Please enjoy this short podcast with board member Tim Schad about the benefits and logistics of our FBA Next Gen peer groups. These groups generally meet once a month, are free to members, and are a great way to share experiences and grow in your business. To join a group, or for more information, please reach out to Marci Levering in our office at (616) 771-0575. Also join us for our recruitment event on Thursday, August 23 at 4:30 pm at Bistro Bella Vita.
Diana: [00:01] Good morning! This is Diana Schad, CEO of the Family Business Alliance. Joining me is Tim Schad, CEO of family owned business Nucraft furniture, an FBA board member who’s been with FBA from the very beginning, and incidentally, my father in law. Tim, thank you so much for joining us. I’d like to start with a brief history of the FBA. Could you please tell us the importance of bringing FBA to the West Michigan community?
Tim: [00:24] There were several groups that were serving the family businesses of West Michigan as a part of their program, but it wasn’t the most important thing to them. That included the Chamber [of Grand Rapids], Grand Valley, Aquinas, and many other groups. We thought it was important to have a group that focused specifically on family businesses and made that their main mission. That’s how it started, and it was supported by the Chamber and Grand Valley in the beginning.
Diana: [00:54] What are some of the unique characteristics of a family business that made it something special that we needed a special program for?
Tim: [01:01] When you’ve got a family that is running a business, it really is different. There are a lot of other considerations other than simply the needs of the business that you need to take into account. It makes it more complicated; it makes it more complicated for family members coming into the business and it makes it more complicated for people who are leading the business.
Diana: [01:20] That was a great segway into our topic today, which is about peer groups. After the FBA was started there was a mission to start these peer groups within our membership. How did that start and what was the thinking behind that?
Tim: [01:34] It was interesting. Initially we had a program that was called “executive partners”; the idea was that an experienced executive would help a business with issues that they brought to us. I was working with two young men who were both in their thirties and both working in their family businesses. I was meeting with them for lunch every once in a while, their problems were so similar. I asked them if they would mind meeting together and before we had our first meeting, I asked “could we invite some others to come to it?”. When we sent out the invitations we got 20 people who wanted to join the group. Well, that was too many, so I quickly recruited Joe Schmieder and Jeff Koeze and we formed three groups, each with an experienced business executive as the leader. I led one, Joe led one, and Jeff led one.
Diana: [02:24] So, these early meetings started more for the next generation, the up and coming generations. It is my understanding that we now have some “now” generation too. How did that evolve and how are the two different groups similar, and how are they different?
Tim: [02:36] They’re similar because it’s a family member who is in the business who is a part of the peer group. They’re similar in that there’s total confidentiality in the group. They’re different in that the NextGen group is targeting people who are not running the business yet, usually in their 20’s, 30’s, sometimes 40’s and the NowGen is people that are running the business now. They’re the older people that are frankly looking to pass it on to the next generation.
Diana: [03:08] You have two sons, one of whom is my husband, who is a member of a NextGen group. How as a business owner and as a father have you found that participation in those groups has helped the business and the family?
Tim: [03:21] It’s been great for both Matt, your husband, and Brandon, his brother, who have been part of the peer groups. Lots of important things happen when you’re part of a peer group. You find out that the problems that you have in the business are not unique, and it’s really beneficial to learn that. The other thing that happens is you meet a lot of very interesting business people and you learn about a lot of other businesses as you tour each other’s plants or offices, you learn a lot about business. There is a lot of growing up that happens to people while they are a part of Peer Groups.
Diana: [04:01] We are sort of a stage with FBA where we’re looking at the Peer Group groups that have been around for a while, we’re looking at where we go from here. What are your thoughts about the future of our peer groups, how we can improve them, and how we can benefit our members more?
Tim: [04:14] There’s several things that can happen with the Peer Groups. They’ve become a very popular program, we have grown from the original three to over 20. We’ve tried a few other things and I think that we need to try more. We set up one Peer Group that was CFOs working in a family business, who, surprisingly, share very similar issues even though their businesses might be very different. There are probably other areas where we can look to involve non-family members in peer groups. For instance, a non-family executive whose president of a family business that’s owned by a family, they would really enjoy being in a Peer Group together and talking about the issue that they face. I’m sure it has got to be very difficult for them to be running a family business even though they are not a family member.
Diana: [05:09] Wonderful! Well, if somebody wants to join a Peer Group how would you suggest they go about doing that? What is the process of becoming a member?
Tim: [05:17] You know, what works best is to just put the word out and let somebody at FBA know about it, whether it’s a board member, or more importantly, a staff member. Every year we start one, two, or three new groups, so there’s always a new group that is forming. As soon as we know that somebody wants to be a part of a peer group, whether it’s a NowGen group that focuses on succession, bringing the next generation along, or it’s a NextGen which focuses also on succession, preparing to take over the business., we will get you in a group right away!
Diana: [05:55] Wonderful! Well, Tim, thank you so much for joining us. Any final thoughts about Peer Groups, or where we [FBA] are going?
Tim: [06:01] I think there’s some real opportunities in the future for the Peer Groups to expand. We have been limited by the fact that all of the meetings are face to face, and I have a suspicion that with the new technologies available it’s going to be possible to have some of the members coming to the meeting via technology. Using GoToMeeting or many of the other tools that are available so that you don’t all need to be in the same room at the same time. I think there are a lot of things ahead of us that could improve the experience for everybody!
Diana: [06:34] Terrific. Well, thank you so much for being here today!
Tim: [06:37] My pleasure, thanks a lot.