News Briefs

November 1999

Perspective Taking: an intergenerational challenge

As you and I know full well, generational perspectives can differ considerably on a multitude of issues. These differences are frequently most apparent when the generations are all involved in running a family business.

In the past week, one senior generation leader explained the difficulty of letting his son take the leadership of the company because the son viewed management in a much more participative and team-oriented way and had a different vision. The father confessed that over the years of his son's presidency, he has come to value and appreciate his son's approach and vision. He admitted that the company has successfully grown and diversified in ways it could not have done under his leadership. I am sure that if I had spoken with the son, he would tell a similar story of struggle and turmoil as he changed the leadership style and business direction under his dad's watchful and guiding eye. Learning how to meet the intergenerational challenge is not easy. It takes a great deal of study, patience, and expert guidance for all generations.

Paul Karofsky will be here on November 10 to lead a workshop exploring these issues of differing perspectives and the intergenerational challenge. Paul explains that, "While the younger generation seeks a clearer sense of the future, clarity of roles and responsibility, the freedom to make some mistakes, and more time with family and friends, senior generation members are looking for security, predictability, and the freedom to do what they want when they want to do it." Paul reports that these differing perspectives, when known and managed, can strengthen not only the family relationships, but the business relationships as well.

In his highly interactive workshop, Paul will help participants articulate the differing perspectives of each generation and the underlying issues they represent. Through individual and group discussion, Forum members will gain a deeper understanding and some concrete take-home strategies that can help move their family business to a higher level.

Using A Board Effectively to Improve Performance

On October 20, over 60 family business owners, managers and professionals gathered at the Pioneer Inn, Oshkosh, to consider the value of boards for their businesses. The presentation and discussion was highly interactive and provided everyone an opportunity to explore issues relevant to their needs.

Bill Bassett, president of Bassett Mechanical, led the meeting with an explanation of the role of his boards, how and why he selects individuals as outside directors, and the value of the outside perspective and oversight. Stan Baehman, one of Bill's outside directors, discussed his role and the value he perceived the outside director can and should add to a board. Kevin Eismann, an attorney with McCarty, Curry, Wydeven, Peeters & Haak, addressed the legal requirements of boards and their directors.

  Following a lively Q&A session with the three presenters, participants moved into small groups to discuss their board experiences, including
the use of outside directors,
the role of their boards,
the frequency of meetings,
whether or not terms have been established for members,
criteria for selecting outside and family board members,
training provided to board members,
compensation and expenses paid, and
other issues relevant to each group.

A summary of the discussions will be mailed to each member and sponsor.

Member News

We like to share your company news with the Forum membership. Perhaps you recently moved into a new facility, received a prestigious certification, added a new family member to the business, or something else that you would like the membership to know about. If you have some news to share, please send it to Sue Schierstedt.

Forum Value

Recently, we asked each of our members to help us with strategic planning and program planning for the Forum by responding to a series of survey items. As part of this process, we learned some of the things that our members value about the Forum. Members said they value...
"interaction with other family business owners"
"the reinforcement gained from learning that family business owners share many of the same experiences"
"hearing that other family businesses have problems too"
the "quality of the programs"
the "ability to meet other 'like' minded people"
the "presentations and workshops that can be applied to our business"
the "roundtable discussions with non-family managers"
"creating a forum to expressly discuss these issues"
the "variety of speakers and topics"
"opening up links of opportunity within our businesses"
"ways to improve your organization"
"national speakers"
"responses to requests for information very timely"
"recommendation of [a consultant]"
"peer groups"

Members continue to report on how they use the information learned through the Forum. The following might be worth consideration by your family:
assign individuals to attend each program and report back to the family relevant information and potential actions, and
  put the current Forum topic on the family agenda for discussion.

We are pleased that our members value the Forum and are seriously considering and acting upon the information and discussions. Continue to let us know what you value and how we can improve our program and services to meet your needs.

Board Meeting Action

At the October 12 meeting of the Board, a decision was made to make the membership fee an annual fee due and payable on the anniversary of membership. This will be effective with all new members. The membership fee will no longer be prorated for the remainder of the fiscal year. The new member invoice will be for the 12 months from the date of membership.

As you invite new businesses to join the Forum, please be sure to communicate this information correctly. Thank you.

Membership Drive

Our Each One Bring One drive continues.

Members tell us that networking, learning from other businesses, peer group meetings, a variety of programs and speakers are valuable to their business success and families. Please tell prospective member businesses these things.

Owners who want to learn ways to keep and enhance their family business success become great Forum members.

The more members, the better the networking, and the greater the learning for everyone. If you know a family business owner that would benefit from participation in the Forum, call Sue Schierstedt with the contact information.


A great way to tell other family business owners about the Forum is through endorsement letters and attributed quotations provided by our members.

Please take time to do one or both of the following:

  complete, sign, and return the enclosed quotation form for our use in marketing to prospective members, and/or

  write a letter of endorsement expounding the benefits of membership in the Wisconsin Family Business Forum from a member's perspective. These would be produced on your letterheads and sent by the Forum in your envelopes to prospective members.

Marketplace Magazine

Al Wells, publisher of Marketplace, was one of our guests at the September 14 program, Responsibilities of Ownership: family, business and community. Al was very appreciative of this opportunity to experience the value of the Forum for family business owners.

As a thank you to the Forum for allowing him to learn about us and to participate in the program, he gave us a 1/4 page ad in the November issue of Marketplace Magazine.

Look for the Forum ad that features the Meyer family, Meyer Services, Inc. talking about the value of Forum membership for their family.

We thank the Meyer family and Al Wells for this excellent advertisement about the Forum. Thanks!

In You Can't Fire Me, I'm Your Father!, Neil N. Koenig, Ph.D. addresses issues that matter most to families in business together -- issues both at home and at work. As one of the many real people he quotes in the book put it, "Running the business is the easy part. It's the family stuff that's the real challenge."

Koenig presents fifty-five best practices for meeting this challenge. He explores issues such as how to balance home life and work life, how to get along with family members at work, how to nurture the next generation to be successful, how to build the family's business on lasting organizational building blocks, how to handle sibling rivalry, how to honor one's parents, how to resolve grief after a family loss, how to effectively communicate, how to have productive family meetings, how to give helpful performance feedback, and how to employ a board of directors.

This is a common sense, practical look at the people issues in family business. It looks behind the scenes into the hearts and minds of real family business people.

Knight Kiplinger, Editor in Chief, Kiplinger Letter and Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine wrote:

A superb guide for family-run businesses of any size or age. Filled with common sense, compassion, and practical tips for solving big problems - and preventing them in the first place. A must-read for the founding generation and the younger ones, too.


Angie Gundert is the new program assistant for the Forum. Angie came to us from the Dodge Correctional Institution where she was the program assistant to the director of dental services. She is a student at Moraine Park Technical College in the Administrative Assistant program.

Angie joined us on October 5 and already has a program and a Board meeting under her belt. You may have noticed that your recent mailings and responses have been directed to Angie. She is beginning to handle phone calls and answer some of the questions. Several of you have already contacted her with greetings and comments.

Angie works from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and can be reached at 424-1541 and at Please help Angie get acquainted and feel welcome.

Program Calendar
Date/Time Topic/Event Presenter
Jan. 27
7-10 a.m.
Styles and Patterns
of Communication
Catherine Lindsay & Pat Nichols
Mar. 10-18 Creating & Preserving A Family Tradition (Cervinia Italy)*  
Apr. 11
7 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Which Comes First- the Family or the Business John L. Ward
May 8 A Family Heritage Paul Hoffman

*Fee for this workshop is in addition to the membership fee.

Reciprocity Program

Members are able to attend family business programs at Marquette University and UW-Madison, School of Business as part of the Wisconsin Family Business Forum membership. If you need an updated calendar of their programs or registration information, please contact Angie at 424-1541.

Proud sponsors of the Wisconsin Family Business Forum:

First National Bank - Fox Valley has a competitive advantage of developing strong, close customer relationships, especially in the niche of family owned businesses. Thanks to a dedicated staff, FNB has completed its 110th year of providing financial services to the people and businesses of the Fox Valley.

Grant Thornton LLP is an international accounting and management consulting firm with offices throughout the United States and in over 97 countries worldwide. Their mission is to be the leading global organization creating, enhancing, and preserving wealth for entrepreneurial companies and the people who own and run them. Grant Thornton accomplishes this by providing business, tax and financial services that deliver measurable value to their clients.

McCarty, Curry, Wydeven, Peeters & Haak has been serving the legal needs of large and small family businesses in northeast Wisconsin since 1949. The firm's services include all aspects of business and corporate law, real estate, complex estate planning, commercial and personal litigation, as well as general practice.

Retained Earnings Company/MassMutual-The Blue Chip Company has 144 years of service and recognized excellence in providing family owned businesses with the product tools that allow for the confident construction of estate and business succession plans. The firm brings experience, education, empathy and motivation to clients' quest for financial growth and security. Acknowledged as the premier provider of pension and investment products, life and health insurance.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Business Administration, Oshkosh provides undergraduate and graduate education with a wide array of outreach services to benefit economic development in northeast Wisconsin. The faculty and staff of the College of Business Administration are professionals dedicated to being quality teachers, accessible to students; furthering knowledge through research; and serving as valuable resources to the University and community. A key strength of the college is providing professional expertise through personal contact among students, faculty, and members of the community.

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Vol. 3 No. 4 New Briefs (c) 2000
Wisconsin Family Business Forum
Editor: Susan Schierstedt (920) 424-2257
800 Algoma Blvd., Oshkosh, WI 54901