Passing Along Values in Family Business

So far in 2016, Glass Magazine has presented three succession stories from glass industry businesses, with more to come. (Read the stories from the April, May and June issues.) While gathering the information for these stories, we interviewed many company owners and leaders, many of whom are part of a family owned business—something very common within the glass industry. 

What we've learned through interviews and conversations is that passing along a family business generation after generation is not an easy task. According to the Conway Center for Family Business, nearly 70 percent of family business owners would like to pass their business on to the next generation, but, only 30 percent will actually be successful. But, we've also learned that, when done successfully, family business transition creates some of the strongest businesses in the industry, perhaps due to the passing down of values from one generation to the next. Conway says, "Of primary importance among family firm owners is transferring not only their financial wealth, but also their values, to subsequent generations."

The stats may be stacked against them, but while speaking with the family owned glass company leaders that have gone through, or are going through, a succession, we came across many success stories—and some hardships—and many insights into what keeps these industry veterans here for the long haul.

"Our industry is a unique intersection of creativity and numbers. I think that this combination appealed to me from a young age," says M3 Glass' Chris Mammen, CEO and third-generation family company leader. "We get to make things with our hands, but precision and numbers form the boundaries of our workspace. In the end, I think [glass] was just 'in my blood.' At times I did not appreciate it, like when I was running rubber on a storefront in 30-degree weather as a teenager, but by the time I finished college, I had done every hands-on job in the company. I now know this was intentional by my dad, and it served me well."  

Pete deGorter, fourth generation of the family who owns DeGorter Inc., is the only one of nine family memebers in his generation to stick with the family business. Initially, his decision to stay was exclusivly his deep commitment to his family. He says, "I came into this industry for the satisfaction of helping keep our family business alive... It had nothing to do with the appeal of the glass industry and everything to do with taking care of our family."

However, after spending more time on the front lines, deGorter's commitment has grown from his family to the industry itself. "I came into this industry believing glass was mundane and dull. That is far from what I believe now. It is amazing to think about what has become possible with glass... its capabilities are mind-blowing." 

As eventual owner of the company, Pete deGorter's goal is to pursue the same legacy within the glass industry left by John deGorter, his "Bonpapa," the company's second-generation owner. "[My Bonpapa] was a great mentor, and I saw first-hand the hard work needed to run a successful business," says deGorter. "I want to keep this opportunity for four more generations of deGorters."

Bethany Stough is managing editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at bstough@glass.org

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