Recent News

Sisters bring their family business experience in guiding next-generation leaders  

Posted in   |  May 14, 2024

Whether they’re working one-on-one with a client or addressing a roomful of family business owners, in many ways Jenny Dinnen and Katie Rucker feel like they’re talking to their former selves.

That was the impetus behind forming Next Gen Collaborative, a coaching and consulting firm focused on empowering next-generation family business leaders to craft their own narrative within the family business legacy.

“We start by thinking ‘How do we help Katie and Jenny from 15 years ago?'” Rucker said. “We’ve found there’s an opportunity to be able to help prove they can step into a role in the family business and it can look different from the way it did a generation before them.”

Rucker and Dinnen grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. Each of their parents founded a business, but their father thought his company would close when he retired.

“Instead, we thought it was a great time in the market for the business and there was a lot we could do, so we ended up finding a consultant to help us propose an alternative,” Rucker said. “We didn’t know we could speak up and have a voice in the process, and now we want to empower the next generation to have a voice in the process.”

The sisters recently spoke at Prairie Family Business Association’s Annual Conference and will help lead PFBA’s upcoming Next Generation Retreat on Oct. 2-3 in Keystone, South Dakota.

“We had a lot of feedback at the conference about how people realized they could think about things from a different perspective,” Dinnen said.

“They realize they can think about what they want for the future. A lot of times, you’re in a family business, and you think this is always how it’s going to be and you have to do things the way Mom and Dad always did it, and this can open up a whole world of possibility.”

For instance, Rucker and Dinnen now serve as co-presidents of the family business, MacKenzie Corp., which offers data-driven customer insights and strategies to clients.

“Our dad worked all the time, and we determined we can share the responsibility and share the salary,” Rucker said. “In looking at our values, family is more important to us than the economic side of things, and we realized we didn’t have to compete for something and we can support each other and our holistic views for the future.”

The sisters’ perspective is a valuable one for all generations in business, said Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of Prairie Family Business Association.

“Our conference attendees really enjoyed hearing from Katie and Jenny and found them extremely relatable,” she said.

“They’re going to be outstanding leaders for the Next Gen Retreat and will build on the success we’ve seen with that program in the past. Educating and empowering the next generation are essential to fulfilling our mission of helping family businesses thrive through generations.”

The last Next Generation Retreat drew everyone from college students to people in their 40s and 50s. The next one, Oct. 2-3, is open to any next-generation family business member and is an especially good fit if:

  • You’re transitioning into leadership and/or ownership of the family business.
  • You are not part of the family business but are considering involvement in a day-to-day role, ownership or both.
  • You recently started working in the family business and are eager to learn.
  • You’re beginning the succession conversation or process.
  • You’re interested in developing essential skills such as emotional intelligence, leadership and business development.

“Being in a room with other next-gens, hearing their stories and asking what they think about ideas has so much value,” Dinnen said. “And then, we’ll take a really deep dive into the family framework. We go through your family dynamics — what is it today and what do you want it to be in the future.”

You’ll leave the Next Generation Retreat with a stronger understanding of everything from how to handle communication hurdles to fostering strong family relationships. The program also will cover constructive conflict resolution, leading effectively and how next-generation members can get a deeper understanding of their unique role and responsibilities.

“Often with next-gens, it’s the parents saying who they should talk to and what skills they need, so it’s a top-down approach,” Rucker said.

“We found there’s a lot of opportunity to help next-gens who want to take charge of their own growth and life path. And often, there’s a way to grow and step into leadership and bring your own ideas and vision.”

That’s the approach that will begin at the Next Generation Retreat but will carry attendees through as they return to their family business and begin to help frame their future.

“We want to help you find your voice, craft your future, write your sequel,” Dinnen said. “It’s about honoring the past, innovating for the future and determining the path that’s right for you.”

To learn more and register for the Next Generation Retreat, click here.

Preview retreat at upcoming webinar

The Next Generation Retreat’s featured presenter, Jude Rake, will speak May 22 at PFBA’s webinar: How Servant Leaders Achieve Better Results.

Strategy and execution are important, but too often the importance of people and culture are undervalued when planning strategy and executing plans. Rake believes that this is why so many recent studies have revealed alarmingly low engagement levels at many companies where workers don’t know how their efforts connect to their company’s goals. Further, the increasing influence of women in business and the attitudes of the millennial generation are fueling a workforce that expects more emotionally intelligent leaders who understand that fully engaged workers deliver better results. The leadership bar is being raised, and Rake will discuss how family business owners and leaders can stay ahead of the curve.

PFBA webinars are free for members and first-time guests and $25 for returning guests. Register today.

Scroll to Top