Drawn by high-caliber expertise offered by trustworthy sources, more than 100 representatives of family businesses traveled to San Francisco to learn from national experts and one another.
Some of western America’s oldest and largest family businesses sent owners, managers and advisors to the first west coast Transitions Conference produced by the School of Business Administration’s Family Enterprise Center and by Family Business Magazine.
Other Transition conferences have been in Orlando and all have been successful. A third Orlando conference is planned for the spring, and backers are already talking about a second California conference – this time in the Los Angeles area.
“We are very excited to see Transitions grow into two annual events serving the unique information needs of multigenerational family enterprises,” said David Shaw, Family Business Magazine publishing director.
“Having the Transitions Conference on each coast allows us to put greater emphasis on the geographic and cultural uniqueness of the family enterprises in both areas,” said Greg McCann, director and founder of the Family Enterprise Center.
Family businesses as old as eight generations were among conferees sent by companies engaged in mining, ranching, fruit groves, entertainment, real estate, manufacturing and other operations. Annual income ranged into the billions, payroll ranged to many thousands of employees, but there were numerous smaller family businesses, too.
“It was one of the best private company knowledge exchanges I have had the pleasure of participating in during my 16-plus years in the industry,” said Amy O’Brien, a marketing and business development director for PwC.
“Finally, a conference for business owners, not just operators and/or managers,” said Katherine Hayes of HRK Inc., a fifth-generation family business member.
The president of Texas’s massive King Ranch attended, as did shareholders of Herschend Family Entertainment, the world’s largest family-owned theme park company. Owners of Spain’s third-largest dairy attended, as did owners of the fourth-largest winery in the United States.
Almost 80 percent of attendees rated the conference as “excellent.” Speakers were “world class.” Conference subjects were tailored to conferees’ needs and included succession planning, training the next generation and marrying into a family business.
“The Transitions West Conference is further validation of the national platform we have created for family enterprises in the U.S. and internationally to come together in a learning community and learn from peers, leading experts, and the next generation,” said McCann.
Each conference builds toward the next, said Peter Begalla, adjunct business professor and FEC program manager.
“We’ll continue to build on the success of the Transitions Conference in April in Orlando,” said Begalla. “We’re reaching out to Florida family companies with or without Stetson ties to attend.”
Stetson’s Family Enterprise Center was founded in 1998 and has helped re-define the field of family business. The nation’s first undergraduate major in the field was established here.
Family Business Magazine targets multigenerational family businesses in North America and is the only one of its kind. It’s a family business run for family businesses. The conference is a chance for the magazine to “come to life,” according to Shaw.
Corporate partners who were top sponsors of the conference included PwC, Bessemer Trust, GenSpring Family Offices and Bernstein Global Wealth Management.