Traveling through the life of a family business leader can be most revealing and educational for those in the midst of their journey. Members of each generation have their own frame of references that add to the flavor and uniqueness of each stage of the family business experience. Come join us as we share the experiences of four panelists representing four demographic generations – Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, GenX and Millennial. Each panelist will describe elements of his or her family business story focusing on the path of leadership development.
Joe is a Principal of the Family Business Consulting Group specializing in family business succession planning and strategic business planning. He is a strong advocate for incorporating innovation into family businesses, blending family and non-family execs into effective leadership teams, developing the next generation leaders, creating effective governance structures (boards of directors), and facilitating family meetings.
Prior to joining the Family Business Consulting Group, Joe spent over 25 years leading multi-generation family businesses as a non-family executive. He served as Chief Operating Officer for Custer Workplace Interiors and Divisional President at Oliver Products Company, a 114-year-old family business serving the medical, food, and graphics markets.
In addition to his consulting practice, Joe serves as an adjunct professor at Notre Dame University teaching Family Enterprise Strategy courses. He is the author of the book Innovation in the Family Business: Succeeding through Generations and numerous family business articles. Joe currently serves on five family business boards and has served on 10 others over past years. Joe and his wife Valerie have two children, Maria and Adam, who have recently entered the workforce after college graduation.
Leon Slikkers boat building journey began with Chris Craft, where he nurtured his love for boat making. It would be a few more years, but eventually, Leon went out on his own, forming Slickcraft. In late 1969 the company was sold to AMF, with Leon staying on as president. It wasn’t long before Leon was disappointed to see AMF did not have the same passion that he had built his company on. A little over four years later, Leon left the company.
Due to a non-compete clause, he did not resume making powerboats, focusing instead on sailboats, creating S2 Yachts. Their custom quality boats inspired employees, dealers and boating enthusiasts alike. In 1976, with the non-compete clause expired, S2 created the Tiara Yachts division. The utmost attention to detail and breathtaking designs made them instantly sought-after yachts by customers and dealers. In 1983, a new plant was built in Fort Pierce, Florida to begin building Pursuit Boats, a luxury brand of cruising and sport fishing boats.
Today, parent company S2 Yachts is one of the few privately held production boat-building companies in the world. It’s a success attributed to our company’s dedication to uncompromising quality, cutting-edge design, thoughtful innovation, and unsurpassed customer service.
Leon Slikkers has been named to the NMMA Hall of Fame, the Michigan Boating Hall of Fame, Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the year by Ernst & Young, and has received the Manufacturing Division of MCI/Inc. Magazine’s National Award for Positive Customer Service.
Dave Custer is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Custer, Inc. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As the founder of Custer, Inc., Dave has overseen the growth and expansion of the business from its foundation to its flourishing.
Since 1981, Custer, Inc. has worked with local, regional, and national clients of significant scope including Steelcase, Meijer, Kellogg’s, Spartan Nash, Stryker, Grand Valley State University, Spectrum Health, and more. Under Dave’s leadership, Custer, Inc. expanded from $3 million in sales to $44 million, establishing itself as the only full-service interior renovations firm in the region. Further, Dave’s leadership earned Custer the distinguished Steelcase Exemplary Dealer Award and the Steelcase Platinum Partner Award.
In January 2017, Dave announced his semi-retirement from Custer’s daily activities and began transitioning the business to his three sons. C. Scott Custer serves as the Vice President of Business Process Improvement; Mark Custer serves as the Vice President of Business Relations; and Todd Custer serves as President. All three sons are graduates of Michigan State University.
Megan Spruit is the Vice President of Grand Rapids Metrology in Grand Rapids, MI, where she oversees daily operations for all five locations throughout the state. Megan joined Grand Rapids Metrology (formerly Grand Rapids Scale Co.) in 2012 as the fifth generation of family management and works closely with her father, President & CEO, Richard Spruit. Founded in 1922 by Megan’s Mother’s family, Grand Rapids Metrology is Michigan’s largest provider of measurement equipment and services, specializing in calibration and ISO certification. Prior to her career at Grand Rapids Metrology, Megan graduated from Butler University with a bachelor’s degree in International Management and worked for several years in business development at Ace Hardware’s International Division in Chicago. Megan resides in downtown Grand Rapids and is very close to completing her MBA at Grand Valley State University.
Nancy Westgate-Sytsema is COO of Wesco, Inc. Nancy has been with her family’s business for 12 years, starting in the accounting department to utilize her CPA license, and is currently the head of Store Operations. She received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Accounting from Michigan State University. With the Wesco Leadership Team, she works hard to focus on the culture of Wesco helping make Wesco the BEST place in the world to work and shop.
Wesco is a third generation family-owned convenience store chain, located in West Michigan. Wesco has 52 stores, over 1200 associates, a central bakery and commissary, a distribution center, a fuel purchasing, and distribution division, and is primarily located throughout West Michigan. From their beginning, Wesco has focused on their Associates, knowing that great associates bring great customer service. Wesco is a proud recipient of being one of the 101 best places to work in West Michigan and Nationally in 2016.