Within five years of both sons joining the Calgary-based mortgage lending business Everett Koeller founded in 1975, the company came close to a breaking point. Father and sons were struggling over how to divide responsibilities, and all three had grown anxious from the lack of clarity in the family business.
“We had a consultant come in and, after interviewing us, he concluded that we weren’t a functioning team and that it was in our best interests to fold up the business,” recalls Dean Koeller, one of the two sons. “That wasn’t the answer we were looking for, so we decided we weren’t going to take that advice. We were going to find a way forward.”
Today, Mr. Koeller is president of the family business, Calvert Home Mortgage Investment Corp., and his brother Dale is vice-president. Their father has retired from day-to-day operations and sits as chair of the governance board that was put in place in 2008.
Mr. Koeller says two key actions have been particularly helpful in getting the family business back on track: a candid conversation between him and his brother where they agreed on how they would balance each other’s natural tendencies – Dean likes to move quickly while Dale is keen on reviewing details first – and signing up as members of Family Enterprise Canada, which gave the brothers resources, such as a profiling tool that allowed them to highlight their individual strengths.
“Knowing this helped us understand the value we each bring to the business,” says Mr. Koeller.
Understanding the value she brings to the family business while acknowledging that succeeding her father didn’t have to mean becoming his carbon copy helped Liz McBeth transition into the role of president at Armour Valve Ltd., a Toronto company that provides industrial valves and specialty equipment.
“Each generation has expectations of one another, both in the family and in the business, and they need to be realistic,” says Ms. McBeth, “For a long time, my father expected me to fill his shoes by becoming more like him and gaining the same knowledge he has. But replicating his 50-plus years of experience was not possible. So, the expectation should be that each generation will bring their best skills and assets and apply them in a way that adds value to the business.”
As part of Ms. McBeth’s transition into leadership, she and her father created a management team to promote greater collaboration at the senior level. Today, says Ms. McBeth, this team is evolving into a leadership team for the future.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Family Enterprise Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.