Multifaceted families



Multifaceted families
CRAIN's Drrnorr BusrNEss
A convrnsnTrolr
Don Levitt, president of Levitt
Consulting lnc. in Ann Arbor, recently
published the results of his
Centennial Family Business Project.
The project looks at family-owned
companies that have survived 100 or
more years, and aims to use their
characteristics to help other family
businesses thrive.
Levitt's re$earch included 31
Michigan and Ohio companies of
various sizes, including Ford Motor
Co. and Dittrich Furs in Detroit.
Crain's reporter Sheena Harrison
talked to Levitt about his findings.
What are some of the common
chatacteristics of family-owned
companies that last 100 years or more?
Most of the centennial family business
families I have met don't seem to
have big egos. They are humble
people who truly care about their
customers and their employees, and
who care about maintaining family
relationships. Sure, they want their
businesses to grow and be profitable
but family, customers, and
community are more highly valued
than growth and profits. Their modesty
sets the stage for siblings who are not
active in the business to willingly sell
their shares to those who are active in
the business, Their modesty also
allows the senior generation to
generously develop the next
generation, and to graciously step
aside when the succeeding generation
is ready to take over. Finally, this
modesty often leads to modest growth
rather than the
in the business
rapid growth which can lead the family
to seek outside sources of capital and
thus increase the likelihood of losing
family ownership.
Why are those aspec'ts important to a
business' longevitf Family businesses
have lots of traps which can destroy
(them). Determining the level of
compensation for family members,
developing and selectingthe next
generation of leaders, moving from
informal management to more
structured planning and decisionmaking, planning for retirement
income and estate taxes
and these
challenges are not successfully
resolved by just using your intuition.
They are complex issues, and issues
for which we now have an abundance
of best practices, which can help
family-business owners.
Multifaceted families
Y'orrltger gerlel'atiorts look to make theit. ma?.k
o'n the.fttrnilq busines.s
By SunnNe HannrsoN
thing or
two about incorporating younger generations in the family business.
Ten of founder Edmund Ahee's adult grandchildren work full-time at the store, along wlth
Ahee's four sons, his daughter and a few teenage
.-,-^-i^L i1.ty^- ..,h^ n,^rL nort_timp at tho Grnsqp
dmund T. Ahee Jewelers knows a
Anthony Ahee has taken on public relations
for the company and heading up the company's
annual Capuchin Souper Summer Celebration.
The event, started by Edmund Ahee in 1981, benefits the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit and has
raised $4 million for the organization to date.
This year's event will be June 23 at Comeri-
ca Park and is expected to draw
*:": :*:m' f"*ii:'-tu",
youltBgrrrsrnrlr sus!fiI,slrEs
learn from the prolect? Centennial
family businesses generally have
strong values. They hi$hly value
YYnaf Gar
customer service, quality, employee
relations, family relations, and
community relations. Family
businesses which are in their early
generations can benefit by sitting
down together and talking openly and
specifically about their values. This
kind of open discussion can helP to
strengthen (them)- or can reveal
differences which can then be
discussed and addressed before
they create problems. Talking openly
about personal goals, hoPes,
dreams, and values can help family
businesses to create a firm
foundation for future success.
lf you know someone
interesting you rvould
like Sheena Harrison
to lnterylew, call
(313) 446-0325 or
write sharrison
Pointe store.
President Peter Ahee said that incorporating
his father's grandchildren into the business has
brought many benefits. The younger generations are beginning to make their mark, by
adding technology for designing jewelry and at"
tracting younger shoppers into the store.
"It's been really wonderful seeing them develop and all the interest they've taken in the busi
ness," said Peter Ahee. So far, introducing more
family has been good for business. Sales for specialty jewelers nationwide typically range from
$500 to $700 per square foot, said Kenneth
Gassman, president of Jewelry lndustry Resealch lnstitute in Glenn Allen, Va. Using those averages,
Ahee Jewelers' 7,000-square-foot store would generate sales of $3.5 million to $4.9 million. But Vice
President John Ahee says sales were more than
million last year.
The Ahee 20-somethings have been allowed to
work in various aspects ofthe business, such as
accounting and design, and decide what area
they want to work in.
"We've all had different interests," said An-
soup kitchen are
raised through
raifle tickets.
plan to hold a party
for their friends be-
fore the Capuchin
fundraiser to teach
their peers about the
event and hopefully
inspire them to support Capuchin,
Anthony Ahee said.
While raflle tickets were previously sold at various metro Detroit locations, Anthony Ahee added
Internet sales this year to reach younger donors.
'lWe felt a lot of people our age and every age
want to be able to use their credit cards to make
purchases," Anthony Ahee sal.d.
Peter Ahee said the family's third generation
has used technology to benefit the company in
other ways. One of his nephews is Iearning to
use CAD-CAM software for jewelry design, and
while other young family members have used
desktop publishins software to create Ahee Jew-

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