Hayzlett builds multifaceted business with help from second generation
It likely didn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knew him that Jeffrey Hayzlett issued a news release back in 1986 when his daughter, Lindsey, was born.
“We don’t expect to get much work out of her in the first 18 years,” he remembers writing as he named the infant company vice president.
Hayzlett, a veteran sales and marketing executive, held senior positions in marketing and public relations at several businesses before becoming chief marketing officer of the Eastman Kodak Co. He left in 2010 to focus on The Hayzlett Group, which owns TallGrass Public Relations and C-Suite Network, which takes viewers inside some of the world’s largest companies.
He’s also a prolific author and speaker, who delivered 140 speeches last year.
And his news release actually was a bit prophetic. Lindsey and his son, Tyler, grew up in the family business and took to it naturally.
“The kids always helped me in business in one way or another,” Hayzlett said. “When they were 5 or 6 when I was doing speeches around the country, the kids would work the back table hawking my tapes and videos.”
Hayzlett will share his family business experience and encourage others to think big and act bigger in a speech titled The Rewards of Being Relentless at the Prairie Family Business Association annual conference April 13.
“I’ll discuss driving change, not just in family businesses but all businesses,” he said. “And how it’s different today and it’s moving at a much more rapid speed and how we have to deal with it in an open environment and how real leaders do that.”
By age 14, Lindsey Hayzlett already was showing she had inherited her father’s entrepreneurial DNA.
After growing up going to conferences with him – she remembers being 10 and introducing herself to strangers as an executive – she founded Lindsey Marketing Promotions.
Her father was consulting for a labeling company that wanted to test the market for a product.
“I was the guinea pig,” she said. “At the age of 14, I was too young to drive, so my mother had to drive me in our family van to real estate agencies and law firms where I would pitch my product.”
She then worked with her father to pioneer a website development company creating web and marketing materials as the internet took off. It won her third place in an international DECA competition. She later worked as a recruiter for Robert Lowrey at Northwestern Financial in Sioux Falls.
“Their training is top-notch, and I still apply some of the language they taught me,” she said. “One thing you don’t have in a business you’re creating is a manual of what to do. Working with a large corporation like that has also taught me to create processes. Basically right now – as my father says – we are flying a plane while we are building it.”
She entered the family business as her father’s publicist when he left Kodak.
“I left my job to get paid $100 a week and work on the folding table in my parents’ house,” she said. “We’ve grown it from that to now having 40 employees all over the U.S. and a headquarters in New York City.”
Her brother, Tyler, also joined the business in 2010 after also starting his career at Northwestern Mutual.
“What made me want to work for the business was an opportunity to work with someone I’ve looked up to professionally my whole life, my dad,” he said. “He’s a fascinating guy and is always pushing limits and working on amazing projects and leads by example. He’s a great man to work for.”
Their mother, Tami, has been involved on and off with the business over time, “and now is back in it because we’re in a high-growth period and we have to recruit her back in,” Hayzlett said. “She takes care of the money and takes care of me, so she has the two toughest jobs.”
While The Hayzlett Group is a family business, “we’ve got other partners and people who are part of it, and we run it like a real business. There just happens to be family in the business,” Hayzlett said.
Lindsey manages thought leadership and business development, working primarily on C-Suite Network programming, which includes 25 television shows and a network of 60 podcasts. Tyler is the business manager for Hayzlett entities, including his father’s speaking and the family investments.
“I’ve always put another person in charge of them rather than me,” their father said. “They report to someone else rather than me purposefully so they don’t have me as dad and manager.”
While both generations say the dynamics have become easier to manage over time, “because my father and I are so similar in personalities, we can butt heads at times. I have a hard time backing down,” Lindsey said.
“In our family, we are fortunate enough that nothing will break us apart no matter the circumstances.”
Her advice: “Always remember that even if you have disagreements, your family members always have the best interest at heart, (and) find an outlet to forget about work because a family business is much different than working for a company.”
Her brother adds that the challenges faced by many businesses – family and nonfamily – are similar.
“Lack of diverse thinking, responsibility confusion, succession-planning issues, communication setbacks and unwillingness to change are inherent challenges in all businesses in varying proportions,” Tyler said.
“What I like about working with family is that it is personal. I’m a big proponent of family values. I believe everyone should be treated like family, and I am very grateful for the privilege to work with mine.”
Their father will address these challenges and more in Sioux Falls on April 13.
“Right now, we’re about to go through the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of the country, and most of it is from family businesses,” Hayzlett said. “So they have to look at passing that on to family or to partners, and there will be some hard discussions. I interview companies all the time and find there are real, common themes. So I’ll talk about that and how real hero companies deal with that.”