Callie Tuschen knows what life is like as a family business owner.
Tuschen, co-owner of a local business in Hartford, grew up on a cattle ranch in northwestern South Dakota. She went to school in Timber Lake and graduated from Oregon State University.
She briefly worked as a teacher using the Waldorf methodology before beginning her family and teaching her own kids at home in their early years of school.
Now transitioned full time back into the workplace, Tuschen serves as the office manager for Prairie Family Business Association, a leader in providing family businesses nationwide with the resources they need to thrive for generations.
We caught up with her to learn more about her own business journey and those she now helps through PFBA.
What was it like growing up in a family business operation? How do you think it shaped you today?
When I was growing up, my family’s ranch never felt like a business to me because my parents, my two siblings and myself — as much as we could help — were the workforce. We didn’t have hired help. The “work” was really a lifestyle and required the kind of hours that most people wouldn’t consider for a typical “business.” There is no work-life balance when you run a cattle operation, especially during calving season. I saw harsh realities through the life cycles of animals and had a close relationship to the cycle of the seasons as harsh winters and drought greatly impacted the success of a year.
My dad, a third-generation owner, purchased our ranch from his mom. It is a scenic prairie acreage on the Missouri River breaks. Since they are a small operation, both my parents had jobs off the ranch as well. From a very young age, I witnessed the hard work and commitment it takes to follow your dreams and make a life for yourself that others might not understand. Both of my parents have a stubborn streak, which I inherited, but I think that is innate to anyone who is entrepreneurial. There is a stubborn persistence in figuring out how to keep going, especially when times get tough and you are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.
I remember when I was in fourth grade, a huge prairie fire burned out all of our land and several of our neighbors. By some miracle, our house was left standing, and we didn’t lose any of our animals. As sickening and tragic as it was, my parents were just grateful that no one was injured or died, and even though it took a lot of time and effort to rebuild, quitting was never an option. I saw that nothing ever really goes as planned, so you had to be flexible and willing to think outside the box to solve problems with frequent equipment breakdowns.
I also learned at a young age that everyone needs to contribute to be successful and excuses won’t get the work done. Those qualities are deeply ingrained in me and contribute to who I am today and how I show up to work and volunteer in my community.
Tell us about your and your husband’s own path into business ownership. What convinced you to take the leap? How would you describe the experience of business ownership?
While living in Oregon, my husband, Chris, developed a passion for brewing, and five years ago we decided to try our hand at entrepreneurship by opening a brewery, Buffalo Ridge Brewing, in Hartford, where we live. Chris’ dad had left his family-farm operation to learn taxidermy when Chris was young and still owns a few businesses today, so Chris grew up in an entrepreneurial home as well. Throughout our relationship, we knew that we always wanted to open our own business someday. With Chris’ background in manufacturing and his passion for brewing, we decided to take the plunge after moving to Hartford. At that time, it seemed like everything just lined up perfectly, and it just felt like it was the right thing to do.
Business ownership is unlike any other risky decision you will ever take in life, and it isn’t for the faint of heart, especially if you are starting a business from scratch. I came into business woefully unprepared for the amount of personal growth it was going to require of me but have since embraced the challenge. There are a lot of sacrifices and struggles that happen behind the scenes, and most people just automatically think you are successful, even though you are overextended and basically working for free so you can reinvest and build the business in the beginning years. A huge part of ownership is accountability and responsibility. You are responsible for every part of your operation, and if something isn’t working or your staff aren’t doing what they should, it is your responsibility to identify the weaknesses — which sometimes are in you — and do the work to improve and empower.
I have always been very introverted but learned quickly that when your business is considered an anchor in revitalization for your small community, then people want to talk to you and about you, and many people come to rely upon you. Starting a business has been one of the most challenging and rewarding journeys — besides parenthood — and is incredibly humbling. Soon after opening our doors, I realized that our business could be a platform to help others with resources and a public reach that we didn’t have personally. We utilize our business and brand to support our community as much as possible. I count ourselves blessed because through our business we have met many other business owners who have become our friends, and we support one another the best we can.
What does your role at PFBA involve, and what motivated you to take on that role?
I joined Prairie Family Business Association a year ago in January. Our kids had started public school, and I was no longer needing or wanting to stay home. My role with PFBA as office manager involves taking care of invoicing, contracts, budgets, helping with event planning and providing overall support to the small team we have. The role fit perfectly within my skill set since those were already a few of the many responsibilities I have within our business.
Since opening our business and volunteering with Downtown Hartford Inc. to help revitalize our downtown, I realized that I had a budding passion for economic development, so I was looking for work that was in that realm. I am thrilled with how impactful our work is here. Family-owned businesses are the backbone of our country’s economy. When a family business doesn’t just survive but is successful and thriving for multiple generations, that is what makes our communities thrive as well. These businesses contribute to a thriving workforce. They don’t just reinvest into the family and business; they pour themselves personally into committees and boards and spend money on philanthropic projects that benefit the parks, schools and nonprofit organizations. Our work at PFBA helps family businesses develop strong foundations by providing tools and resources to transition successfully and thrive for generations. I couldn’t have landed a more fitting role for me.
As both a PFBA team member, advocate and business owner, you know the association’s resource partners well and have worked with Thompson Law, in particular, on estate planning. How would you describe that experience and others you personally or professionally have found value in through PFBA?
This position has been a positive influence personally as well. At PFBA, we run on EOS, which has been something I love about how our team operates, and at one of our quarterly planning sessions, I admitted that I needed to complete my will and testament. It became a personal quarterly goal to complete, and so I reached out to one of our sponsors, Thompson Law, who is an estate planning firm here in Sioux Falls. They were so great to work with and made the process clear and easy to understand. The experience opened our eyes to some very valuable knowledge about how to structure our own estate for the future of our children. It was also great for me to share an experience that we recommend to our members so that I not only understand the process but can attest to the value and professionalism that our members will receive by working with our sponsor businesses. It was a really great insight into what a member’s experience looks like.
You also encouraged your parents to join PFBA. Why was that, and what benefits do you think they have found?
I wasn’t in the position very long, and I was already recruiting my parents to join their business, Landeau Land & Cattle. My teenage son spends every summer on the ranch, and even though my siblings and I don’t want to run the ranch, we want to retain ownership of our home and the land. Someday, my son might choose to live and work there as Gen 5. With my parents being in their early 70s and not having a solid exit strategy in place, I knew that the live case study we offer with membership was something they needed to participate in stat! Most people, including my parents, don’t know where to start, so they talk a lot about what they need to do but don’t actually end up doing anything.
Working with Prairie Family Business Association takes the guesswork out and provides access to experts and information that helped them take action towards their goals. I had shared my estate planning experience with my parents and knew that they didn’t have access to many professional advisers in their rural area that could answer some of their most-pressing questions. Their membership connected them with a team of advisers that listened to their needs and gave them the insights they needed to develop a plan of action. The peace of mind and security from getting answers to their questions is priceless for the minimal investment that the membership fee was. Now, they are working with some of the advisers, and they are really grateful to finally be taking action towards a goal that they had been thinking about for over 15 years but never gained traction on previously.
You continue to be very active in your home community of Hartford and as an entrepreneur. How has that helped support your work at PFBA, and how have you been able to introduce others to the association?
Many of my peers and friends are also business owners, and several of them are family businesses. I also have the unique experience of truly understanding the struggles that you experience as a business owner. It can be extremely lonely and isolating because sometimes you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about the things you are facing as so much is confidential. Or it can be overwhelming because you know there are resources available but there are so many options that you don’t know who you can trust or where to start. I know that every dollar counts in a business’ bottom line, and the importance of choosing high-quality and value-added services that help to elevate you and future generations is an investment worth making.
Our work at PFBA is extremely impactful, and the tools and resources we provide make it very easy to talk to others about the benefits they will see by becoming members. My husband and I have shared our estate planning experience with several of our friends, and that has encouraged some of them to join as members as well. The Goebels are a family business that owns the Sunshine Foods grocery store, and we sat down over dinner one day and shared our story, and they said, ‘We need to do this too.’ It is easy to understand the value that we offer at PFBA, and I want my peers in business to have confidence that their hard work and their legacy are going to outlast them for a long time, so sharing about our organization is a no-brainer.
What goals do you have in your PFBA role, and how would you like to see the organization further evolve?
I already have opportunities to expand my current skill set, and since we have a small team and a growing membership, I am certain that the challenges we face will allow me to expand my role further within our team. What that looks like is to be determined, but I am up for the challenge. We already have an impressive membership package, but I think we can dig into other opportunities for value-added experiences. We really tune in to what our members are asking for and develop quality programming that fills their needs. PFBA will continue to focus our programming to fit the gaps that aren’t being addressed for family businesses. Our conference is already a great event, but we have the opportunity to grow it at a larger venue space, and it will be exciting to make that event better as we grow.
My heart has always been one of service, and I am most fulfilled when I know that I am contributing to the betterment of others but not at the expense of myself or my happiness. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing our team is here at Prairie Family Business Association. Stephanie, Peter and Mason are talented leaders, and we all bring strengths that complement each other. We have a very healthy dynamic and challenge each other for the betterment of the team. I am extremely grateful to work with a group that is dedicated to quality and that has such a positive outreach within the business world!
If you are interested in learning more about connecting with the resources of Prairie Family Business Association, send an email to assistant director Peter Hauck at firstname.lastname@example.org.