Elle Hansen, senior partner at ReGENERATION Partners is something of a novelty player in the family business board game. How would we describe Elle? Well, if you took a hearty dash of sophistication (like the kind you find in an Emily Dickinson poem), then tossed in a cup of outside-the-box genius (think Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit) and a then threw in a sense of immediate urgency (imagine a mile-wide meteorite heading toward the earth) for making your family business run efficiently, you’d describe Elle. Oh, and that’s pronounced “El-EE”, by the way.
Elle is a powerhouse in family business consulting. In theory, she’s an epic shift in how family business consulting is making family-owned companies more profitable. If you’re struggling with a family business challenge, just lay it at the feet of Elle. And that’s exactly what a company in the Southwest U.S. recently did.
A little over a year ago, a manufacturing company (we’ve purposely withheld its name) was facing a succession challenge. Elle sprang into action, seeking to establish a relationship with the client before a full assessment began. This manufacturing business has been running for over 30 years, with three generations of family members now represented at the helm, including the founder, his daughters, son and grandson.
The company’s CFO reached out to ReGENERATION partners to help with their succession planning. Over a period of several weeks, Elle uncovered several challenges that had to be addressed in order for the business to be successful and the family to be harmonious.
The first challenge Elle addressed was succession. The founder was convinced that his grandson would be best suited to take over the company as CEO. After spending time forming a personal relationship with the family, Elle made a realization. Despite the fact that the grandson had a college degree and some experience, the position of CEO would be best filled by the founder’s daughter, who worked in a managerial capacity at the company for many years.
What may seem like a simple decision from the outside looking in is often a much more complicated issue with emotions, business issues and family interests all playing a part. But it was clear to Elle that the founder’s grandson would not have been prepared for the challenges that came with running the business. A tough conversation to have, but one that was needed.
The second challenge was an outdated financial system. The founder’s oldest daughter, who worked as an accountant for the company for over eight years, used a program she developed to manage the company’s finances. Because this financial system was adequate, everyone assumed “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But Elle brought her intuition to the table to form a strategy that overhauled the company’s financial systems. Her plan shifted the accounting responsibilities to the eldest daughter as the CFO, rather than a bookkeeper. She also helped implement a robust new software solution that ultimately allowed the business to better track its finances.
As a family business consultant, Elle helps clients define and act on challenges that impact the growth of the business. In the case of this three-generation family manufacturing business, Elle was able to root out and overcome unrealistic expectations that threatened the profitability of the family and the business. She provided solutions that maximized both shareholder value and family harmony. With her help, the family has reached a solution that is continuing to evolve with the family business succession and growth strategy.