Gretchen Jones Select Seed Promised LLC

Howard Ranch, 1884Richard & Dorothy Howard Allstott

Rockwell-Doherty, 1906-Richard Doherty Brand X Ranch LLC

 Tilla-Bay Farms, Inc., 1918Bart, Terry, & Kurt Mizee

DeLano Farms, 1916 Karen & Sharon DeLano; Renata Squier,

Sandoz Farm, 1880-Ted Sandoz

The Beitel Farm, 1915-John Beitel

Tideman Johnson Farm,1880-Steve Johnson

Mullen Farms, 1852- Gerald P. & Kathleen A.; James H. & Nadine L. Mullen (Sesquicentennial)

Robinson, Stillwell, Taggart Farm, 1844-John & Lois Taggart (Sesquicentennial)

Visit the Oregon Century Farm and Ranch Program online for more information.

Are you curious about what’s inside an application for the Excellence in Family Business Awards?

Application Overview

The Excellence in Family Business Award application can be a valuable tool for both your family and business. Completing an application will help highlight areas of family business in which you excel or where you may need to focus more attention.  It’s also a great way to spend time with other family members to talk about the future and legacy of the business.

Peek Inside the Application

Aside from contact information and a few questions about your particular business, the application focuses on three categories of family business excellence: family harmony, business renewal, and generational development.

Each category contains a set of agree/disagree questions and one short-answer essay question where you can provide a little more detail on your particular practices. Take a look at a sample of the questions from the business renewal section:

Excellence Award Application Excerpt

Essay Question:

Excellence Award Essay Excerpt

The questions allow the judges to understand your family business strengths, and after consulting other family members and reviewing your business processes, you will have a deeper understanding where your enterprise excels and where you need to focus for improvement.

Benefits of Applying

Each year we hear from Excellence Award honorees and applicants who tell us that the process of going through and completing the application was the most valuable part of the process. Many say it allowed them to look at their business from a new perspective, or it strengthened bonds between family members as they worked through the questions. See what past honorees have said about the benefits of applying for an award:

We were so caught up in the day to day that the award process gave us a chance to see quite an impressive journey.” – Scott Pillsbury, Rose City Labels, Portland

Applying for the award makes you pause and think about what is really important to sustain this family business.” – Alan Turanski, GloryBee, Eugene

Since the first time we applied, we have advanced in our communication. I think we do a lot of talking, but we now actually put a lot more into play.” – Jennifer Lee, Second Glance, Corvallis

The application was where the real benefit was…it was about what we learned about ourselves, and about our organization in the process.” – Lori Bouquet, Roe Motors, Grants Pass

We learned so much about ourselves and it helped us to figure out our direction as a family business. That was a huge benefit of going through the process.” – Andrew Martin, Willamette Valley Pie Co., Silverton

Are you ready to apply?

You can complete an application online or contact Melissa Elmore at or 541-737-3326 to request a hard copy application in the mail. For more information visit the Excellence in Family Business Awards webpage.

Starting a board of directors is frequently cited by family business owners as something they know they “should do.” In fact it’s a perennial top request for new family business workshop topics. With all of this reported interest, it’s surprising that only 48% of family businesses have actually instituted a functioning board.  Two important considerations about boards may help tip the balance: (1) A board can be customized to fit any size or structure of business and (2) the process of preparing for a board, even before the board is fully implemented, has benefits for an operating family business.

Benefits of Boards

A functioning board signals that a business is building for growth, diversification, expansion and innovation.  Why is a board such a powerful business accelerator?  A successful family board chairman described his top directors as experts “who can look you in the eye and tell you that your breath stinks.” Objective opinions can change the possible trajectories driving calculated shifts in product lines and skill development in employees. As a business owner your board becomes a team of specialists studying your business with the focused intention of making the most of the enterprise you have built.

Nonfamily directors are needed in addition to the hired business professionals that are often used as informal business advisors.  Accountants oversee financial issues and recommend tax strategies.  Attorneys help to mitigate risk and protect assets.  These professionals also desire long-term relationships with your business and may be less inclined toward risk or promoting change.  Industry data exchanges and study groups provide benchmarks to assess business performance and identify industry trends.  Peer forums provide personal development and self-reflection to develop transformative leaders.  Board members integrate all of this information at the enterprise level to provide new insights and perhaps, cautionary tales.

In addition to business development, a board strengthens family focus and discipline.  Next generation leaders often report to me that the family behaves better “when there are outsiders at our meetings.”  Time dedicated to preparing agendas and financial statements in advance of the meeting is required to support decision-making and analysis.  One executive told me “I do this because I respect the business and the legacy that my family has built.  I prepare our documents for the meetings and put on a suit and a tie.” This is an opportunity to clearly model responsibilities as stewards of the enterprise.

Advisory boards also facilitate connections to the business successors.  Setting objective expectations and using their experience to develop and mentor young leaders facilitates a transition that may seem many years away but will arrive quickly.  In fact junior board structures where young family members are tasked with managing the family’s community donations are being used to teach responsibility, due diligence and reinforce the family’s philanthropic values.


Preparation starts with long-term business planning and conversations with family owners and family employees.  Knowing where your business is headed long-term clarifies the expertise and resources that are needed to succeed.  Is the owner planning to retire and needs input on succession and transition planning?  Is the firm’s goal to move into international markets? Will there be a possible acquisition of a similar business in the future?  The payoff is a set of focused experts committed to achieving your business goals and bringing their expertise to bear on the problems encountered along the way.

Create a prospectus that documents the expertise and experience that is needed, the annual meeting schedule and the compensation to be provided. It will serve as a reference document for recruitment and screening of potential candidates. The expertise sought should align with the future business plans and complement the experiences of family board members.  The prospectus will be useful to business community contacts and hired advisors who will help recruit candidates.

A well-prepared prospectus will focus the search and attract higher caliber candidates.  Candidates should not accept the assignment until they have reviewed the documentation and been vetted by family board members. Close business associates or golfing partners who have long provided informal input could serve as trusted board directors provided they can meet the “bad breath” standard.

Customizing a Board for Your Business

A large board with a majority of independent directors having fiduciary responsibilities and formal voting processes is not a good fit for smaller businesses.  Advisors without these powers or responsibilities are a starting point. But this advisory board should be part of a formal governance structure that separates ownership decision-making from family issues.

The numbers of directors will vary with each ownership structure.  Family members sit on boards to connect business decisions to the family’s values and to shareholder interests.  Nonfamily members provide the extra set of eyes and areas of expertise that are of interest for the company.  First-time smaller advisory boards should select at least two nonfamily members.  Chairs of family businesses are highly sought as board members because they understand the value and culture of family ownership.

Compensation varies from nominal honoraria to prorated amounts based on the hourly rate of pay earned by the chief executive. The expectation of time invested for each meeting should drive the consideration of compensation.  Motivated business executives are often interested in the experience of helping to grow a company over the monetary reward.  Think of the compensation as an investment made to improve business performance.

Biggest obstacles to getting started

Establishing a board is not a short-term fix and requires critical planning for the largest gains.  Lack of time may be the reason that less than half of family businesses implement boards.  Another obstacle may be the reluctance to share financial data and accept questioning from experts outside of the operation.  CEOs that realize it’s better for a new idea to fail in the board room than in the marketplace are willing to have transparent discussions.

A podcast on Advisory Boards in Family Business is available on the Austin Family Business Program website and features an in-depth interview with Tom Kelly, CEO of Neil Kelly Inc. and Greg Waggoner, Chairman of Leupold & Stevens. Their viewpoints and experiences may provide additional insights.

The Austin Family Business Program defines family business excellence as strong family harmony, active development of next generation leaders and a sound business infrastructure that will support business growth after the departure of the current family owner.  Active boards, that include external directors, make it clear that your family is serious about advancing the business to a higher level of excellence.

Sherri Noxel Ph.D.
Director, Austin Family Business Program
A.E. Coleman Chair in Family Business
L.W. “Bill” Lane Professor in Family Business Management


PORTLAND, Ore. – Several Oregon family businesses will be honored at the Oregon State University College of Business’ 2017 Excellence in Family Business Awards ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland.

Zidell Marine Corporation, a 55-year old iconic Portland family business, will receive the Dean’s Award for Family Business Leadership, which is sponsored by the college’s Austin Family Business Program.

“The success of family businesses is critical to the Oregon economy,” said Mitzi Montoya, dean of OSU’s College of Business. “These awards recognize the hard work and drive of Oregon family businesses in the areas of entrepreneurship, community involvement and multigenerational planning, which are key areas for long-term success.”

Upwards of 80 percent of Oregon’s businesses are family-owned. The Austin Family Business Program, founded in 1985, provides inspiration, education, outreach and research to support family businesses.

“These families are intentional about involving all of the generations in the business and offer great examples of success,” said Sherri Noxel, director of the Austin Family Business Program.

The awards feature categories that reflect sound family business practices. Honorees are:

  • Family Harmony: Miles Fiberglass & Composites, Inc., Happy Valley. Finalists in the category included Myers Container, LLC, Portland; and Optimize Technologies, Oregon City.
  • Generational Development: NiceBadge, Grants Pass. Higher Taste of Portland and the Portland Pet Food Company were finalists in the category.
  • Business Renewal: Domaine Serene Winery, Dayton. Finalists included Chown Hardware Portland and Western Precision Products of Tualatin.
  • Student Award: Geoffrey Wildish, Eugene.

Brett Baker, president of Austin Industries LLC, will emcee the awards event, which begins with a reception at 4 p.m. and the program at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 for the reception alone; $75 for the reception with a buffet dinner; or $25 for children ages 3-10. The Sentinel Hotel is located at 614 S.W. 11th Ave., Portland.

To reserve a seat, register online at or contact Melissa Elmore at or 1-800-859-7609. The deadline to register is Oct. 26.

It’s time to get serious about succession planning

It’s never too early to start working on your succession plans if the future of your family business involves the next generation. The Fall 2017 schedule for Family Business 360 is loaded with great topics and top-notch presenters to help you move your plans forward. Topics include defining your succession strategy, avoiding estate planning mistakes, implementing advisory boards, and more.

Follow the links below for more information and registration for each event, or call 800-859-7609. Registrations are $40, with a 25% discount available for three or more. Events are limited to family business owners, family members, and key personnel.

Visit the Family Business 360 web page for complete details. Spring 2018 events will be added soon.

Fall 2017 Breakfast Events

Tigard, October 12, 2017
Don Bielen and Paris Powell – Perkins & Co
How to Build a Well Defined Succession Strategy

Portland, November 16, 2017
Jackson Lewis – Tonkon Torp LLP
Don’t Be “Wise Too Late” – An Estate Planning Guide to Business Transitions

Tigard, December 7, 2017
Paul Menig – Tech-I-M
Don’t Grow It Alone – How Advisory Boards Drive Success

Portland, January 18, 2018
Justin Miller and Chad Wall – BNY Mellon Wealth Management
Secrets of Successful Families – Transferring Values with Wealth for a Lasting Legacy

Fall 2017 Webinar

Online Webinar, December 13, 2017
Steve Schein – L4S Consulting
Why Sustainability Strategy Matters to Family Companies