Category Archives: News & Events

Dana Telford and Michael Fassler Named Principals

The Family Business Consulting Group is pleased to announce the addition of two of its seasoned experts to the top position of principal in 2016: Dana Telford and Michael Fassler.

“Both have fantastic family business acumen, academic and career pedigrees,” said Drew Mendoza, managing principal of the firm. “Their contributions to the field not only as advisors, but also speakers and writers, are superb. Most importantly, both have shown tremendous leadership in our company and great respect for our vision and values.  Every client I have spoken with has provided outstanding reviews of their work with the family and the business.”

Dana Telford
Dana Telford

Dana joined the firm in 2011 and has advised hundreds of business families from many business sectors in a variety of sizes on six continents and in more than 18 different countries. His former and current clients include leaders from Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest, a royal family and two of the largest privately held businesses in the world. Dana earned an MBA from Harvard Business School.

“Dana brings wonderful experience as a consultant and an excellent mind to the continuing development of The Family Business Consulting Group,” shared Craig Aronoff, co-founder, principal and chair of the board. “He represents the ‘next generation’ of ownership which will assure the continuity of our firm and the achievement of our commitment to remain an independent firm providing unconflicted service to our family business clients across generations.”

Michael Fassler
Michael Fassler

Mike has been serving family businesses since 1984, across industries and internationally. Since joining our team in 2013, most of his work is focused on family businesses owned by sibling teams and cousin teams with an emphasis on helping clients balance the tension of family and business as their families and businesses grow. He is a certified and active member of the Family Firm Institute and earned his BBA in Finance from the University of Notre Dame and graduate degree from Michigan State University

According to Craig, “Mike is an outstanding addition to our ownership team with decades of experience and a great understanding of practice of professional advisory services and building our capacity to better serve our clients. We look forward to having his voice in our decisions concerning the continuous growth and improvement of The Family Business Consulting Group.”

Established in 1994, The Family Business Consulting Group’s ownership group today includes Craig Aronoff, Drew Mendoza, Christopher Eckrich, Stephen McClure, Amy Schuman, David Lansky, Joe Schmieder, Greg Greenleaf, Dana Telford and Michael Fassler.

Our intention is similar to that of many of the family businesses we serve: to perpetuate The Family Business Consulting Group across generations by constantly identifying and attracting outstanding professionals and continuously facilitating their improvement while reinvesting in our organization, methods and intellectual capital.

Welcome to your new leadership roles, Dana and Mike!

Nicole Bettinger Joins The Family Business Consulting Group

bettinger_200x300The Family Business Consulting Group is pleased to announce the addition of Nicole Bettinger as its newest consultant specializing in communication, conflict resolution and training next-generation family business owners. Her experience includes facilitating family meetings, educating families and aligning ownership.

“Nicole is a wonderful example of what we seek in next generation family business specialists,” said Managing Principal Drew Mendoza. “She brings solid business and family communication instincts, broad experience, career commitment to the field and great care for the families she serves.”

Prior to joining the firm, she served as as the operations manager for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Family Business Center. Her work in programming helped the Center support family businesses through a variety of services including discussion forums, training programs and educational resources. Nicole also facilitated peer group meetings focused on the training of next generation family business leaders.

She has a personal passion and understanding of family business as her family owned a grocery store for 95 years before converting into a community operated co-operative.

Nicole’s education includes a BA in History and International Studies from UW-Madison and an MBA from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She is a recent graduate of the Family Firm Institute Certificate program in Family Business Advising and is pursuing the Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising.  Nicole also has completed coursework in group facilitation and mediation through DePaul University.

Justin Craig Joins The Family Business Consulting Group

Craig_200x300The Family Business Consulting Group welcomes Justin Craig, Ph.D. as a consultant to our team. His areas of advisory expertise include issue-selling by next-generation family members, business and family governance, and the use of strategy measurement and management tools, such as the Balanced Scorecard, in family firms.

He is also a Clinical Professor of Family Enterprises and Co-Director of the Center for Family Enterprises at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Justin’s research focuses on the strategy, function, management and performance of multi-generational family enterprises and those who lead and steward them. He is especially interested in the behavioral aspects of the family and, increasingly, the business family-influenced drivers of socio-economic impact. Before Kellogg, he held faculty positions at Northeastern University in Boston, Bond University in Australia (where he co-directed the globally renowned Australian Centre for Family Business) and Oregon State University.

Today he works closely with family business leaders and advisors, and has trained and presented to members of family firms from most business sectors (technology, consumer goods, manufacturing, retail and many others) and countries worldwide, including the United States, Columbia, Mexico, England, Ireland, Finland, South Africa, China, South Korea, Pakistan, India, Dubai, New Zealand and his home country Australia.

Justin completed undergraduate degrees in Business and Psychology (with Honors) at Griffith University, a Master’s degree in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Behavioral Science at Bond University.

Joshua Nacht Joins The Family Business Consulting Group

Joshua Nacht
Joshua Nacht

FBCG is pleased to welcome Joshua Nacht, Ph.D. as the newest consultant to our 25-member team. He brings a complementary mix of skills, attributes and experience to his new role.

“I was inspired to become a family-business consultant after working with John Ward as both a client and student,” says Joshua. “I have a diverse set of life experiences and skills that allow me to integrate various perspectives and capabilities to work with business-families. I have been looking at FBCG for years, and the opportunity to join this elite (but not elitist) group is a tremendous honor.”

Joshua works with families to help promote dialogue and idea advancement by integrating diverse perspectives. He utilizes a systems-based approach to work with the complexity and opportunity present in family businesses. Joshua facilitates effective group process, and works to leverage polarities as a way to maximize organizational functioning.

He has spoken at numerous family-enterprise conferences on a range of issues including having multiple roles, incorporating married-ins, and creating generational cohorts. Joshua is also a co-author of several articles pertaining to actionable family business concepts and an active collaborator to idea development in the field.

He serves on the Board of Directors of Bird Technologies as a married-in, third-generation family member. In addition, he is a second-generation owner of a real estate development and management company in Edwards, Colorado.

Joshua earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology in 2007 and worked for five years as a professional counselor with individuals, groups and families. In 2015, he earned a Ph.D. in Organizational Systems at Saybrook University with a focus on family-enterprise. Joshua’s dissertation research, “The Role of the Family Champion,” investigated leadership within the ownership group of business families.

Joshua and his wife Alison have two children, and are part of a thriving small-town community where they are founding members of a cooperative school. He enjoys cooking, nature excursions, and is an avid skier and cyclist in his native Colorado.

According to Joshua, “Being able to work with a world-class group of people is very exciting to me because I can learn and grow with the best.”

JoAnne Norton Named Cal State’s Interim Family Business Chair

JoAnne Norton
JoAnne Norton

Congratulations to FBCG consultant JoAnne Norton who was recently named interim Rick Muth Chair in Family Business for Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.

She will hold the position for the 2015-16 academic year while a national search is conducted to fill the permanent position.

“She brings tremendous knowledge about family business, wisdom with regards to family dynamics and communication, and passion for assisting family businesses to achieve their potential,” said Ed Hart, director of the Center for Family Business at Cal State Fullerton. “We honestly could not be more excited for what JoAnne brings to the center and to our members.”

Norton has been working with multigenerational family businesses for more than a decade in the areas of family governance, communication and leadership training. A former vice president of shareholder relations for a family-owned media company, she has taught in the business college for seven years and facilitates two peer affinity groups of the center. She holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University.

The endowed position was established through a fundraising drive led by major donor Rick Muth, president of Stanton-based Orco Block. Muth is a founding member of the college’s Center for Family Business.

The center was established in 1995 as a partnership between the business community and the university. Its mission is to enhance the well-being and survivability of family businesses by providing opportunities for education, interaction and information tailored to business needs and concerns.

When best practices (and Mini Coopers) backfire

Drew Mendoza
Drew Mendoza

A little knowledge can be dangerous – no matter how well intentioned.

The family member Chair was a regular face at the local university’s family business center events. She had heard a presentation about how having independent outside directors could be a powerful addition to the company’s competitive arsenal and be an equally powerful tool in managing shareholder relations. The presentation, delivered by an expert in the field with more than 20 years of experience, lasted three hours.

Bubbling with enthusiasm and new found energy, she entered the next board meeting a month later. Over the course of 10 minutes, she informed her cousin shareholders that what was most needed was the addition of three independent directors. She came to the meeting prepared with a slate of directors. The director slate presented would have been impressive to just about any other company in their space. Fantastic academic and career pedigrees, international experience, strengths in finance. In fact, the slate of directors were the equivalent of Indy 500 cars. By comparison, her cousins were Mini Coopers. (I mean no disparagement toward the Mini. I’m sure they’re fine little cars well made for in-city travel.)

Guess what happened next?

A fire storm erupted in the board room. The directors were taken off-guard, felt insulted and threatened. It took the chairwoman over a year to regain the board’s trust and educate the directors about the rationale of the changes she had proposed.

It’s one thing to understand best practices. It is another thing entirely to know how to educate and prepare an ever increasingly disparate shareholder group for change.


Today’s blog is inspired by and written in support of FBCG’s newly announced event, The Chair Forum. We invite family firm chairs to continue the conversation by joining us to share experiences, generate ideas and hone their skills at productive corporate governance. Click here to learn more>>

Understanding the complex role of board chair

Drew Mendoza
Drew Mendoza

I’m a fan of good corporate governance particularly in family enterprises with the complexity or size that warrants having a (well) functioning board of directors. How complex and what the thresholds are for having a board of directors that has bench depth, structure and independence depends on a wide array of factors and are the focus of articles, books and blog postings throughout the family enterprise world. But, for today, I want to plant this seed in your thinking.

I believe the global community of family enterprises is awakening to and realizing the value and importance of good corporate governance and, more importantly, excellent management of those boards by qualified chairpersons.

Being the chairman of a family firm board is not like being the CEO. The CEO focuses on growth, profitability, strategy implementation, and the processes and structures that keep the business moving toward its strategic imperatives. The chairman leads the business’ governance function, not the day-to-day management of the company.

 Yet, most family firm chairs are the men and women who were the company’s previous CEO. Do they know their company’s operations? You bet, thoroughly and deeply. But, do they have the skills necessary to be the chairman? Can they manage the board in ways which reflect shareholder expectations and ensure the CEO is receiving clear direction? Do they know what data the board needs and in what format to do its job? Can the chair develop accountability measures for both the board and management without alienating family managers and family shareholders? Is the chair ready and able to listen to director input and facilitate difficult conversations without resorting to the meeting management style s/he used when they were the CEO? Is the chair able to identify the needs for creating or dissolving board committees?

We believe the role of the chair is very different from the role and responsibilities of the CEO. And, we believe that the chair is not just another director. The chair has special responsibilities that add value to the company and help align shareholder expectations.


Today’s blog is inspired by and written in support of FBCG’s newly announced event, The Chair Forum. We invite family firm chairs to continue the conversation by joining us to share experiences, generate ideas and hone their skills at productive corporate governance. Click here to learn more>>

FBCG celebrates 20 years

Chris Eckrich
Chris Eckrich

In my last post, I wrote about the need for families to celebrate and build memories. This week marks the 20th anniversary of The Family Business Consulting Group’s founding by Drs. Craig Aronoff and John Ward. Since then the group has grown significantly and we have consultants spread throughout North America serving clients here and around the world. We consider it an honor to build upon the foundation our founders laid and are taking time this week to reflect on all the hard work and effort that went into building an enduring organization that serves the needs of enterprising families.

When reflecting on our first 20 years as an organization we are most drawn to the many stories of hard work, creativity, perseverance, courage and even humor that are part of our history. These stories become the bedrock of our culture and continue to provide clarity around our core purpose. Ultimately, however, the impact our organization makes is determined not by our stories, but by the stories of those with whom we’ve had a chance to interact, either through consulting or through our writings and presentations. As we pause to reflect on our own first 20 years we want to thank all of you, our readers, who have made this journey meaningful and worthwhile. We look forward to being part of your stories as we begin our next 20 years of serving enterprising families.

Blog note: As in Chris’s previous post, we believe in the importance of building connection and history within FBCG. As a thank you to the consultants and staff that support families across the world, and in gratitude to their families who support them in this work, we gathered together to celebrate 20 years of service and collaboration. We’ve shared a peek at that event in the photos below.

JPS_0014-3446823805-O

What’s a celebration without cake?

JPS_0153-3446839180-O

Our youngest attendee, Rebekah, tries out the silly hat photo booth.

JPS_0094-3446832041-O

Cheers!

JPS_0375-3446877351-O

Releasing lanterns with notes of gratitude and for future success.

JPS_0299-3446863753-O

 Closing out the evening with a little music and dancing.

 

The World Cup as Metaphor

Amy Schuman
Amy Schuman

The brightest oranges, whitest whites, deepest navy blues, sun-ray yellows: each World Cup game brings a different color combination to the field but that is just the surface excitement. Are the players tall, long-legged, loping and passing the ball in graceful arcs from toe to toe, using the entire length and breadth of the field? Or are they short and compact, firing the ball in focused staccato bursts shaped like tight triangles that keep mostly to the field just in front of the goal? Does the team wait until the final 5 minutes to unleash the full power of their athleticism, or do they hit the goal, hard, in the first 60 seconds of play? Who flips and flops on the field after the appearance of a foul, and who springs up for more play after being flung to the ground or elbowed in the face? Who lingers to clasp their opponent’s hand, to speak with them face to face, trading jerseys, and who falls to the ground, on their knees, in tears, in private pain?

The World Cup may be one sport, with one objective, but week after week it has served up a rich feast of group dynamics and individual drama. Innumerable variations were played on the themes of strategy and opportunism, physical power and mental command, supremacy and surrender and ultimately, victory.

Many paths to success. A lesson to inspire us all.