Family Business Forum Radio Show on WJR

The Family Business Forum is broadcast on WJR (760 AM) at 7:00 p.m. on the last Wednesday of every month. 

Family Business Forum

September 26, 2018 -- Special Focus on Family Business Succession and Exit Planning

Introduction (1:21)


Segment 1:  Joe Fahey is National Director of Business Succession Planning at PNC Bank. Regarding selling a family business to an outside buyer:  this decision is fraught with a lot of emotion. It will likely be the largest financial transaction of one’s life. One should start early, and consider all of the options. You need to consider the numbers:  the balance sheet, cash flow, asset protection, etc. Make sure the exit plan is a good fit for the owner. There is a difference between cash and cash flow. Sometimes, after running the numbers, the owner decides to keep the business, grow it, and then get a higher value later, because the interest on the cash is less than the current cash flow. (7:16)



Segment 2:   Julie Williams is a Managing Director and Nation Lead for ESOP Solutions at PNC Bank.  An ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) is a qualified stock ownership plan. It is used as a way for family business owners to sell stock to employees. An ESOP could be a good fit if the goals of the family are to:  maintain ownership in the family; maintain support for employees, the legacy, and the culture; and when price is important but not the most important issue. The owner does not need to lose control the business. The employees do not pay for the shares. They receive an allocation of shares annually. (Where does the money come from to buy the shares?) ESOPs are similar to a leveraged recapitalization. The company borrows money using the business as collateral, and lends to the ESOP, and the ESOP purchases the shares. (Tax benefits?) The seller and the company receive tax benefits. Contributions to an ESOP are tax-deductible. Companies which are 100% ESOP owned are not subject to federal and state income taxes. Thus they have an enhanced cash flow, and can be more competitive, and better able to repay the debt. The selling shareholder can defer capital gains taxes. (What size company is a good fit for an ESOP?) There are annual maintenance costs of an ESOP, so it usually requires a company with at least $10 million in revenue. (10:10)


Segment 3:  Mindy Rosenthal is the National Managing Director and Head of the PNC Center for Financial Insight.  Regarding passing the business to one’s children:  are the children willing to join the business, and prepared to work in the business? The parents can gently expose children to the business, and show pride in the family business. It can be valuable when children work outside the family business. It is important to discuss the plan with the children. A pitfall for some family businesses is when compensation for the children is not at market rate, or if other employees don’t see the successor as qualified. The parents need to be careful to not raise the child too quickly in the business. If the next generation wants to be entrepreneurial, the business can create entrepreneurial opportunities such as new products, new geographies, or new client segments. Complexity can arise when some family members are active in the business and others are not active in the business. There should be open and honest discussion regarding succession, appropriate roles, and speed of succession. Succession within the family does not always work. (10:17)


Segment 4:  Sean Cook is an attorney with Warner Norcross and Judd.  When selling to a third-party, it is important to make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is especially important for the second generation where there could be many shareholders. Some families have a member of the family be “seller representative.“ A plan can include the goals, and what you want the business to be after the sale. Many families want the “right buyer“ to continue the legacy of the family business and treat employees correctly. Regarding an ESOP, there are tax benefits with the ESOP --  using tax savings to make the transaction work. The selling generation can diversify their financial picture by selling some or all shares. When selling to children, there is the risk of the older generation not getting money for their retirement. Everyone needs their own legal representation. (8:42)

August 29, 2018

Introduction (1:31)


Segment 1:  Interview with Irwin Danto and Ashley Danto Silverman -- third and fourth generation members of the Danto Furniture family business.  Charles (Irwin‘s father) is the best sales person, and the owner. Charles gained ownership when his father passed away, and Irwin will gain ownership when Charles passes away. Irwin worked elsewhere before joining the family business. In his twenties he chose to not enter the family business because he saw his grandfather and father in the business, and wondered if there was enough income potential for a third generation. He came to the family business when the store burned down -- to help his father. When Irwin entered the business he was almost 40 years old, and by that time his father showed more respect for him. His father gave him more leeway to take initiatives. It helps to work elsewhere before entering the family business. (7:12)


Segment 2:  Ashley started her career in the fashion industry, buying and planning. That helps with furniture buying. (What is it like being a woman in a male-dominated business and industry?) You need to persevere. -- keep speaking up and adding value. Ashley has been active with professional organizations for women. You have to be like a “broken record“ if you have a good idea. (How was Irwin different with Ashley when compared with how Charles treated Irwin?) Irwin: I thought through the challenges of Ashley coming into a family business with her father and grandfather in the business who have a lot of experience, and I have also come to respect Ashley‘s contributions. I let her try things, and maybe I’ll learn something. I have had to second-guess a lot of our traditional beliefs about this store and our customers. (How do you compete with online stores?) We are affected by e-commerce. Larger purchases like furniture require financing and they are more complex. We are doing more social media and digital marketing. Customers come to us through the cloud as well as through the front door. Irwin has won the Spirit of Detroit Award three times. Irwin and Charles helped board up houses during 2008 to 2009. (10:57)

Segment 3:  Interview with Lilly Epstein Stotland, president of Vesco Oil, regarding strategic planning and their recent acquisition of Acculube. (How does Vesco Oil go about strategic planning?) It is easy to get caught up in tactical rather than strategic activities. Strategic planning is a process. We have a physical strategic plan, which we continue to refine. We gather our leadership team on a regular basis and look at what is changing in our industry. We do a SWOT analysis. We look at how we want to change and shape our distribution network. What will be changing and how can we build on our strengths? We saw an opportunity to expand geographically and capitalize on our strengths. If you don’t complete a strategic plan and continue to refine it, you will be subject to your competitors' plans. Sometimes we formally work on short term and long term objectives which fit into a strategic planning document. We also do daily thinking about how we can move forward. (Implementation of strategic plan?) We have specific goals, with small steps along the way. Employees provide ideas for strategic thinking. We are talking regularly with employees about what is changing in our industry. All of our employees have wonderful ideas. We ask them “What are you seeing? What is changing? What are our competitors doing?" (How is your transition going as the new president?) I am learning that every day I can pass the ball to someone else and let them score. I try to slow down and listen carefully. I want others to succeed personally and professionally. We want to be a company where people want to work. (11:26)




Segment 4:  Recent reports indicate that Henry the Hatter is doing better than ever.  Last June the store was forced to close after losing their lease – having been in the same location for 65 years.  In December, they re-opened in Detroit's Eastern Market.  It was recently reported that sales are up 15 percent since the move to the Eastern Market. Paul Wasserman says "It's been a complete positive in revenue, foot traffic and any other way."


The Association for Corporate Growth recently held a panel discussion entitled “Not Your Father's Auto Dealership (Get Big or Get OUT!)”    Featured on the panel were: Jay Feldman, President and CEO of Feldman Automotive; David Fischer Jr., President and COO of  The Suburban Collection; and Jason Tamaroff, Co-Owner of the Jeffrey Automotive Group.  This panel noted that many auto dealer groups are selling their businesses to auto-retail giants or investment firms. The disruption of new technology such as electric, shared and autonomous vehicles have changed the game.  Family dealerships are not sure this is a challenge they want their children take on.  (5:54)

July 25, 2018

Introduction (1:20)


Segment 1:  Interview with Ben Maibach III, who served as the third-generation president of the Barton Malow Co., and Ben’s son Ryan Maibach, who became president, CEO and chairman seven years ago.  (Values?) A legacy of faith, which comes before business, and business is an opportunity to make an impact on people, and communities where we build. Our selection of projects is guided by our values. Pride in the buildings which we have built, and use. Not just the projects, but our customers have grown and contributed to the communities. We are a privately-held, employee-owned, family controlled business. Individuals in the family are welcome, but they need to have a passion, related degree, and skills for the position. Compromising on this does not help the company. This is different from the way that the first and second generation looked at this. Now that the business has grown, complexity requires this structure. (8:12)


Segment 2:  (Ben) I was put into my position in 1981 before I was prepared or qualified. That led me to expect future family members to be qualified. This received excellent support from the family. (What led Ryan to enter the family business?) I liked construction. I went with my father and grandfather to the sites. I had pride in what we have built. (How were you prepared to enter the family business?) I grew up around it. I have an engineering degree from Purdue. (Employee ownership?) We empower and delegate. We want them looking at decisions as owners, not as employees. And we want to share in the success of the company. (Reinvention of the family business). The construction industry can be disrupted. It is exciting and daunting to face this challenge. Ryan has transformed the company: revenue, number of employees, culture, getting people on board with the mission, employee satisfaction. (Family?) Ryan, Doug and Ben discuss other family members coming into the business: what issues we should look at, and be proactive. We do not discuss roles, responsibilities, etc. with spouses. They need to be loyal to their husband or wife, and it is a no-win situation. We are constantly learning because the bar is always rising. (10:34)


Segment 3:  “People“ comes first in our tagline. How we grow people: careers, lives, dreams. Each project creates opportunities for growth for employees. We get more satisfaction in developing people then we get in building the buildings. (Fifth generation?) Ryan has three children. We talk about the family business at the dinner table. We want to create the opportunity, but not the expectation. There are also nephews and nieces. We welcome those with a passion and credentials. (Passion?) Making something truly successful. Taking that extra step. Doing that extra requirement. A job can be successful or truly successful: it is taking those little extra steps which make something truly successful. (Community?) We have a foundation. We donate 5% of pretax profit for the community. We have employees on the foundation board. We also give in-kind donations. We have a community week where we encourage employees to contribute to the community. (Leading change?) Seven years ago, my transition was not planned. There were challenges in the company, and a sense of urgency. We asked “Why are we here?“ “What is our purpose?“ this translated into an actionable strategy. We had silos in the company, and then transformed to “We are one company.“ We are working collaboratively. Communicating. Engagement of people. Development of people. (9:48)

Segment 4:  Interview with Juanita Gonzalez-Franco, and her son, Alex Franco.  Juanita and Alex are the second and third generation of La Gloria Bakery located in Mexicantown in Southwest Detroit.  (Long hours with family?) This can be difficult. We try not to talk about business at home. (Alex decided to join the family business?) I didn’t really have a choice, I came as a child. I dream of continuing the family business legacy. We hope to modernize the business, with new counters and cabinets. (7:37)

June 27, 2018

Introduction (1:33)


Segment 1:  Robert (Bobby) Schostak has served as the Co-Chief Executive Officer of Schostak Brothers and Company for over 35 years. His son Jeffrey Schostak was recently named president of Schostak Development.


(What values have been most important you?) (Bobby). Our father instilled the values that family comes first, and that blood is thicker than water. We had four brothers born 5 1/2 years apart, so there were a lot of struggles between the boys growing up as children. (Jeffrey). Our values came to us from our grandfather, our father and uncles, and we have now put it to paper and formalized it. Our four core values are: people, integrity, excellence, and entrepreneurial. Our grandfather and great grandfather lived by these values. (How do you define entrepreneurial?) (Jeff). You have to be flexible and opportunistic. And you need to look for opportunities. (Bobby). It’s a matter of being thoughtful, creative, identifying opportunities, being nimble and reactive. It is what put us into the restaurant business, and other new investments for us as a family. It is impossible to separate the business and the family regarding values. (7:33)


Segment 2:  Jeff is the first to come into the family business with a “track” for development. (Bobby) We started our plans more than 15 years ago on how the next generation would enter the business if they wanted to enter the business. There were no expectations that they enter the business. It’s not automatic. They needed to complete their four year degree and continue to advance their education in their area of interest. We expect them to work at least five years in any industry other than in the family business. Jeff worked in Chicago for more than five years with another real estate company. My nephew Jake worked in two other positions in the restaurant business. After five years they each came in under the mentorship of an uncle, not under their father. (Who are your mentors?) (Jeff) after college, I worked for a real estate development firm for five years. They taught me a lot about business. I moved to the family business 7 1/2 years ago, spending time with my uncle. (How did the third generation bring up the discussion regarding the next generation?) (Bobby) We went to a consultant to help us understand what issues we needed to think about. Then we went to family business education events at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. We learned about a family council; a family constitution; generational planning; next generation entry into the business. Our goal is to perpetuate this wonderful gift of the family business; transfer it to the next generation; allow a large fifth generation to start to learn about it. We could have liquidated the business, but we want to perpetuate the family business. (Role in the Michigan Republican Party). (Bobby) there was a recession in Michigan. I helped raise funds for the Rick Snyder's campaign. Governor Snyder  asked me to be Chairman of the Party. I spent seven years working in Lansing, away from the family business. We transfered away my day-to-day responsibilities in the business. I still had ownership and Board responsibilities. I could have returned to the family business, but I wanted to remain in politics, so I started a political consulting firm. (10:33)


Segment 3:  (Bobby) I worked with Peter Karmanos. We have a venture-capital firm which develops and invests in technologyprimarily in Michigan. (When Bobby moved away from the family business, did Jeff feel that his development plan was adequate?) (Jeff) I joined the family business in 2010 as my father was getting involved in politics. I worked with my uncle to build my career. (Imagine your family business 10 years from now) (Bobby) We will have a family business with a third or fourth member from the fourth generation. We will always be in real estate. The restaurant business ebbs and flows as we acquire and sell brands. We will see the results of our planning for the next generation. 15 years of planning and 10 years of implementing. We have a Board of Advisors. We are expanding that, and expanding their responsibilities. We will transition from three brothers in the business to cousins in business together. (Jeff) I’m 35 years old. We want to continue to grow the business, and the legacy; being entrepreneurs. Planning for the fifth generation. My wife and I just had our first child. (Community involvement) (Bobby) It is important to contribute not just financially, but also to get personally involved. (8:46)

Segment 4:  Sean Cook is an attorney with the law firm Warner, Norcross and Judd.


(How will the recent tax reform legislation affect family businesses?) Succession planning. The estate tax amount has increased, so it is easier to transfer ownership of the family business. However, the law is not permanent, and you may outgrow the limits of the estate tax exemption, so it is important to take action now because succession planning for ownership can take many years. (What about owners who are afraid of losing control of the business during succession planning?) Control is a voting issue, and that is different from ownership. You can use nonvoting stock to transfer value without losing control. (How does the new tax bill affect S-corps, C-corps, and partnerships?) There can be long-term implications when changing the ownership structure. (Other opportunities in the tax act?) 100% of capital expenditures can be deducted. (9:22)

May 30, 2018

Introduction (1:39)


Segment 1:  Joe Vicari is the CEO of the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group.  The restaurant group includes Andiamo, Joe Muer Seafood, 2941 Street Food, Brownies on the Lake, and The Country Inn Restaurant.


How Joe Vicari got involved with Joe Muer Seafood. Operating partners are promoted from managers. “Owners see things managers do not see.“ I was a passive owner in a Ram's Horn restaurant in 1982. I opened the first Andiamo in 1990. (7:44)


Segment 2: Joe’s wife, son, son-in-law, and brother are in the business. Family members see more than others, and work differently than others. (How have you been able to work with your spouse?) We don’t work together that much in the business, so we are not together every minute. We make a conscious effort to not talk about work all the time at home. I learned from my father “Treat people the way you would like to be treated.“ We have many employees with long seniority in our business. (How do you give feedback to your son?) His mother gives him most feedback. (What is the future of the family business?) We get many opportunities to sell the business. I still have a passion for. We don’t have specific long-term goals. (Do you have a Board?) I am the board. (10:08)


Segment 3:  

Joe‘s newest venture is 2941 Mediterranean Street Food. It is a quick casual chain of restaurants. Joe is most proud of his reputation. “I tell employees I’m always accessible. All of them have my cell phone number. My door is open. I want to know what’s going on.

News About Local Family Businesses

Planterra is North America’s leading provider of interior landscapes and plant rental services. They were recently featured in a Forbes Magazine blog about their family business. Shane Pliska is president of Planterra. Shane and his brother Zachary did not plan to enter into the family business. It has taken a lot of work to work together effectively as brothers, and only just recently did they “figure it out.“ (What were the challenges?) This is our 45th year in business. We got through the Great Recession, so we had to change our business and change leadership. (How do the brother works work together in business?) Technically my brother reports to me. As president, I have The final say. It took a while to develop so our parents don’t have to be the referee. (Do you have a Board?) Our family members are the board. (9:16)

Segment 4:  Al Zehnder is Chairman and CEO of Zehnder's of Frankenmuth. He was recently named the 2018 Michigan Small Business Person of the Year. The SBA put in the last piece of financing for Splash Village, which helped us to be a four-season destination. There are four next gens in the family business. We talk a lot about succession planning. We added the next gens to the Board of Directors. They all worked here during high school and college, and started at the bottom. It is important that each of them have worked elsewhere before joining the family business. Other people see you differently. You get a sense of who you are, your strengths and weaknesses. You see what a family business can offer compared to working elsewhere. (8:59)



April 25, 2018

Introduction (1:24)


Segment 1:  Interview with Mitzi Perdue.  Mitzi is the widow of the late Frank Perdue, and the daughter of the co-founder of the Sheraton Hotel Chain. Her biography, Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Business & Life Lessons from Frank Perdue, reached #5 in the Amazon rankings for Business Biographies. She is also the author of several books on family business, including How to Make Your Family Business Last, How to Keep Your Family Connected, and How to Communicate Values to Children so They Will Love It.  For more information, go to


Mitzi Perdue will be the keynote speaker at a forum hosted by PNC Wealth Management on May 9, 2018 entitled "Optimize Your Family Business and the Business of Your Family."


(What inspired you to write these books about family business?) My experience with well-known family businesses who had terrible relationships with family members. The pain of those family relationships poison every hour of every day. My family members are my best friends. Why do some families thrive and some blowup? I wrote these books to indicate what works and what leads to blowups. You have to learn that you cannot always be right. Compromise is key. We reward and admire looking at the other side. By the time you let a family quarrel lead to attorneys, it’s almost at the point of no return. So you try to solve problems before the lawyers are involved. (7:58)


Segment 2:  How can you teach values to children? A family newsletter is a good tool. Every newsletter has something to make the family better. You can focus on values like frugality, resilience, and honesty -- and have these values embedded into stories. You can have activities with costumes, cooking, etc. (How do you deal with conflict?) As children, we were taught to talk about concerns rather than keep them inside. We were taught to not make our quarrels  public. We had annual family reunions. We help each other when there are health issues.. (9:21)


Segment 3:  The Henderson family has been intact for over 120 years. How do families remain together after a difficult decision? In 1967, after my father‘s death, we as a family had to decide whether or not to sell the family business. Half of the family felt that we should never sell the family business, and half of the family was certain that it made sense to sell. This was an argument which had to do with our very identity, so there were strong emotions. We were taught to “never wash your dirty linen in public.“ The decision was to sell the family business. We never went to the public or to attorneys. We did not have a public quarrel. Because of this, we could close ranks and stay together as a family. (How do you maintain focus and purpose as a family after the liquidity event?) You need to teach children the values of hard work and frugality, and being productive citizens who contribute. “Put back into the bucket.“ My father was a role model of philanthropy. You build family “glue“ with philanthropy. (9:59)

News About Local Family Businesses

Segment 4:  Livonia-based real estate company Schostak Bros. & Co. has formed a new business unit, Schostak Development, and named Jeffrey Schostak its president.  Jeffrey Schostak, 34 years old, is the son of COO Bobby Schostak and grandson of mall development pioneer Jerome Schostak. In 2016, Jeffrey Schostak was a Crain's 40 Under 40 honoree.





Jeff Smith, Chairman and CEO of All Star Services, was recently announced as the National Automatic Merchandising Association’s Operator of the Year as part of the association’s 2018 Industry Awards in Las Vegas.  For 31 years, Jeff has led All Star Services, a family-owned vending, coffee service and micro market operation serving Southeast Michigan. Under his leadership, All Star has made seven acquisitions and grown to operate 2,500 vending machines and 60 micro markets across Michigan.


Jeff is the second generation owner of this family business.  He works with his wife Suzanne, his children Duncan, Devin and Caroline, and Caroline’s husband Jon Holden.

March 28, 2018

Introduction (1:16)


Segment 1:  Interview with Doug Mans, who is the President of Mans Lumber, Anna Mans Motschall, Head of Administration, and Pete Mans, who heads up Operations. How does a family business last for over 100 years? We were taught by our fathers and uncles to treat others the way we wanted to be treated. We saw that this was the way that they behaved. We have been very conservative in our spending and saving. We have been very involved with and close to the needs of our employees and customers.


In our family business you have to decide if you want to work for the family business by the age of 25 years old. We have clearly defined roles in the business. Not all family members are created equal. Sometimes a family business has to make difficult decisions -- not every family member is an executive. We have five owners who have diverse interests and capabilities: finance, sales, and operations. All five family members are hard workers. We are looking forward to the fifth generation coming into the business. We say “It’s your right to work here, it’s not your privilege.“ (8:20)


Segment 2:  During the 2008 - 2009 economic collapse, our annual revenue went from $80MM to $20MM. We went from 210 employees to 60 employees. We survived because we had been conservative financially. We had deep relationships with employees and customers. We had built customer loyalty over many generations. We reached out to a competitor, to see if there was an opportunity to work together. We decided to join forces.

Home Depot bought property right next-door to our Canton store. We pushed ourselves: "We have to change who we are.” We moved from being a hardware store and lumberyard to being in a show room for builders and homeowners. We meet weekly or by weekly as an ownership team, and go off-site quarterly.  We have a 3 year, 5 year, and 10 year plan.  This helps us to work ON the business and not just IN the business.  This has been a game-changer for us.  All of us participate in industry roundtables where we meet with and learn from peers. (11:29)


Segment 3:  The Family Business Forum "Clashing Cousins" Game Show. (8:30)


Segment 4:  Doug mentioned off the air that during the financial crisis he reached out to work with his banker, PNC, and had “Having a beer with your banker“ meetings. Bankers want to help businesses to be successful. Doug used his banker as a resource rather than fearing his banker. He also reached out to his competitor during the financial crisis. This family business matches family members to positions which best fit their strengths. The core values of this family business: how they treat customers; being fiscally responsible; building relationships with employees and customers. (8:10)



February 28, 2018

Introduction (1:31)


Segment 1: Interview with Stanford Blanck and Adam Blanck of Wallside Windows. (What is your secret sauce to last into the third generation?) Do whatever you can to take care of customers and employees, and profits will follow. There’s nothing more important to a business than its reputation. This is especially true in the home-improvement industry. We go above and beyond to make sure the customer is satisfied. (How do you make sure that employees hold to these values?) Repetition. Being hands-on. Stanford speaks to all installers and all sales representatives every day so we know about problems. From the top down, there’s a care for the employees We develop a close knit Wallside family, with communication and touch points between leadership and our installation teams, our sales teams, our service teams -- and if there’s an issue, we are there to problem solve and support solutions. These are very informal meetings, but we know what is going on, and if there is an issue we make sure that it is taken care of quickly. We treat our employees as partners. We are willing to work with them to solve problems. We are all in this together. We treat them as a family. We have communication touch points on Facebook that allow everyone to see the end result of their work. Installers post photos of installed windows, so everyone can see the results and the satisfied customers. Our Facebook group includes more than just company activities -- it also includes family events. We want to ensure that everyone feels connected to the company, and they understand we are all in this together, we are all a team. You can have the best window in the world, but if it is not installed properly, it is the worst window. Things inevitably go wrong, and we have a great service team. (10:33)


Segment 2: (Adam's decision to enter the business). It was great to have experience before entering the family business. The advantages of entering a family business are (1) being part of a legacy bigger than myself; (2) this is a great opportunity to see what we can do to keep these values into the next generation; (3) working with my father and uncle every day. The disadvantages are (1) being with family all the time -- you need your own time; (2) how do you make change in a business that is 74 years old? It takes patience to lead change. I’m not the only one leading change. We involve everyone, who often know Wallside better than I do. I ask “ What are your challenges?” We solve the problems they see every day, to make their lives better along with the company. Adam is a manager for employees who have been at the company since before he was born. Adam has introduced technology into Sales. They have taken it well. You have to sell them on it, and approach it mildly. There are no family members other than Adam in the business. This makes transition a lot easier, but also puts a lot more pressure on Adam to continue the legacy. (10:33)


Segment 3:  Laurie Bramson and Michael Ciranna of the Contract Source Group join Stanford and Adam Blanck to play the "Family Business Generation Joust" Game Show.  (The Contract Source Group is a customer-driven representative of contract furniture manufacturers for commercial, healthcare, hospitality and office markets.)  (7:15)


Segment 4:  Lessons learned from the show:  Focus on values -- Focus on customers and employees, and the money will follow. Build a great place to work. Communication touch points with employees. Listening to employees: "What can we do to make the company better?" A Facebook group where employees interact with each other -- and can post photos of employee parties and personal photos. (7:50)


January 31, 2018 - Recorded at the 2018 North American International Auto Show

Introduction (1:07)


Segment 1:  Interview with Mark O'Brien (3rd generation) and his son Sean O'Brien (4th generation) from Roy O'Brien Ford. Most dealerships are passed to the next generation because of the huge investment required to break into the business. In dealerships, members of the next generation are sent to NADA classes; they need to be of good character; and active in the community. Now Ford Motor Company has more requirements in order to pass the business to the next generation. Sean went to law school and practiced law for four years. Then his father and uncle asked him if he was interested in entering the dealership. Sean had a concern that other employees would feel that he was gifted the position. After several positions in the dealership, Sean is now the Used Car Manager. The role of technology inside the car; Uber and Lyft; hands-free driving etc. are all things which dealers will have to adapt to. (9:23)


Segment 2:  Mark realizes that it is the next generation that will take the leadership with respect to technology and connectivity. Mark’s younger brother Roy Patrick O’Brien is the General Manager. They have a full-time social media person. They would not hire someone who they would not want to invite for Thanksgiving. There is one driver seat in the business, and Roy Patrick O’Brien has that seat. There cannot be two drivers. At work, the family members are coworkers, not family. They leave family matters at home, and treat it like a business. Sean started at 12 years old in maintenance a new car prep, and worked every summer. Sean learned from his father that you have to earn the respect of employees and not demand it. Roy O'Brien is closed on the weekend.  They can attract high caliber employees by giving a two day weekend.  They are creating a family environment. (10:01)

Segment 3:  Interview with Bill Golling (2nd generation), President of the Golling Automotive Group, and his son Michael Golling (3rd generation).  Bill is also Vice Chair of the 2018 North American International Auto Show. Mike has to earn the respect of the employees, especially as the dealer's son. You have to work the hardest and do the best job. As a teenager, Mike wanted to enter the business. He worked at the dealership during his college years. Bill learned from his father that he had to earn the respect of employees through hard work. Bill makes sure that his sons report to a manager, and not to their father. The sons also will not report to each other. Bill told the managers that he would back their discipline of his sons. Mark and his brother Matthew meet every week for a “brothers lunch". They talk about business and family. The brothers teach their father about new technology which can be used in the store. (9:49)


Segment 4:  The "Family Business Generation Joust" Game Show. (7:32)

December 27, 2017

Introduction (1:14)


Segment 1: Interveiw with Les Gold and Seth Gold -- co-owners of American Jewelry and Loan, and stars of the reality TV show "Hardcore Pawn."  Dealing with fear. The drive is in your heart.  Les learned from his grandfather: family is number one; work hard; give the customer a fair deal. Seth wanted to come to the business and help, and to work with his father. Seth sees passion and drive in his father. Les: “How bad you want it?” (7:10)


Segment 2:  “How bad you want it?” In life, do you want to be successful? Do you have drive and desire? Seth started in the warehouse for a couple of years, learning the business from the ground up. He has brought new ideas, like selling on the Internet, and streamlining processes. Existing employees wonder why things need to change to new and innovative ways. The “buy-in“ for new ideas needs to start with Les. You need to build a case for change, and not everything will be adopted. At work Seth calls his father “Les” rather than “Dad.“ You need relationships built on trust, so it is not good to go behind each other‘s back. When they are at work, Les is the boss. Otherwise he’s dad. (9:57)


Segment 3:  25 million people don’t have access to traditional banking. Les and Seth host financial literacy courses. They partner with the Jalen Rose Academy charter school. They employee autistic adults. They have built a good team with attorneys, accountants, and wealth managers for their succession planning. Les does not plan to retire. He works seven days a week during the holidays. “How bad you want it?”  People see it in Les. It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s the drive that keeps you going. Seth has “Goldtone Podcast” at Les was a born salesman, and started selling as a kid, but he also learned how to sell from another employee who was great at sales. Sales is about building relationships and trust in order to get return business.  (11:05)

Segment 4:  Sean Cook is an attorney with Warner Norcross and Judd. He worked with a family business owned by two siblings. They did not do any serious succession planning. One sibling died suddenly, which left a lot of uncertainty, distrust and stress. It was devastating to the family, who no longer speak to each other. It was a huge distraction to the business. Business plans could not be implemented. Family businesses need to put in-place safety measures in case someone dies unexpectedly. They should have family meetings. It is comforting to the family when you plan ahead regarding succession of management and ownership. (8:19)

November 29, 2017

Introduction (1:25)


Segment 1:  Interview with Hal Dittrich and his son's Jason and Shawn of Dittrich Furs. Founded in 1893, Dittrich Furs is the oldest family-owned retail business in Detroit. The secret to their longevity? Serve the customer. “We do everything we can for the customer. There’s no charge for moving buttons or anything like that. We have our own credit system.” The way the customer shops has changed. Customers used to sit down, and sales people modelled the coats. Now customers want to move more quickly and look through the racks -- we are there to help them. Hal’s grandfather said “When a customer is in the store, treat them like they are in your living room.” We train employees on how to serve the customers. Members of the next generation of the family are not required to enter the family business. After graduating from college, they work elsewhere first. Jason entered the business because:  “It seemed comfortable, and I could steer my life and career.”  Shawn entered the family business: “because of the family business age and legacy.” (7:21)


Segment 2:  Jason and Shawn would come to the business as children before Christmas to go on deliveries, sweep up the shop, and run errands. Hal: “This was done by my father, and his father.”  Hal and his father almost left the family business, and separated from Hal’s grandfather and uncles, because promises were not being kept. Jason and Shawn know that there will be arguments between them. The three family members don’t make decisions without all three of them being involved. Hal’s advice: “Listen to each other in the family, and evaluate what the others are saying, not just what you are thinking.” (10:55)

"Behind the Scenes" tour of Dittrich Furs

Segment 3:  The Big Five Stories -- five of the latest stories you should know about from the world of family business. Story Number Five: The Marriott family focuses on employee well-being. Do family businesses care about employee well-being? Story Number Four: American Jewelry and Loan leads a workshops on financial literacy. Are family businesses more involved in the community? Story Number Three:  An article in Forbes magazine said that you should do employment planning before succession planning. Is this a best practice? Story Number Two:  Meijer is opening their third grocery store in Detroit. Are family businesses helping with the renaissance of Detroit? Store Number One:  Ford Motor Company has recently promoted five women into senior leadership positions. Are family businesses a good place for women’s careers? (8:53)


Segment 4:  Interview with Adam and Jacob Bishop, Co-Presidents and Co-CEOs of “Elite Mr. Alan’s.”  Adam and Jacob were recently name to the Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40 list of young business leaders. Brick-and-mortar retailers are healthy -- when you are speaking directly to the customer base. How to be Co-Presidents and Co-CEOs? We use our strengths to benefit each other. Adam and Jacob started out by opening a similar business in Florida, and later merged with their father’s business. The business has evolved from the price point store to high-end products. Their father mentored them regarding business metrics, key performance indicators, and how to get the newest and hottest brands. Their father taught them to never let a brand say “no“ to you. He also taught them to always keep the customer in mind, because the customer has a choice every day. (9:12)



October 25, 2017

Introduction  1:50


Segment 1:  Interview with John Rakolta Jr. – the CEO and Chairman of Walbridge, and two of his children:  Lauren Rakolta, president of DFM, and John Rakolta III – known as J.R.  J.R. has recently been promoted to executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Walbridge. Our family capital can be described using the acronym FISHS:  financial capital; intellectual capital; social capital; human capital; and spiritual capital.  We also use the model of a three-legged stool with the legs of:  spiritual, physical and intellectual.  For our first family meeting, rather than focusing on financial capital, we focused on FISHS and the three-legged stool – and what our family is going to stand for in the long-term.  J.R.:  “I always wanted to work with my father, even as a child. All of the children wanted to do something with him.”  (9:30)


Segment 2:  For 13 years we have been meeting yearly as a family for a 1.5 day retreat.  We address a different issue at each meeting.  We do this because we realize that our family is linked to our business.  John Jr. gives his children “runway to lead by our own behaviors.  He never made us lead like him.  We need to be authentic.”  The children’s mother has been the “glue” and makes sure that no one is left behind. She has been a great advocate for the children. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been a good way for us to learn how to deal with our differences.  (10:32) 


Segment 3:  “The business of the family is the family.” John Jr. was able to share 3,000 meals with his father over the course of working with his father for 30 years.  John Jr. wanted the same opportunity with his children.  John Jr. was reluctant to start family meetings talking about financial capital, for fear that his children could become “trust fund children.”   Starting the discussions with family mission and values left him comfortable with sharing everything with his children.  This process involved hurt feelings and disappointed expectations – but these bring the family together.  Walbridge has a core value of giving back to the community.  (5:45)

Segment 4:  Interview with Quinn Kiriluk, vice president of development for the family business Kirco Development – and recently named to the Crain’s Detroit list of “40 Under 40” young business leaders.  The value of a strong work ethic was instilled at a young age.  The children started to work in the business at 12 years old – changing filters; cleaning restrooms; painting handrails.  At the family cottage the family did a lot together as a family.  Quinn, his brothers and their father meet every six weeks for a casual breakfast to discuss both business and personal issues.  They meet bi-annually as a family for family strategic planning meetings: once per year with just the father and sons in the business; once per year also including the spouses so everyone is on the same page.  When there are differences of opinion between family members in the business, they are handled openly, collaboratively, and constructively – without raised voices.  (10:07)







September 27, 2017

Introduction (1:37)


Segment 1:  Interview with Frances Stroh, fifth-generation member of the Stroh Brewery Company and author of "Beer Money:  A Memoir of Privilege and Loss."  Growing up with a sense of entitlement.  Men forced to work in the family business and not allowed to follow their passion.  Leads to less than competent leaders.  Leads to emotional bankruptcy as well as financial bankruptcy.  Recommends sending younger generation out into the world to figure out who they are -- without financial support.  To build "grit" and a sense of identity.  (8:20)


Segment 2:  Continuation of interview with Frances Stroh.  There is less of an attitude of entitlement when the younger generation is expected to go out on their own.  The founder of the family business had values of hard work, persistence and frugality.  It is difficult to pass these values on to future generations.  (11:12)


Segment 3:  Continuation of interview with Frances Stroh.  She always saw wealth as an impediment to happiness.  Finding forgiveness.  Her father receiving the news that there will be no more dividend payments.  How Frances became an entrepreneur.  Her support for "826 Michigan" -- a non-profit supporting tutoring for underserved children. (9:29)

Segment 4:   Interview with Seth Gold, of American Jewelry and Loan and the TV show "Hardcore Pawn" -- and recipient of "Thirty in their Thirties" award from DBusiness Magazine.  On entering the family business, needed to demonstrate to other employees a level of competence.  Entered the business working in the warehouse -- not at a management level.  Brings some new and different ideas to the business, e.g., internet and social media presence; mobile pay.  Always looking for ways to expand the brand -- while keeping within one's area of expertise.   (7:06)



August 30, 2017

Introduction (1:30)


Segment 1:  Interview with "Next Gens" Anthony Ahee (Edmund T. Ahee Jewelers), Jennifer Jackson (Hungry Howie's Pizza), and Duncan Smith (All Star Services).  What does being an entrepreneur mean? Getting outside the box. It requires an innate ability, and an ability to be coached and developed. It is being a self-starter. It means focusing on profits, but especially in a family business it means focusing on the long term. Are you a "franchisee" or an entrepreneur? There needs to be a good balance of family and business, and an ability to leave work at work. Family businesses have passionate people at all levels, including a passion for customer service. The next gens are bringing new ideas. You need both generations to listen to each other. (9:22)


Segment 2:  Who do you have to win over? To whom do you have to demonstrate that you are a competent leader? You need an ability to be mentored and to mentor others. You need to win over managers, and support them. There needs to be both formal and informal development of the next generation. You need to be able to receive constructive feedback from family members. (7:52)

Segment 3:  Interview with attorney Sean Cook with Warner, Norcross & Judd.  Transferring ownership to the next generation. You need the right people to receive the business. You need to focus on the business, not just on the family. It is important to manage taxes in the transfer of ownership. Seller financing includes a risk to the seller. The use of external advisers and consultants. Bank financing of the transfer often includes using the business as collateral. (8:58)


Segment 4:  When the leadership team includes non-family members, it brings diversity of thought. Customer first. The next generation can show leadership on the leadership team. The next generation can continue the values of the founder. It can take years to develop a leader. The next generation needs to be patient and humble in their learning. (8:51)

July 26, 2017

Introduction (1:30)


Segment 1:  Interview with Steve Jackson (President and CEO); Jennifer Jackson (VP of Franchise Development); and Sarah Jackson (Controller) of Hungry Howie's Pizza, Inc.:  Balancing "hats" of father and CEO. Next generation making their own "mark" in the business.  The role of "Mom" as gatekeeper between family members.  "Mom" as "Chief Emotional Officer." (9:22)


Segment 2:  Continuation of interview with Hungry Howie's Pizza:  Separating business and family.  Next generation has to earn respect because others assume they are given their position due to their last name. Sibling competition.  Community involvement:  pick a charity which is important to everyone in the organization -- National Breast Cancer Foundation.  (9:27)  


Segment 3:  Co-hosts continue discussion regarding Hungry Howie's Pizza: How a "big personality" founder avoids overpowering other family members. "Behind every successful man there is a strong woman." Role of "Mom" as "glue" in the family business. 

Interview with Lilly Epstein Stotland -- newly appointed president of Vesco Oil.  Being humble and appreciative with new appointment.  Wish could share success with grandfather. Majority woman-owned business. Father/president incredibly gracious and generous regarding transition.  (8:35)


Segment 4:  Question and Answer Segment:  

Q:  How can the second generation purchase the family business from the first generation?

A:  Gifting. Valuation issues.  Selling at a discount. PNC does shareholder loans for successors.  Gift shares and purchase more shares with dividends. Importance of a written plan. Use expert consultants.

Q:  My son has a sense of entitlement.

A:  Next gens may feel that they are already working hard. Report to non-family manager. Work outside of the family business. Have to earn the right to leadership. Clear performance improvement plan. (8:51)

June 28, 2017

Introduction (1:31)


Segment 1:  Interview with Bill Parlberg (President and CEO); Martha Zehnder Shelton (CFO); and Susan Zehnder (VP of Human Resources) of Zehnder's of Frankenmuth:  What is the magic?  Every guest is celebrating something -- it is not just another dinner. Balance between maintaining tradition and staying relevant to new generations. Customer service philosophy taught to all employees by the CEO:  "Every guest leaves satisfied." Being both a mother/aunt and a boss.  The business is bigger than the family. Family members must all do their fair share.  Family members need proper qualifications and ability to be given a job. Managers are a mix of family and non-family. Senior management team must all have at least a bachelor's degree. The management team mentors the next generation of leaders -- both family and non-family. (10:20)


Segment 2:  Continuation of interview with Zehnder's:  Balancing tradition and new ideas -- in addition to the restaurant, have added a cafeteria, Splash Village Water Park and hotel, a marketplace, and The Fortress golf course. Family members are assigned roles based on strengths.  Resolve conflict and differences of opinion based on open communication and looking at others' perspectives. All have same vision and goals for the business. Bill (CEO) does annual performance reviews for next generation family members and senior managers.  Ownership is limited to family members.  Voting shares are limited to family members who are managers.  (11:08)  


Segment 3:  Co-hosts continue discussion regarding Zehnder's: Teaching the customer service philosophy through training and role modeling. When a family member is falling short. Next generation family members reporting to non-family members. Getting help from consultants for family business conflict. (7:09)


Segment 4:  Question and Answer Segment:  

Q:  How long does successon planning take?  

A:  Need to differentiate between planning for succession of ownership (shares) and planning for succession of leadership and management.  Developing the next generation for leadership and management takes years.  It also takes time for the senior generation to get comfortable with the next generation as leaders, and confortable with the transition. Requires a systematic development plan with consistent evaluation and feedback. Requires humility on the part of the senior leader.

Q:  My father is constantly shooting down my ideas.

A:  Think through a question/idea before you share it.  Present ideas as part of a group.


May 31, 2017

Introduction (1:32)


Segment 1:  Interview with Steve Appledorn, Karen Collingsworth-Crusse, Christie Evey, and Nazneen Syed of Hawthorn Family Office:  What does a family office provide for high net worth clients?  How does a wealth strategist serve high net worth families?  What does it mean to be a fiduciary advisor to a high net worth family?  (10:18)


Segment 2:  Continuation of interview with Hawthorn Family Office:  Designing investment solutions for ultra-high net worth clients.  Working as a team with other professional service providers.  The concerns of ultra-high net worth families. Decisions based on values of the family.  Bringing professional expertise and objectivity.  (10:07)

Segment 3:  Co-hosts continue discussion on the multi-family office:  A coordinated team approach.  Typical clients.  Philanthropy and family foundations. (7:25)


Segment 4:  Interview with Sean Cook, attorney with Warner, Norcross and Judd:  Reasons to create a buy-sell agreement.  What can happen if a buy-sell agreement is not in-place?  When does a business create or revise their buy-sell agreement?  Life insurance to fund the buy-sell agreement. (7:50) 

April 26, 2017

Introduction (1:32)


Segment 1:  Interview with Marjory Epstein and Lilly Epstein Stotland of the Vesco Oil Corporation family business:  "We don't lead Vesco Oil -- leadership comes from the family, the management team, and from all employees"; managing conflict; taking the time to listen, discuss and understand; senior generation slowly reducing their role; which "hat" are you wearing (e.g., mother or executive); family meetings (7:30)


Segment 2:  Continuation of interview with Marjory Epstein and Lilly Epstein Stotland:  Veso Oil's 70th anniversary; "talking" to family business predecessors; "We love everyone we work with"; utilize strengths of every employee; company values.  Further thoughts from the hosts: living by values; respect; family meetings; "hats" (10:02)


Segment 3:  Interview with Britton Steele, CEO of Provision Insurance Group:  business insurance versus personal insurance; should review person insurance every year; mistaken assumptions regarding coverage, e.g., liability; texting and driving; exploring client's needs; liabilities with boating (9:20)


Segment 4: Businesses need to protect themselves from personal liability as well as business liability; using entity structure and trusts for asset protection; Hawthorn Family Office looks beyond investments to the whole picture of protecting assets; annual review of personal insurance; family business values; "hats", Conversational IQ dashboard; valuing all employees (9:21)

March 29, 2017

Introduction (1:29)


Segment 1 Interview with Peter Ahee and Anthony Ahee of the Edmund T. Ahee Jewelers family business:  customer experience; exceeding expectations; learning to work in the family business (6:36)


Segment 2:  Continuation of interview with Peter and Anthony Ahee:  deciding to enter the family business; handling differences of opinion; developing the next generation; use of professional service advisors.  Further thoughts from the hosts:  family meetings; values of the family in the business; role of philanthropy in a family business (8:57)

Segment 3:   Interview with Sean H. Cook, an attorney with Warner Norcross & Judd LLP:  the attorney's role in family business transition; common scenarios and what gets in the way of transition; family meetings facilitated by the attorney; the attorney working with other professional service providers; deciding who should be involved in the family business and who should lead the family business (10:19)


Segment 4:  Regularly scheduled family meetings; effective family communication; starting with family values; special value of the family office; buy/sell agreements; putting it in writing -- and why families delay difficult decisions; problems can be portals (10:24)


February 22, 2017

Karen Collingsworth-Crusse, Jeff Smith and Donald Levitt provide an overview of family business issues.


Segment 1:  Succession planning. (7:03)


Segment 2:  Transfer of wealth. (9:49)


Segment 3:  Team building. (9:21)


Segment 4:  Exit planning. (10:03)



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Learn from family businesses about their challenges and their successes.

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Hear from "Next Gens" -- the successors who are stepping up to leadership in their family business.

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The hosts of the Family Business Forum (Karen Collingsworth-Crusse, JD, Jeffrey F.L. Smith, and Donald Levitt, Ph.D.) are experts in family business.  Every show will also feature additional invited family business experts in the areas of law, accounting, finance, insurance, and banking.

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