sell

S2EP11 How To Sell A Family Business - An Inspiring Businesswoman Diane Seder's Story

but you can't assume that they can just

run the business because they have the

right last name

and so i just want to say that because

what we did

was the best for the business and that

is to get professional management

it was the best what we what you have to

understand is that

what's best for the business is always

going to be best for the family

and if you think you can just pick one

or the other forget about it

welcome to critical thinking required

hosted by

lbw this podcast is intended for free

thinkers

entrepreneurs and knowledge seekers join

us as we discuss relevant financial

topics

explore with guests their financial

journeys and engage with experts in

industries such as space

media and entertainment real estate and

many more

buckle up and enjoy the ride

welcome to critical thinking required

you're with your hosts

myself tim bickmore and my two

colleagues dan weiss and nathaniel leach

and today we have a guest diane cedar

we're very excited to have diane we are

going to talk today

about family business and the transition

of family business and diane has a

wealth of knowledge and we're super

excited to start talking with her and

learn more about

uh the experience that she went through

before we get there

diane i'm going to read off your bio i

think you have a wonderful bio just so

our listeners can

get up to speed with who you are and

then we're going to start it off and get

get some questions rolling

so diane cedar is a retired executive

and former chair

of the board of milwaukee valve company

a family-owned manufacturer of

commercial and naval valves

she is currently the board chair of the

university of vermont foundation

she's a member of the board and

executive committee of the jewish

federation of madison

and has previously served on the board

of planned parenthood of wisconsin

the madison museum of contemporary art

and is a former chair of the board of

hell

at the university of wisconsin she has

deep knowledge and expertise in board

leadership and strategy

and looks forward to sharing her

experience and knowledge with others ms

cedar earned a bachelor's of art

in art history and french from the

university of vermont in 1974

and currently lives in madison wisconsin

with her husband bruce rosen

diane think first off thank you so much

for all your community involvement

around

the madison area we really do appreciate

that oh thank you

yeah and what a wonderful bio um and

it's just wonderful to see

a very different background when it

comes to then

being the board of chair of a large

corporation the milwaukee valve

corporation

um so my first question just to kind of

start us off is

could you tell us a little bit about the

history and your involvement

and how you became the board of chair of

the milwaukee valve company

i would love to um i graduated college

in 1974

and thought that i was going to work in

an art gallery or whatever i got a job

in an art gallery in cincinnati and

after a year

things didn't work out as well as i

thought and i realized that my

two of my brothers had gone into our

family business the valve manufacturing

business

and that my financial future was going

to be tied up with their decisions

and it's not that i don't love my

brothers or think that my brothers are

smart

but i thought maybe it would be time for

me to jump in and learn about the

business

so i went to my father who was a very

traditional

guy and asked him if i could come work

for him and he said no

he said this is not a business for women

go do something else

so i came back again and asked him and

he said no

and i finally begged he said okay i'll

give you six months so

um he um had me come into the

the business it was on the south side of

milwaukee uh

the valve manufacturing business is not

glamorous

uh offices are not fancy and in those

days

um the foundry was on the same

floor as what you would call the

executive offices harley executive

offices

and he decided to put me in an office

that

shared a wall with the foundry and not

only did my office

rumble all day long but soot from the

foundry basically came through and i

think he did that because they thought

this would like do me in

but anyway i lasted 42 years

and in those 42 years i did inside sales

and outside sales i

um did i i did some marketing and

advertising public relations i spent 15

years in our factory in prairie du sac

which was probably the most

unbelievably unbelievable experience of

my life

to spend that much time in a

manufacturing facility

with amazing amazing industrious people

um i ended up being the family member

head of our banking relations

and eventually i was a family member

that was

had the relationship with not only the

navy but the naval shipyards

which is about 25 of our business so i

was able to do

almost everything or have my fingers in

just about everything in the business

over those

number of years that that is amazing

um and what a what a wonderful i mean 42

years that's

i can only imagine that your dad was so

happy that you finally asked the third

time

and that six months turned into 42 years

because it sounds like you're extremely

involved in a lot of different ways

you know i think that at the end he was

very proud

um i it was very difficult for him to

see

women come into industry you know this

is a man that was

born in 1917. or 1918.

um and the world has changed you know

women are you know

there are women that are that are on our

shop floor there are women that are head

of purchasing

and we haven't gotten to the point where

we have women in the executive area of

this company but

it will happen soon and it's a changing

world and

it was really and a great experience to

be part of that changing world and be a

female in this industry

that's i mean that's just wonderful to

hear and what would you say

just from the 42 year history what was

like your your favorite

part of it and what do you think you you

learned the most throughout all of those

years of experience

i would say most definitely um the value

human beings bring to

a company i grew up with so many of our

employees

you know we started together whether we

were 18 or 20 or 25

we we we were single we

married we had our children we learned

about our kids we watched our kids grow

up we watched our kids go to college

we watched i you know i watched so many

people in our factory whose

your dreams were the exact same dreams

of mine and

for our children and i don't think i

would have had that

really personal experience without being

able to do what i did and that is really

the value of it

is is the people at milwaukee valve that

just inspired me all the time

that's i mean what a wonderful way to

put that

it was i they are you know they they are

dear to me when i hear that somebody is

retiring a year and a half later i still

call them i wish them well

because they're you know they really are

part of my life

so 42 years in the business i can only

imagine that you

like a lot of owners or individuals who

have controlling stakes in companies

that feel like it's their baby

like 42 years is is an old child at the

end of the day

and so how do you how did you come

about the decision to sell with you and

it sounds like your brothers

um we did it about five years ago we

realized there was only two of us left

in the business

and it had been managed for over 15

years at that point

and at that point finally we were able

to issue dividends

which we never were able to do and so

family members that weren't involved

and those involved were all getting

something out of the business

and so we could have continued this way

but

the truth was that all of our assets

were tied into

this company we had nothing else and for

those that were not involved in the

business

um it really was a little unfair that

they had so much of their assets

in in something that they couldn't

control

none of our children wanted to be in the

business so my parents had nine

grandchildren

we all instilled in them that they

should do what they want to do

and their decision was that they didn't

want to they didn't want to do what we

did

and so we decided that the best thing to

do would be to sell the business

um we decided

when we made that when we made that

decision

it was we decided that we were going to

do this very methodically

and that we we had to figure out

what you know what would trigger a sale

were we ready to sell now what could we

get for the company

or did certain things have to happen

before we were ready to sell

and so we all got together and we

discussed

on how we wanted to go do this and i

bring that

up because i think when you consider

selling you should be thinking about it

long before you're ready to do it

you know diane we i'm so glad you said

that

we often talk about how when you form a

business

we haven't sold our business but we've

formed a business a number of years ago

that uh pretty quickly after that the

ideas of how you're gonna get out of

that business should come to mind and i

don't think a lot of people think of

that

but almost immediately upon forming the

business you've got to think about what

are the possibilities

of how you're going to get out because

that that often can be

a lot more difficult it's probable than

it is than actually forming the business

yes um i'm curious with a lot of the

family businesses that we're involved in

the kids though i i love the way that

you

you phrased this and instilled this into

the into the children your brother's

children but

the kids are the likely kind of obvious

for most family businesses

first go to when they transition to the

to that generation and a lot of times

like that is

that is the succession plan that's how

the parents get paid out as their kids

take that

it at what point did you realize that

that just

wasn't going to happen so are you

talking about the third generation

yeah yes correct um so the second

generation happened like it usually

happens right

except for the fact that us what we did

was you can't assume that a second

generation is going to be the same

as the first in fact it never will be if

the first if the father or the mother is

the entrepreneur

one of the children may have certain

talents maybe they don't

but you can't assume that they can just

run the business because they have the

right last name

and so i just want to say that because

what we did was the best

for the business and that is to get

professional management

it was the best what we what you have to

understand

is that what's best for the business is

always going to be best for the family

and if you think you can just pick one

or the other forget about it

for get about it it has to be

aligned so the first the second

generation

we did it well we had a lot of years of

struggling but

it we managed to do it really really

well

the third generation did not um

it did not disappoint us at all

it really didn't we were so focused

on our children being able to to follow

their dreams

that that was the most important so it

it really did not

what i did do though was starting

a a number of years ago is that

i started i think six years ago i

realized that

none of the third generation really knew

much about the business

that they only knew what their parents

had taught them so i started a a

an annual um education program

first year i brought everybody together

and i i had them i

i introduced them to management

management did a

presentation on what they do and what's

happening in the business

and then the second year i invited all

the third generation to our factory

and i asked my brothers not to come i

wanted them to experience it on their

own of course

you know my brothers only followed the

good rules so one of them came

but they got to walk through the plant

and see for their own eyes what goes on

and so we just started this education

program that even if they weren't going

to be in the business

they may end up um as a board member

because and we ended up putting one of

the third generations on the board

member i wanted to prepare

for any any kind of thing i could in the

future if we kept the business

i wanted this third generation to be

knowledgeable and engaged

and if we didn't keep the business then

at least they would know what they were

selling

so it was diane it seems

as if you and your family were very

communicative

and discussed decisions made a lot of

plans

which is fantastic that you had a

relationship with your family members to

be able to make that happen probably in

a

a decent way where sometimes family

feuds can come from these type of

transactions

or even making business decisions so

could you just talk a little bit about

the communication style between you and

your brothers

and then in addition to the third

generation i know you just talked about

the educational seminar that you've that

you created

but what about you and your brothers how

did you communicate these types of

decisions

was it hey if two agree and one's out

then it we're moving forward

you know how did you guys go about that

for 42 years

um i would say that um we are like every

other family we had some really good

times and we had some really tough times

and part of the tough times were that

um truly that my father like

any other entrepreneur was a control

freak

and it was his way or the highway and

when and so there wasn't much we could

do until really the turn of

you know till like the year 2000 where

we could

really start formalizing um procedures

we could create a board

that was a professional board instead of

like a free-for-all

you know board meetings used to be

free-for-alls we hired um outside board

members

we um and they they did not want to

and we paid them and they weren't going

to come unless this was a serious

business

and luckily the president of our company

had worked

as i said he was a president of

subsidiary of a large company and he

understood this

and so we just started to formalize our

procedures and at first it was

very difficult because um

i was very i was like gung-ho that this

is what i was going to do

and i had a lot of pushback we never did

it this way this is so corporate

this is this this is that but i was

bound to determine and i had

good mentors which makes a big

difference i had very good mentors

on the board that that backed me up and

held and and

and and really helped me through it so

we had

um we had a we had probably 10

very tumultuous years of not good

not good communications because nobody

wanted to hear what somebody else

said but we kept moving forward and

moving forward and just

we just moved forward and and

even even in those years when we thought

we'd get there there was a blip

it's never ever going to be easy uh

you just have to really be committed to

again what's best for the business is

best for our family

and that is the driving force so did i

take a lot of hits

yes i took a lot of hits were there

times when my brothers wanted to never

talk to me again

yes there were times they never wanted

to talk to me again but i knew

that it was going to be the best for our

family

that's such a fantastic line what's

great for the business is great for the

family

good lord it is oh oh no but that's

that's why it's so good because it's the

truth

it is oh it is it is my heart palpitated

a little bit for that one that was a

good one

thank you it might become my final

thought unless you want to take a

nathaniel for a while i was going to say

i saw you writing that down

mine mine i initially grasped that

people you know they they sometimes

forget

you know you hear about stories of

families it's just they bleed companies

dry

because family members just can't stop

spending money

i mean it happens we've all seen it yeah

and

um and that's why you have to have that

alignment

there's there's i i know diane before we

started this you're talking about just

there's so many

different things that need to be

prepared to go into selling a business

yeah um but could you just talk a little

bit on a high level you can keep a high

level just a few

high-level thoughts when it comes to

considering like what you need to be

considered

to get ready to get to the point to sell

the business

um i think that you have to think about

things long before you sell and i have

a couple things i want to talk about one

is that you have to check the structure

of your company

is it the breast structure for a sale

do you have a c corp do you have an s

corp how are you structured what's going

to happen when you sell

and that can't be done a year or two

years before

you have to think about that long before

if you have

i'm sorry we're just shaking our head

because this is just this is so good

this is what we talk about

all the time to our small business owner

clients

and it's just so validating to hear

somebody

who's been there and gone through the

process to just

oh this is and we're you know we you

call us a large business we weren't a

large

we were a mid-sized manufacturing

business

so um if you have third generation if

you have stock held in trusts

have you looked at those trusts are

those trusts

are they what's going to happen when you

start a sale

what's going to happen with those trusts

and even irrevocable trusts

can be you know you can or you if you

can't change it you may start a new

trust

but that's really really important is

taking a look at the trusts

review your ownership don't leave

anything left for interpretation what

does the stock look like

meet with your financial advisors make

sure everybody knows what stock they own

and make sure everybody signs off on

ownership

that doesn't mean you're not going to

have a problem because you're always

going to have somebody that says

i work harder than somebody else i

should have more stock

and so that becomes a difference between

i work harder from somebody else i'm an

employee

so so in a family business you're an

employee and you're an owner

and so those are those don't always you

have to look at those separately

but really take a look at your stock

structure

and your in your ownership i think you

should

um what we did is we established a

voting procedure

and we did this years before we sold

um do you want a simple majority to make

major decisions do you want two-thirds

do you want

a hundred percent which i don't

recommend

so in our business we had we had

four my i have three brothers

and there were nine other grandchildren

and what we decided to do

is that we created a voting um

what did i call it um it's like a

it was a it was not a voting trust but

it was sort of like a voting trust and

that is that

i had i could vote for myself on behalf

of my children

each of my brothers could do the same

thing it's a voting proxy almost

like a voting proxy so we had four

basically

four votes on anything that was major

and we defined what was major

and most of it was a change in control

the change in control is the big thing

and and so we had the ability to do what

we could with three and we decided three

out of four

would be appropriate now as it happened

it's much better when you're gonna sell

a company that it's unanimous and that's

what you want to

you want to go for but you never want to

be in a situation where somebody for

some unknown reason

is going to hold you up that doesn't

make any sense

so i would suggest to take a look at how

you vote

and and what you know what are the what

are the you know what happens

in that in in that voting trust

um the other thing that i did that i

would suggest to anybody is that

ever since about oh i would say at least

2005

i would meet with my accountants and our

estate planning attorney

and we would just go over we would just

have a little group

and at twice a year we would look at

succession planning

tax planning all kinds of things

what is that what can we do what makes

sense for my parents is it you know

should they be

gifting stocks should they be selling

stock what should they do

from an estate standpoint my parents at

the end really

they had no stock by um the last 15

years of

of the company's existence uh and there

and there's

and that's good and bad that's not

always the right thing to do it turned

out the right thing for our family but

honestly you just even if you don't

think there's anything on the agenda

you get one idea you get another idea

you never know where it's going to be

for me a lot of my job was anticipate

what could i anticipate what could

happen next

and that was sort of the way that i sort

of got up in the morning and said what

is it today that i have to anticipate

in this insane family business kind of

thing

oh and that's a huge role to take on

it's a huge role

so yeah those are the things that i

think you look at

long before you even think about selling

and which diane i didn't know nathaniel

was mentioning i mean we talk about this

all the time and what's difficult that

we find with individuals and family

businesses

is that they don't have the time to

think about it or at least they perceive

they don't have the time to think about

it so they put it down on the the

priority list down

down the rung because i'm not going to

sell for 10 years and i'm not going to

do this but what we have found

is that people such as kids taking over

for their parents

that they're going back like dad mom why

didn't you do this

why didn't you now i can't actually grow

the business because of x y and z

and i can't do x y and z and it's so

it's trying to get people to understand

that this is like

you're foreseeing you know you're the

future teller in

inside the business what what can and

can't happen and anticipating some of

those bad things that might happen

but there's so much detail behind it and

i am just curious and i don't know if

you can and if you can say this or not

diane but

with the voting proxy specifically now

is that

did the the grandkids have technical

economic ownership through trust and is

that why you needed to vote on their

behalf

yes and then did that you set that up

okay they were all they their

their their stack was all held in trust

okay

and how it was that difficult did any of

the grandkids like

understand that and try to veto that one

from like a voting control or was that

set up prior to them really even

some of it was set up before they were

born gotcha we did some unborn

family trusts okay so they were set up

and and truthfully at the end of the day

most of them are married now and it

becomes

and so the proceeds of the of their

share of the family business has blinded

their trust

which is actually even better than a

prenup

so it turned out to be a win-win so

they're protected the money that they

receive from their grandparents

and their parents through this business

is protected through these trusts

gotcha very interesting that was the

other thing that we thought about

that's i mean that's wonderful estate

planning work right there yeah yeah

um that is that is fascinating so

how so you mentioned stock specifically

and you mentioned

you know who who has what stock and who

has what ownership

could you talk a little bit more about

that and how you work through the

details

and the equity splits between your

siblings and it sounds like the

grandkids as well how did you figure

that out

so i didn't figure that out my father

made that decision

my father decided that the three of us

working in the business

would have the same amount of stock and

my brother that doesn't work in the

business didn't get as much stock

the way he did grandchildren

was that he what he decided was that

each

family would have the three families

that worked in the business would have

the exact same amount

and then my brother who did not work in

the family would have

less

and so at the end of the day nothing is

perfect right

nothing is perfect so my brother

and his daughter his one daughter

have the same amount of stock as myself

and my three children

the same amount of stock as my brother

and his three children

so that the nine grandchildren have

different amounts of stock

because of that there's no perfect way

to do it

it you could you could do it where each

the the families those of us that

that produce the most children could

have had the most stock

would that have been fair to my brother

that only had one child

so it was a decision my dad made

he understood the pros and cons and

it was and i respected him for that

decision

so during the actual transition of the

business

you know we talked a little bit off air

that it was very complicated and it

was a lot to do could you just walk us

through

high level what it was like actually

going through the transition to sell

this family-owned business

yes i will try to do that as well okay

so

my brothers and i decided that um we

were going to sell the business

and we said we were going to do it if x

y

and z happen that was going to be the

trigger

and it was more um as i think everybody

knows

companies buy businesses for future

performance

you can talk all you want about how

great you did in the past and the past

makes a difference but they've got to

see

that there is going to be a future and

so we had some things going on

that some large orders and you hate to

think about

oh if we get this order then we're good

because you know the order's never going

to come right

but it was uh it was a little bit of a

different situation it was uh

we you know we do we the company does

business with the navy

and we knew that their new ships were

being built

and we also knew that they can't build

ships without milwaukee valves on it and

so we decided that if this thing

things happen we would pull the trigger

and so

we about a year out from that

and things were still going well we

decided

it's time to start thinking about it and

so

we put together what we call the little

change in control committee

it was myself my nephew i had one third

generation on the committee

and one board member who happened to

have been our

auditor for many years and a trusted

advisor to our family

dan will love this an orthodox jew

who my father used to call the rabbi

although he was not

but he was like our family you know

everybody trusted him he didn't have

favorites

and he had what is our whole family our

best interest so the three of us were

like the

the little the three musketeers and so

our task

was to establish a team we had to hire

investment bankers attorneys accountants

we had to engage our management team

other consultants

and our job was to lead this lead this

whole process through

and we also had to do it while i

we had to do this whole thing while

maintaining

appropriate meaningful communications

with my family members

so the three of us were intimately

involved in all these decisions day in

day out day in

and day out and we had to figure out at

what point do my

does my do my brothers need to know

what's happening my nieces and nephews

need to

a little bit we need to give them enough

information that was meaningful but not

too much that they were going to start

you know just

digging into the details and so that

is like probably of all the things it's

a judgment call

it's all it is as a judgment call and

and how to do it and we ended up doing

it well

we got i think we got lucky but we

thought about it every day

so we had to research investment banking

firms we had to research transactional

attorneys

um and of course investment banking

firms there's

hundreds of them hundreds of them

because i have hundreds and hundreds of

letters

but you have to find somebody that's our

size company

somebody in manufacturing who

understands our business

and so we you know did all that research

we chose somebody transactional attorney

we needed to set criteria

for example we have government contracts

we needed a transactional attorney that

understood government

contracts we needed a transactional

attorney that what happens if a foreign

company wanted to buy our business

how complicated is that if you have

government contracts

it's very complicated so anyway those

were the kinds of things that

we that we had to think about um so we

found a you know we

we we did all of that we found we put

together our team

and um we hired our uh

our uh investment banking company

went to them and said we're not ready to

sell yet but we're hiring you

and they said fine they knew how to get

us

prepped um they they met with us they

met with the bankers they met with our

entire family whoever wanted to come

mostly my brothers

explained to them what was going on so

my brothers were in the loop

so much of all of this is just basic

communication

i mean i just can't it's communication

it just

every day it's communication you can't

overemphasize that

um and then um once we were ready to

say yes they had before we were ready to

say yes they said we can do a lot of

prep work

and so we started getting everybody

prepped we you know this

i'd never heard of anything you know any

of these terms that they used

you know they started throwing out the

thing what was it called a sip a

confidential

information packet of who knew it was

150 pages long

but you know what you know it was like

time out what's a sip but

we started working on those kinds of

things and so once we were ready to

hit the button we were well on our way

but once you get going it becomes a

whirlwind

i mean you have you put together this

this confidential information

packet you have to research who are your

who are your potential buyers we

knew our um we knew our strategic buyers

because they'd been contacting me for

the past two years

and so what we decided is that we would

continue to let them contact me

and i met with a number of them off the

record

i had lunch with them i had dinner with

them i kept saying

i'm not for sale right now but if you

know and they say but if you're

interested will you remember

me kind of thing so we had a pretty good

list of

the potential strategic buyers and of

course a

good um a good investment banker brings

many many more so we had financials we

had

um family offices strategics

we had a list of about 150 potential

businesses

wow you know it's a there were

we were a basic profitable

manufacturing business modern

manufacturing business and there's not

that many around okay

great so when it came to the

who did you guys sell to so it's it's an

interesting story

and and before and then well then if

it's gonna be interesting story that

means it's gonna be a good long one so

before you get into it can you tell us

also

what factors you considered when you

sold

to this entity like in terms of

priorities like how the employees

uh what the the plan did they tell you

about what their future plans were for

the business like how did that factor

into your line of thinking

it factored in a lot even though at the

end of the day you really have no

control

because they can say one thing and they

can do another

so i'll make it as short as i can

because it's interesting we came up with

a group of um

companies that we thought we would that

would buy our business mostly strategic

they had their financials we sent out

you know a teaser we got a whole bunch

of information back a

number of companies wanted more

information we sent out the sip

came back and i got a phone call from

our largest competitor

he said i hear your company's for sale

you didn't send me anything

i said you're right i didn't and i

didn't

because he was our largest competitor

and my oldest brother said i will sell

to anybody

but this company now at the end of the

day guess who we sold to

we sold to that company um

and so what you think in the beginning

changes at the end and generally it

changes because they come in with a much

higher price

but he it was a competitor he was

dedicated to our business

we totally knew he was going to run the

business

we had a much more modern manufacturing

facility than he did because we all know

each other's business it's a small

business so we knew that our facility

was going to stay

and he insisted that our management team

stays

and so we knew that our employees were

going to be there

our management team was going to be

there our factory was going to be there

and that was a big deal for us that was

a big deal for us

and when i had to get in front of our

employees to let them know what was

happening

that was a question they asked did your

brother diane feel

better about that offer when it came in

much larger

he did because at the end of the day i

said here

it's your decision

and i said johnny if you don't want to

do it we'll go somewhere else

and nice yeah diane

just listening to the transition story

the and you emphasized this just a

minute ago communication

i i gotta ask it sounds like you were

the one leading the communication and

it maybe it wasn't you but it sure

sounds like it um

were you at the helm were you at the

helm of all the i was leading the

communications

i can say i if i were your brother i'd

be so happy to have you as a sister

because

it's like honestly the way that you went

about the strategic

and and thinking through all the details

i know nathaniel has been very excited

about this conversation because of the

attention to detail

but wow it is impressive and and

honestly and the reason why i bring this

up is

doing a lot of due diligence and and

education on

specifically closely held businesses um

you know one of my designations that i

have i i learned quite a bit about it

and

the the the number one thing they talk

about is having

really really really strong

communication and understanding who

you're working with

understanding their human capital their

social capital understanding them on

different levels

and i will say it takes a very unique

individual to to lead that

and to obviously do it and execute it on

a very

large scale and and well diversified um

and so i should

give you a lot of credit because it's

amazing how well you've communicated

through that whole transition process

and we try to emphasize that back to our

clientele is how important it really is

because i think people

believe that it will just get done but

there's a lot more thought process

behind actually getting that

communication effectively and

efficiently

through a large transition because how

long did this take

from start to finish it's really hard to

tell you because that beginning and and

i would say that we began

seriously when we sent out the letter

let's say you know we probably began in

april and we

closed in november wow

now there was a lot between before april

i mean there were months we were we were

working months before that

months before that but once we got going

um and we had some you know we had some

real blips

in the middle of all of it um

well in the middle of it we have a

factory in china

it's our own factory in china we own it

it's uh it's it's it's milwaukee valve

you know it's it says it milwaukee bell

mtv milwaukee valley it's very funny

it's it's in a town called tangloo and

um

in the midst of this if you remember

this was 19

all of a sudden president trump was

furious at the chinese and he came out

one day and said

every american business has to leave

china today of course nobody listened to

him

but it put panic into you know here's

the sale

of a business we have this factory in

china

and there's all this stuff going on in

the news and so you have to

you have to like go with it and you know

and realize

that it's just chatter it's not going to

make a difference but it panics people

i get calls from my brothers i get calls

from my nieces and nephews what's going

to happen it's all the whole thing's

going to fall apart

and you just have to say don't listen to

it it's going to be fine

kind of thing it's going to be fine and

um yeah it's

it really is it's it's communications

and i think the other thing for me was

that

i felt i mean this was my whole family

these are my brothers these are my

nieces my nephews my

children my husband my you know

the the decisions we make affect

affected every single family member

and and their future and that

weighs heavily on you i mean that weighs

heavily on the fact that you really want

to make the right decisions for your

entire family

and could and diane could you actually

talk a little bit more

about the emotions and and i'm assuming

that i don't want to call it a roller

coaster but the emotions going through

the transition

and and what that was like i mean i i

can only imagine

making a decision for so many and it's

going to affect so many

um what that could be like so i'm just

curious if there's other emotional

things that came up

during this process um

i think the most emotional parts of it

were if i

had to be let's say

when generally when they're customers

that came through the plant i would be

there and i would take them through i'd

give them a plant tour

and so it was very difficult um like in

october a month before we

we we closed i would have customers up

at the plant

and i would take them through and i knew

in my head

that i probably wasn't going to own this

company a month later

and though those were my most difficult

moments

i knew the decision to sell was the best

for our entire family

i knew that and so i i was really

fine in my office my home office away

from

the shop or away from the office

once i was there and i had to put on

that was the hard part for me

it was the right decision for our family

no question whatsoever when i had to get

up and

say goodbye to my employees i burst into

tears i mean that was just sort of

and my brother did too it was all messy

but it's

you know because we you know had that

relationship with our employees

and there was no way around it

i am i think we did it at the right time

we did it in the right way

and the outcome was you know beyond our

expectations

diana i want to tell a quick story

actually and it will make sense i think

from where it starts and the follow-up

question that i have for you

based on the story but for the audience

so it makes sense as to where we start

you know diane and i serve together on

an executive board

um an executive executive committee on a

board

for an organization that does a lot of

charitable work

so a few years back and i remember you

telling me a story

about how i believe it was 2008 2009

and uh that was not not a good time um

i remember you telling me being so

charitably inclined yourself

and your father about going to your dad

and you received a request for a typical

annual donation that you provided and

you didn't feel comfortable giving that

donation

because of the times you told me that

your father said

to you you know if we can't make this

donation

what about all the other people that

perhaps don't have the same resources

yeah and instead he had you make that

full donation

the story is even worse because my dad

had

um the business was going to survive

my father's personal fortune he lost

almost everything

because he had invested um he whatever

it happened it was a really you know

when the stock market crashed he lost

almost everything

and he still said that he still said

and i will it's something that i will

never forget and it's a story i repeat

to my children

every year it's one that i won't forget

i mean it was a few years ago

at lunch when you had told that to me

and i think it speaks

a lot to the the character of your

father who's come up

in this conversation interwoven this

conversation

several times now of course he did and i

i think it speaks to obviously the

continuous shaping

he had on you and being involved with

him

in this business i know you must have

spent

more time in different capacities that

most daughter fathers don't spend

and with all that being said it makes me

curious

i mean milwaukee valve is a

marvelous marvelous just incredible just

an incredible

um success story how

and i'm sure you probably look at this a

lot looking through the eyes of your

father

how would your father you think have

how would he look at this success story

and the transition

to this next step for this company the

company survives on

it's good for the business what do you

think he would have said

about this process we as a family

talk about this all the time

we talk about how our father would um

react

so my father died at 95 and a half in

2014.

he after the 2009

recession we like many other companies

learned how to

be better we learned how to be more

efficient and we became much more

profitable

and he was really thrilled with how well

we were doing

he was really really thrilled he never

liked our president because

he wasn't one of his family members but

he was really

really thrilled um

we we've we keep on asking ourselves

so we sold our business for much more

than we ever thought we would

and my father was a dreamer like every

entrepreneur

i mean that's what he was so great at he

was a dreamer he was a salesman

he could sell you anything absolutely

anything he was fantastic

um i there's two ways that could have

gone

knowing you know a dreamer one is a

dreamer could have said you could have

done better

right because it's you know if you could

have done this well you could have done

better

or oh my goodness i could never imagine

this

but i will tell you that what i t we

tell our children is that

he gave us a base and we

and we couldn't have done it without his

base

and the fact that we made good on his

base

and that we took that business and we

took it to a different level

that is what that's a success of a next

generation

and you don't ever forget the base that

you were given

so to answer your question we all we we

vote every year on how it could go

what a what a and i mean and what a good

thing to kind of talk about

i mean you know it's it's wonderful to

hear that it is a second generation

success and a lot of a lot of family

businesses that doesn't work out um you

know there's a reason for shirt sleeves

of shirt sleeves

is the old adage there and then it it

happens it's typically third generation

where the business is completely lost or

family fortune

um i mean we talked we've talked a lot

about the transition

what you've gone through because you

tell stan just a little bit

about life after the transition how's it

been

how are you feeling overall thoughts

so for me i it's been great

yeah it's been great i um

i really was ready to do it

um my job was stressful

it was really really stressful and part

of my job

is as i described it i was i needed to

shield my management from

things that were unproductive on a

family basis

we got we got really good at it but

there's always things that come up

because they were the ones that were

running the business they were the ones

that were

really doing phenomenally well um

so i was ready and i have other things i

took on this

big job at the university of vermont

foundation which is

larger than i actually thought as chair

of the board and

um especially being involved at

universities during covid

and it's been a real challenge but it's

been interesting

um i would say that um my oldest brother

who's

his whole he nobody could sell

anything like he could i mean he's just

the most amazing salesperson in the

world

and i think and his persona was wrapped

up into the business and i think it's

been a little harder for him

um but but everybody's been really you

know i think we just really feel good

about how it happened and

what happened and the fact that our

employees are still employed and the

businesses

you know it was difficult this year but

um they're going to do fine

which we all want them to so um

yeah no i'm really you know it's been a

very good thing for me

[Music]

the door of the door from generation to

generation

yeah your father built this base like

you said

yeah and you and so many others then

took it to

a whole nother level which is a major

success

and every business has a story

i'm glad that you are on the side of the

successful story

but every business has a story because

every business is filled with people and

every person has a story

yeah and i think that's my last comment

for

for this podcast is i really appreciate

you sharing just a glimpse of some of

that story

to the audience because this is a topic

that affects so many

and they're just not enough insight and

education on it

it's true that's true

you know for my thought my final

thoughts um

i'm gonna go back to the beginning of

the podcast and

the story of you being told no

twice and then getting a chance for six

months and and

um i say this because i honestly diane i

see that as an inspiration i hope a lot

of women

actually get to listen to this podcast

and and and know that

that they can do it and that they should

try and that they should push

you know coming from a bachelor of arts

with an emp you know with a double major

in french

and then becoming the communication

leader of a well-run business

that is no small feat for any person and

i think obviously women are typically

overlooked in positions in that kind of

power

especially having two brothers and you

becoming the sole

the sole force of that communication is

an absolute inspiration for women

and and i truly appreciate that and i'm

glad that you were able to tell your

story and that side of it and what you

actually did when it came to

the transition of this company and how

you ran it and the amount of

work you put into it um without even

having a business degree

right i mean that's it's just it's a

wonderful wonderful thing to hear

um and that's my final thought is i i

really do think it's just a true

inspiration and i appreciate

you being willing to share your story

with us well it's my pleasure

and i i just believe that we

should all be sharing our stories you

know

we all are in this together and however

we can help somebody

either avoid um a huge faux pas

or just help them on their way that's

the great joy in life

that is truly the great joy in life to

be able to share these and

and help somebody make a difference i

couldn't agree more

couldn't agree more yeah

i don't i don't really have anything to

add apart from i'm

the best line that that you said and

it's not a line

if the the what you the the best

statement i think that

really resonated with me in this podcast

was what's best for the business is

what's

best for the family i i am not joking

when i say that

i will remember that because i think

that that's

i'm going to pound that in to our

business owner clients

about that exact point because it's

it's just it's so simple yet it's it's

so true

and it's always the simple concepts that

people have the hardest

issue with because it's just so simple

and clean

and so thank you for that and i would

say it's my big word this year and that

is alignment

you just can't do it without alignment

absolutely yeah and and diane do you we

always like to give our guests the last

words do you have any parting words for

for our listeners i think those were

them

okay yeah perfect alignment's a

wonderful one

yes yeah thank you this was fun yes

and you know we we thank you so much

diane i mean it's a wonderful story and

and what a success and we

just truly appreciate you being on the

podcast with us and again i want to

emphasize we really do appreciate all

the work you do within our community

um i think that is also and all the

other boards that you're associated with

um

you know giving back in that way is

something that we try to do here at the

firm and we just appreciate when others

are

giving their time it's extremely

important so thank you so much for that

and welcome thank you for all of yeah go

ahead

i was gonna say are we done with the

podcast because i had something to say

after the podcast

yeah i'm just gonna i'll wrap it up

really quick but then yeah we can

we can shut it off we can talk offline

um but thank you so much to all of our

listeners we we

truly appreciate you listening to these

people talk about stuff they love and we

will talk to you next time

thank you for taking the time to start

your journey of thinking differently

and listening to lbw talk about stuff

they love

until next time