Insights and Perspectives From CEOs of Closely-Held and Family Businesses
June 25, 2012
Roger Berkowitz of Legal Seafoods, Ralph Crowley of Polar Beverages and Patrick Mullane of the precision manufacturer Fabrico shared thoughtful insights and sometimes hilarious anecdotes with a select group of more than 50 middle-market CEOs from the region. Our guests, who ranged from micro-brew masters to manufacturers to entertainment company owners, enjoyed meeting the panelists before and after the discussion to network and connect through shared experiences.
Our conversation began by focusing on challenges and opportunities that come from cultural dynamics unique to mid-sized companies. The panelists shared examples from their own experiences with company culture that covered working in different geographies, the integration of new employees associated with acquisition, and how to change or influence company culture to drive growth.
Financing is vital for growth in companies of all sizes but our panel talked about the unique challenges and opportunities that financing brings to their middle-market businesses. The CEOs agreed that sudden growth bubbles are great for a company but can create strain if there isn’t a strategic approach to financing these intense growth periods. It was also suggested that financing can be used strategically over time to concentrate ownership and control by buying out less engaged owners.
The CEOs also talked about the profound impact that government regulations can have on companies of their size. Roger Berkowitz talked about the effects of fishing regulations on the seafood market and Ralph Crowley spoke of recent laws that involve beverage companies. We learned from Patrick Mullane that government policy can also benefit middle-market companies as clean energy regulations are encouraging the switch to the natural gas turbines that need parts created by Fabrico.
The discussion closed with a focus on business strategy and the benefits and drawbacks to pursuing aggressive growth strategies. Given that all three panelists are entrepreneurs, they all had fascinating stories about the success, and sometimes failure, that resulted when they took a chance on something new as a way to expand their company. Roger Berkowitz entertained the audience with the hilarious story of his brief venture with a winery in France that ended with him deciding to stick with fish. Ralph Crowley shared a story about the unexpected success of Vitamin Water, which his company came to own through Polar’s drive to keep diversifying their products.
During the question and answer period with our audience, the importance of attracting and cultivating talented people to middle-market companies came up a number of times. Our panelists agreed that having a driven and talented senior management team is key to making your growth strategy successful. Ralph Crowley suggested to the audience that very often, talented people are drawn to companies like theirs because of the size and entrepreneurial spirit, which allows for quick decision making and a level of excitement that is often not found at larger companies. Patrick Mullane spoke about how he looks for both managerial skills and “emotional IQ” in senior management candidates.
This year’s panel provided tremendous value to our audience of family and closely-held business leaders in the form of the personal insights and anecdotes from these CEOs that brought to life the challenges their companies face and how they created opportunity through ingenuity.
Ingenuity is why Wolf & Company and Prudential Capital Group enjoy working closely with businesses like these to help them succeed and remain true to the vision that keeps their company unique. We look forward to partnering again next year to present another dynamic panel of interesting CEOs who will share the insights and wisdom they’ve gained from years of hard work and experience.
Margery L. Piercey, CPA, is an Owner at Wolf & Company, P.C., leading the firm’s Family Business Services Team and serving the Firm’s investment advisor and broker-dealer clients. Please contact Margery at 617-428-5422 or firstname.lastname@example.org to further discuss this topic.
Visit the Family & Closely-Held Businesses page of our website to learn more about our services.