Family Business Center Conference: Poe Visits Beak & Skiff

By Joe Cunningham, Internet Marketing Manager

Monday was a fun day for Poe and me.  We hit the road down to Lafayette to visit Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards for the very first time for both of us.  Don’t get me wrong, Poe and I don’t recreate together – this was strictly business.

An Oddly Normal Request

A few weeks ago, Poe got a request to attend an event (that still happens), put on by the Family Business Center, of which Cowley Associates is a proud member.  The event was entitled “Transitioning Upstate” and featured a series of enlightening presentations, breakfast, lunch, and of course, a tasting of 1911 vodka.

Poe presentingLet’s Talk About It

The presentations were as follows: “Passing the Torch: Key Fiduciary Considerations in the Transfer of the Family Business” by Donald DiCarlo, Managing Director of the Wilmington Trust; “The Best Laid Plan – Family Business Transitions” by Carol Ryan (noticing a trend here?); and last but not least – the Disney guy – Mr. John Formica on “Secrets to Making Your Family Business MAGICAL!”

Poe got to meet John “before the show.”  He was very into the whole thing – having managed Walt Disney World Resort for years, he was used to posing with any number of imaginary characters.  He didn’t even flinch.  I was impressed.

“If you keep doing the same things, you can’t expect the same results,” he said, to paraphrase Einstein’s definition of insanity.

John was a truly animated speaker (naturally), getting everyone off their feet and actively engaging in the topic.

John talked about how he helped “make the customer experience magical” and how people go for “the experience” of Disney.

Poe and JohnGail’s Experience

Since Poe and I had to step out to try the spirits and throw apples at passers-by, I asked Gail later on about her experience at the event.

“I think overall the conference was very energizing,” commented Gail.

“It was so good to take a day to come together with other family-owned business owners to network and discuss positive strategies to implement in our everyday workflow.

“The presentations on key financial considerations, succession planning and predictors of success were excellent; and the closing presentation was empowering: our keynote speaker very enthusiastically and (sometimes theatrical) outlined his experiences working for Disney and how they achieved customer loyalty while giving their guests a consistently great customer experience.  I came away excited to implement these ideas as we plan for 2014.  I fully expect that many of these ideas will give us a definite competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Poe, Gail, and friends.Onward and Upward

We really enjoyed our visit (Poe definitely had to let me drive home).  The view, fresh air, friendly staff, rustic décor, and great products made it a rewarding drive out there, for sure.  I (emphasis on the singular) will have to return with my son at some time to go apple picking.

And the “big announcement” at the conference was that the FBC is now partnering with LeMoyne College’s Madden School of Business to “to provide expanded tools and resources and add world class educational opportunities for current and future family businesses in our region.”  Sounds exciting!

Well, don’t take our word for it.  Go out and “smell the apples” as Poe’s gnome friend would say; and the vodka, for sure.  And you family businesses: find out more about what the FBC can do for you on their website.

“Happy fall my friends!” – Poe the Gnome


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