Preparing the next generation for leadership of the family business takes equal parts trust and transparency. The AFBP caught up with Lowell Gibson, second-generation owner of Grants Pass namebadge company NiceBadge, to learn about his experience in helpting to prepare his children to lead the business one day.
What do you think has been the most important thing you have done to help your next generation of family members prepare for leadership?
I have to believe that the most important thing that I have done to help the next generation prepare for leadership is to create the board of directors that we use currently. Each of the next generation has a seat and a vote on the board, along with my Vice President who is a non-family member. The board is a little bit unorthodox in the sense that we use it to make decisions on how to run the company. These decisions include looking at the P&L’s, the balance sheet, evaluating our labor cost, determining big purchases, and many day to day decisions on how to operate the company. This gives each member of the next generation the chance to make those tough decisions that I have had to make over the years on running the business.
How do you approach the question of nonfamily members in leadership positions? How do nonfamily leaders help the next generation develop?
My vice President is a non-family member and he is instrumental in running the business. He has been with me for over 15 years and understands how to run the business on a day to day basis. He has been a very important part of training the next generation in management techniques. My kids learn valuable skills and tools from him on how to work with our staff. They hear it from me all the time, so it helps to hear this advice from someone other than me.
What kind of activities outside of the family business do you think are valuable for future leaders to consider?
I encourage my kids to be involved in local organizations such as Rotary, non-profit organizations, and the chamber of commerce. This gives them additional skills in dealing with other business leaders in the community. They also learn how to represent our business to others in our community.
Anything else you would share with another family business about developing the next generation?
I believe one of the most important aspects in training the next generation on how to run the business is to be candid about the tough decisions necessary to do so. Though I feel vulnerable I have shown them the struggles I face daily in making tough decisions that affect the future of our company. I would be doing them a disservice if I sheltered them from my own struggles in my leadership role. I believe this prepares them for when they are in that role.
NiceBadge is committed to designing and crafting innovative awards and corporate identity products. Based out of Grants Pass, Oregon since 1979, this three-generation family business works with customers all over the world. NiceBadge won the 2017 Excellence in Family Business Award for Generational Development. Visit them online for more company history, products and services.