They came from 27 businesses across five states. And with 60 next-generation family business members, the group that spent two days in Deadwood recently marked the largest attendance at the Next Gen Retreat in the 31-year history of the Prairie Family Business Association.
“It exceeded our expectations and tells us that the next gens are enthused about being future leaders or owners in their family’s business and that the senior generation wants them to spend time figuring out if the family business is their path and how it can work,” said Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the Prairie Family Business Association.
“Our family businesses are dedicated to becoming or remaining generational and finding the best way to do so. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from those who attended.”
Erica Schmitt, a second-generation member of family business Limoges Construction, found that the retreat was an opportunity to pause from the daily tasks of the company “and really focus on how I can contribute to keep the business successful,” she said. “It is easy to get buckled into a routine, but I think it is important to take a step back and get reenergized with new ideas and information.”
And she did. The group toured third-generation family business Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, where the owners “delivered such a fun evening and were so authentic when answering our questions,” she said. “I’m booking a trip with my family there soon.” Schmitt said she also “really enjoyed all the speakers.”
Sandi Mitchell, professional EOS implementer and CEO of APEX Catalyst Group, “was a wealth of insight and got me motivated in accomplishing things and looking at things in a different perspective,” Schmitt said.
“Being at a retreat with minimal distractions and surrounded by people who are in the same situation as you are in is incredibly beneficial. PFB allotted us time to talk about things in a smaller setting; I was able to run ideas, think out loud and gain different perspectives from many.”
For Jesse Riddle, a third-generation family member at Riddle’s Jewelry, the retreat was his first exposure to the Prairie Family Business Association. His grandfather was an early member decades ago, and his parents also benefited from the programming.
Riddle attended with his two cousins.
“It was really good,” he said. “I made a lot of connections and enjoyed just talking to other family businesses and seeing the challenges they faced. There are some things we do really well and some things that would probably be good to implement that other family businesses are doing. It was a great venue, and I spent more time with my two cousins than I have in my whole life because we work in different departments and we don’t cross paths very often.”
He enjoyed hearing from Katie Katz, executive director and wealth adviser with J.P. Morgan Private Bank.
“The speakers were really good,” Riddle said. “And it’s just good to have these conversations. Sometimes, they can be tough conversations, but it starts a dialogue.”
Keynote speaker Kevin Hancock, a sixth-generation owner of Hancock Lumber Co., shared his story of personal discovery while at the helm of his family business.
“He gave me a lot to think about on the way home specifically,” Schmitt said. “He talked big picture, purpose, and I think at the end of the day when you have a clear vision of where you want to be, it is a lot easier to find a way to get there. In the weeks after the retreat, I circle back to what my goals are and continue to work on how to get there.”
The speakers featured a mix of regional and national expertise.
“A key theme was family governance and structure,” Larscheid said. “Some of our next gens work day to day in the business. Others do not currently and are navigating if ownership without a day to day in the business role may be best.”
The event also engaged the families in a mix of learning from speakers and learning from each other in small-group interactions. The retreat was rounded out with small-group facilitation, roundtable topics and goal-setting.
“From the feedback we’ve received, one of the most valuable sessions was goal-setting where the next gens created individual goals and family goals,” Larscheid said. “Our team is following up with the next gens over the next 90 days to help them achieve their goals and aid in accountability.”
The Prairie Family Business Association had “an overwhelmingly positive response from those who attended the Next Gen Retreat,” Larscheid said. “That’s what our team works toward as we plan these programs that take family members away from their business for a few days. We strive for high-value programs with actionable outcomes.”
Schmitt said she came home feeling revived with new thoughts and ideas.
“There was a lot I took away from the retreat, but the biggest one in general was that events like this are so important to not only my personal development and growth but the continued success of the company,” she said. “You get what you prioritize.”
Riddle and his cousins also have a plan post-retreat.
“The three of us are going to have lunch soon, and the leaders of the third generation are going to meet with the leaders of the second generation to tell them what we learned and how we can continue in the business and keep growing,” he said.
“I really enjoyed it, and I think we’ll continue to do it in the future. It made me come up with questions I hadn’t even thought of.”
The Next Gen Retreat will be held again in 2024.