On the scene: Excellence in Family Business awards


With apologies to Tolstoy: All happy family businesses are alike; all unhappy family businesses are unhappy in their own way.

OSU's Austin Family Business program honored happy family businesses last night in an awards ceremony at the Sentinel hotel.

The event celebrated families that have maintained their businesses over two or three generations. Award winners talked about the challenges and opportunities: navigating intergenerational conflict, respecting family members who work outside the business and forging connections with a new generation.

IMG 0681Zidell Marine Corporation won the dean's award for family business leadership

Zidell Marine Corporation received the dean’s award for leadership in family business. The iconic shipbreaking and barge building company launched its last barge into the river this summer.

The company faces big changes in its family leadership as it transitions to Southwest Waterfront real estate development.

Only 12% of family businesses even make it to the third generation, Charlene Zidell said, and even fewer make it to the fourth.

Beginning in 2012, a fourth generation of Zidell family members laid the groundwork for a new leadership structure based on more collaborative decision-making and nonfamily management.

“We don’t want to continue a single patriarchal system,” said Mackenzie Polley, one of a new generation of leaders that will guide the Zidell family business, in a speech. “The work we’re doing is difficult and emotionally taxing.”

IMG 0678Family businesses celebrate success at the Sentinal Hotel

Miles Fiberglass and Composites won an award for family harmony. At age 19, Lowell Miles attended a boat show in Portland, where he discovered fiberglass. He asked his dad if he could tear down an old barn on their property and build a fiberglass shop.

Since then, the business has stayed in the family for several generations.

“Every time we’ve gone through a tough time we’ve come out bigger and better,” Miles said.  

NiceBadge, a Grants Pass-based manufacturer of name badges, was praised for developing a new generation of leaders. Jean Bergmann, the wife of a pastor, bought the business in 1985 and ran it out of her garage. She sold the business to her son, Lowell Gibson.

Gibson's son, Matt, works as production manager. He honed his business acumen by earning a business degree and working summers on the name badge assembly line.

Domaine Serene Winery won a business renewal award for strong strategic planning. 

Caleb Diehl

Caleb Diehl is a reporter at Oregon Business

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