This week’s FBA podcast focuses on a discussion between our new CEO, Diana Schad, and our board member, Tim Schad, about Diana’s new role and the future of the FBA. Tim is the third generation owner of Nucraft Furniture, and happens to be Diana’s father in law. The conversation addresses the goals of the FBA, Diana’s background, and thoughts for how the FBA can better serve its members and the West Michigan community.
Diana: [00:00] Good morning, this is Diana Schad, the CEO of Family Business Alliance. Joining me is Tim Schad, owner of family owned business Nucraft furniture, an FBA board member, and my father in law. Today we will be discussing my new role with the organization and the future of FBA. Tim, thank you so much for joining us! I’m going to begin with a few questions about the boards hopes for my role as the CEO.
Please tell us what was the board looking for in it’s new CEO?
Tim: [00:27] The position of CEO is more about leadership and less about doing. We need somebody who can think about where we need to go strategically, we need to think about getting organized, [and] we need to think about getting all the board members involved and the best way to use their best skills. It’s not about running the organization so much [as it’s] about leading the organization.
Diana: [00:50] What were some of the qualities or qualifications that you were looking for in whoever came into the role?
Tim: [00:55] Somebody who could think strategically, somebody who was going to hold board members accountable for getting things done and being active in the practice. Those are a couple of the most important [qualities].
Diana: [01:07] So you mentioned strategic thinking; that’s one of the big focuses for at least [the] next six months, “where do we go from here?”. What are the boards thoughts about the future of FBA in the next few years?
Tim: [01:18] In our first twelve years, FBA has become the best family business organization in the nation. We have over 180 members and we have over thirty sponsors, there are a lot of organizations that have joined FBA. We now need to think about what’s next. We’ve become an energetic teenager, if you will; full of spirit – a lot of things going on, and now we need to figure out what we need to do to become young adults.
Ichak Adizes wrote a book that I really enjoyed, maybe twenty years ago now, it was [about] the life cycle of organizations [Corporate Lifecycles]. It talked about how organizations start out as young babies, start to grow into energetic teenagers, but eventually need to become young adults and know what they’re doing. I think that’s kind of where FBA is at now. We’re at that point where we need to grow from an energetic teenager to being a young adult, understanding what we’re really going to do. Are we going to increase the breadth of our scope, are we going to try to serve a bigger area? If so, how would we do that? Are we going to try to penetrate more deeply into the West Michigan area and serve both larger and smaller companies than we have been serving? There are a lot of things to figure out. The strategy of how we are going to approach that is really important to get firmly in mind, then we need to execute on it.
Diana: [02:48] It’s interesting that you use a family analogy of the teenager with the Family Business Alliance; we are doing the same thing as an organization that our members are doing with their generations.
Tim: [02:58] It’s really true, yes.
Diana: [02:59] How do we tap that enthusiasm? How do we tap that enthusiasm and move into new opportunities that we may not have tapped yet?
Tim: [03:07] I think when we look around at the people that are working in family businesses, we are going to find all the capabilities, all the strengths, [and] all the knowledge that we need. If we need to change the technology that we are doing, I am sure that knowledge exists within the family businesses that are already part of the organization. It’s a question of getting out and using the abilities that we have within the organization. It’s not just the few people that are on the board, its tapping into all the abilities of all the members.
Diana: [03:42] Well, good. Are there any other thoughts that you have about this new role and the future of FBA before we give you the chance to ask me some questions?
Tim: [03:51] No, I’d love to ask you some questions though!
Diana: [03:54] [Laughs]
Ok! Well, be kind! What are some things that you would like to know about me and my thoughts about the FBA, and my background?
Tim: [04:03] Diana, talk about you prior involvement [with FBA], because this is not the first thing that you have done with the organization. Maybe tell us a little bit of what you have done before.
Diana: [04:13] Well, as our members know, we have a family owned business, Nucraft. When Matt and I got married 17 years ago I knew nothing about family owned businesses. I grew up in New Jersey, where I guess I had friends whose parents worked with them, but I didn’t really know any family business owners. So, when Matt and I got married it was a whole new world to me. I was very lucky that he took the time to sit down with me and tell me about that organization, tell me about Nucraft, and tell me about running the business. I have had a great relationship with you and Cindy and you’ve always been really open about the business. Family Councils have been amazing! We have done a family council, which has been great about learning both the dynamics of running a business as well as maintaining harmony within the family.
About 10 years ago, I said to Matt, “I’d really like to learn more about how family businesses work”, and he said, “Well, then let’s go to some FBA programs, here’s some that are coming up that I think may be of interest to you”. So, I started going to the forum meetings in the Fall, and really enjoyed them. I really enjoyed the stories from other family members, I really enjoyed learning the dynamics and realizing the issues that we were having, we weren’t alone in that. Family businesses often have the same issues with siblings, or succession, or moving on to the next generation, it was really enlightening for me to learn about.
Tim: [05:40] I remember there was a period where we had a spouse’s forum.
Diana: [05:43] Yes, we did! We had more of a spouse’s social circle.
Tim: [05:49] Maybe even better!
Diana: [05:51] A couple years ago I was, to be honest, one of the few spouses who was going to our programs. I got so much benefit out of them that I started reaching out to some other spouse members and encouraging them to come to programs. Then we set up monthly social things, a luncheon, or bring in a speaker, we did a holiday party downtown. It was a really nice way for me to meet the spouses because we have shared experiences, but also to meet the members themselves to hear about their business and about what they were doing.
Tim: [06:24] As we’ve brought different people to speak to FBA, I’ve always been really impressed with how often it is that it’s an in-law that ends up playing a really key role in the business, whether it’s in the family councils, whether it’s on the board of directors, [or] sometimes in the management of the company. This happens both with men and woman. It’s surprising what the variety of people that end up being important participants, how many different people can get involved.
Diana: [07:00] I think that’s a great point too. So many businesses now are bringing spouses in, and there’s a lot of things to consider with that .There’s employment hiring policies, if there’s a divorce in the family what do you do in that situation? I think that FBA is a really wonderful resource in situations like that. We can answer some of those hard questions, we can provide speakers that can guide you on how to make those decisions.
Tim: [07:27] There’s so much knowledge out there that we can bring to our members. I think it’s really important. Diana, you probably should tell the group about some of the other types of organizations you have worked with, you’ve worked with a lot of different groups.
Diana: [07:43] I’m happy to. I’ve got a pretty diverse background. Matt and I met in law school, we both did the big firm thing in Washington DC for a number of years, which was a very interesting, very exciting, but a very stressful time. Then, when our daughter was born, we decided to move back to West Michigan, which was a much more family friendly environment to be in. We now have a 14 year old daughter.
When she was younger, I worked with the federal court system. I worked with a federal judge, which I loved. Then, I took a “year” off. I took a year off to be with Abby when she was in kindergarten and kind of got sucked into a lot of school activities. I got involved with volunteering in the classroom [and] volunteering in the library. As budget cuts were going on I helped run the library at one time because we had to get rid of our librarian. I got involved as president of the PTO.
I have a long history, I’m a good organizer, I’m a good planner, I’ve got a lot of outreach in the community. More recently, I served on the EGR City Commission, I enjoyed meeting more people in the EGR community. I’ve also been on the board of directors on Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, which is a wonderful organization that provides arts, music, dance, [and] fine arts to children in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood.
This job was a perfect melding of my background. The legal background helps with some of the strategic thinking, the nonprofit background helps with the fundraising and membership development, the PTO helped with the organizational and planning – I love Excel, love planning the future! It was just a really nice mesh of all of the things that I have done in the past.
Tim: [09:26] That’s great. There are a lot of areas that you’ve been a part of that FBA needs to tap into. We haven’t done a great job of tapping into woman owned business, we haven’t done a really good job of tapping into the minority community. I think if we can be more active with the minority community, we have a lot to learn from them and they can learn from us, and I think that together we can be very supportive of each other.
Diana: [09:54] I think that is a wonderful point. We were just talking about that in a meeting an hour ago, about how many opportunities there are to reach out to the diverse population of Grand Rapids. I have a friend who’s with the Black Business Alliance, Jamiel Robinson, who does wonderful work in the African American community. There’s a terrific network of Latino women, the [Grand Rapids} Chamber has a diversity section that works on attracting diverse business. We have done some work with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but I would like to see us expand that outreach as well to some of the Hispanic businesses in town and maybe collaborate somehow on a mentor-mentee relationship, or do collaborative programs so we can benefit from having that relationship as well.
Tim: [10:39] I think that’d be terrific. I’m certain that once we start talking to each other we are going to find that there are more similarities than we ever thought possible between all of these businesses, whether they are young businesses, old business, or being run by different kinds of people.
Diana: [11:00] I think that sometimes [there’s] a little bit of a misconception with what FBA does. I think that sometimes people think that we’re these bigger, established business; we’ve got a wide range of businesses. We have some that are five or ten employees, we have others with hundreds of employees. My goal, and my mission as CEO, is [to] appeal to all of those businesses. One of the thoughts is that we will be doing broader programs. Things like succession, family councils, board of directors, that may apply to all of our membership.
One of the things that I would really like to see, the word that comes to mind (this is the New Jersey in me) is a little bit of a “grittier” program. A little bit more of a fundamental basics that come up in family businesses. Things like divorce, prenuptials, HR necessities, accounting assistance with things. There are these more basic topics that we could be addressing on a smaller scale, little lunch and learns, or little breakfasts where we could bring in a speaker for an hour, hour and a half, where we could talk about more basic, fundamental topics that you may see come up with family businesses.
Tim: [12:04] That’s a really good idea. I’m on several business boards and one of the things that runs through all of them is the question of evaluation. How much is the business worth? That’s a difficult thing to figure out. The people that do that work do it in a very programmed and specific way that, as an owner, you need to understand their process if you’re going to work with them. There are many, many things like that that can be very valuable.
Diana: [12:37] I think that’s kind of my mission the next two months, reach out to the board, reach out to our membership, find out what they want. We know that our peer groups are successful, we know we have a good track record with our quarterly events, but let’s come up with topics that maybe we aren’t addressing that we could be doing specific programs on that people could come and educate themselves more on running the business.
Tim: [12:57] That’s good. Diana, as you know there is a staff in place. Marci is here, and she has been doing a great job as our executive director. Tell me about your interaction with the staff and how that is going.
Diana: [13:13] I was thrilled to walk into such a well-established organization. Marci Schafer has done an incredible job of keeping things going [and] organizing things. She has a great staff of Catherine and Haley, who handle our events and our administrative work. In my opinion, our operations are very stable, very sound. My goal is more the larger picture, the strategy of where we go from here. I won’t be dealing with the day to day things as much as looking at the big picture of where the organization is going.
Tim: [13:45] I think that’s exactly what’s needed, so welcome aboard!
Diana: [13:48] Well thank you very much, it’s a pleasure to talk with you today!
Tim: [13:51] I enjoyed it too.