A Family Of Entrepreneurs

by Tom Kurtz

Growing up in a family business was surely a unique experience. I am certain that the simple observation of watching my parents and older siblings respond to the challenges of the business with dedication and perseverance helped to shape my values and work ethic.

As our family topsoil business was growing, I clearly remember my mom, Dolores, our first sales and marketing person (although she didn’t know it at the time, she thought it was about survival), stirring something on the stove while she was explaining to an individual that six cubic yards of topsoil would spread 1,000 square feet, two inches thick.

During the soil season (the end of March through November), my dad, Mel, was always gone before I got up and would come home late at night covered with dirt and dust. My folks didn’t have much time to watch me play little league baseball and things such as that, but I didn’t know any kid, outside of my family, who learned how to drive a truck at age eight. By the fifth grade, I was helping my dad after school and summers working at the topsoil field. It was at this point that I knew I was hooked, and that the family business was right for me. More…

Building A Brain Trust Out Of A Board

UMassby Paul Kelliher
Market Managing Partner

Every corporation has a board of directors, but not every board functions in the same manner. Board members of large publicly held companies are elected by the shareholders and are charged with representing their interests and overseeing management. In small privately held firms, the board is hand-picked by the sole stockholder (the business owner) usually from among management or family members, and it normally convenes only to transact regally required tasks, such as the annual meeting or the opening of a new company bank account.

Few entrepreneurs have attempted to broaden the business talents and scope of activities of their boards. They tend to be extremely self-reliant and hesitate to go outside when it comes to seeking advice. Indeed, this may not be necessary in the formative stages of a business.

But as a business develops, and such complex issues as plant expansion, acquisitions, or public offerings begin to surface, entrepreneurs may discover they need outside help in key areas. Specialized knowledge may be needed (or just broad-based business wisdom) with nobody at hand to provide it. It’s at this point that the entrepreneur may want to consider expanding the company’s board to make it less of a formality and more of a vehicle for business planning (in other words, a brain trust). More…