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Mr Jim Ethier

Culture and planning key to success says millionaire US family business leader

Developing a company culture and strategic planning were identified as critical elements for growth and success by a millionaire US family business leader at the DCU Centre for Family Business Conference (Tuesday, April 12th).

“We reviewed our history and our values- we were determined to change what we were doing, but not who we were. The effort to institute strategic planning forced us to examine who we were,” said Jim Ethier, keynote speaker and former Chairman and CEO of Bush Brothers & Co, the largest brand of bean products in the United States.

Ethier, who has spearheaded the growth of the sixth generation family company and Tennessee based outfit, which enjoys 80% US market share, shared the secrets of business success at this year’s conference which addressed the topic of “Attracting and retaining family and non-family talent in your business.”

“The strategic planning effort had significant impact on our culture. Our employees could empower themselves to execute and to innovate.After a number of years, our group board said that we should label our culture “highly involved, results oriented” because that was the culture we had created.”

Ethier highlighted that the practices followed at Bush Brothers & Co, which was founded in 1908, had a significantly positive impact on the development of the company, helping it to transition through the decades and maintain a healthy robust position.

“The emphasis on the strategic planning process was a very significant driver of our development of professional management and leaders in our organisation,” he added.

He outlined how Bush Brothers & Co, the largest bean product manufacturer in the United States which has production facilities in Tennessee and Wisconsin and employs over 500 people, chose to focus on the concept of stakeholders, as opposed to shareholders, which ensured employees were focussed on delivering value and also felt part of the future of the company.

Ethier highlighted the valuable role that the founders of the company, his grandfather and father played and how the organisation managed the loss of this leadership and knowledge.

Dr Eric Clinton, Director of the Centre for Family Business said

“Talent is important to all firms but especially important to family businesses who seek to be multi-generational. Today’s conference focussed on how to manage family and non-family talent in the business and how to attract, retain and develop them collectively."

The conference, sponsored by William Fry, AIB and PwC attracted over 200 delegates and included contributions from Dr. Eric Clinton, a lecturer in Entrepreneurship at DCU Business School and Director of the DCU Centre for Family Business; Dr. Melrona Kirrane, DCU Business School and Lecturer in Organisational Psychology; Paul Keogh of the Ballymore Group; Eimear Lynch, Stafford and Lynch; Nora Lillis, William Fry; Catherine O’Flynn, William Fry; Marie Flynn, PwC Ireland; Annette O’Donoghue, AIB Business Banking; and John Loughran of People in Mind.

The Centre for Family Business is running a series of Family Business Roadshows starting on June 1st (Dublin), June 8th (Cork) and June 15th (Shannon). For further details please visit here

See conference photo album here.

13th April, 2016