How Strong Family Values Can Keep your Family Company Successful Over Generations

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It is a windy Friday afternoon at the lovely Marina del Rey. I’m meeting Gilbert Devlyn to learn about the keys behind the success of his family business, Devlyn Optical, which is now in the 3rd generation.

The Devlyn family is from Mexico, and they are the owners of  a 77-year-old company that first started as the only optical service in the town of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. When it first opened, it had just two employees: Mr. Frank Devlyn and his wife Nelva Mortensen. Today, it has more than four thousand employees, 829 branches in Mexico, which makes it the largest optical chain in the country, and the brand has even expanded to Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and the USA. The company has also expanded its services into ophthalmology clinics.

What I find really interesting about this company is that, unlike most third-generation companies, which tend to keep the family out of management and focused on ownership, the Devlyns have managed to retain 11 family members working in the company and they are the 3rd generation in charge of operations.

There is definitely no sense of entitlement here, as Gilbert explains. When he was a little boy he asked his father to buy him a toy car. His father offered him the opportunity to work in the family company and earn the money he needed to buy the toy for himself instead. Gilbert was very disappointed when, after a week, he got paid just 140 pesos (the standard salary for the work he did at the time). He learned a lesson about how hard it is to earn enough money to buy what you want and that his family was not just going to hand him everything on a plate.

Gilbert is down to earth, kind, polite and oozes love and admiration for his family. He is also well educated, intelligent, ambitious and driven. After working for a few years outside the family company and completed an International MBA, he has recently joined Devlyn Optical. His desire to contribute, make a difference and find his place in the organization for himself is evident. With people like him in the family, there is definitely no need to look for talent elsewhere.

This is what Gilbert has to say about values, emotions, family business and making a difference.

Written by Carmen Lence, Executive Coach at NextGen Consulting & Coaching LLC. Contact Carmen  at carmen@nextgenfamilybusiness.com

About Transitions West Conference and Changed Lives

I just got back from the Transitions West conference at Marina del Rey, which was organized by The Family Business Magazine and Stetson University’s Family Enterprise center. This is a conference “created for family companies by family companies!” and, once again, we enjoyed some great, honest presentations by some outstanding family business members, non-family executives and family business experts.

Among my favorites were the opening keynote by Jim Ethier, Chairman of the Board of the Bush Brothers & Company, during which he described the experiences his family company had as they built their family governance. Also, the panel of non-family executives made up of James B. Wood, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of The Clemens Family Corporation, Robert J. Underbrink, President/CEO of King Ranch, Inc., David Yale, President, Just Born, Inc. and Ross Born, Co-CEO of Just Born, Inc., where I realized how difficult it is to find the right non-family CEO and the time and effort involved in the process; and the panel about how family councils foster engagement among family members, where Ashley Levi, Board Member at H.G. Hill Company, and Meghan Juday, Family Council Chair and Director at IDEAL INDUSTRIES, shared their experiences about how useful their families council has been for them. And finally the presentation from Mark Peters, CEO of Butterball Farms Inc., who underlined the risks involved in not having succession planning in place. Thanks to all for sharing their experiences and being so inspiring!

This was my second year at the conference and I was happy to see that many families came back and brought along quite a few more family members. I would say that the number of participants doubled from last year. Congratulations to the organizers!

I also meet Peter Begalla, Adjunct Professor and Program Manager at Stetson University’s Family Enterprise program, who I interviewed last year about the unique Family Enterprise program that Stetson University offers (Read interview here http://wp.me/p1tGmG-2n) and Professor Greg McCann, founder and Director of Stetson University’s Family Enterprise Center. I was interested in gaining the perspective of one of its students and when I meet Emily Dudley, senior at the Stetson University’s Family Enterprise program and second-generation partial owner of Dudley’s Auction Inc., at the Transitions West conference, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to interview her.

Please check what Emily has to say about how Stetson University’s Family Enterprise program has “changed her life.”

Written by Carmen Lence, Executive Coach at NextGen Consulting & Coaching LLC. Contact Carmen  at carmen@nextgenfamilybusiness.com