Who's next? Succession planning at 3 Philadelphia-area family businesses

Some family businesses have younger generations who are ready and eager to take over when it comes time to hand over the reins. Others have succession plans that may not involve any family members at all. I spoke with three family business owners in our region about their succession plans and the future of their companies, with or without the next generation. 

 

Asher’s Chocolate Co.

Jeffrey Asher’s daughter is intent on becoming the first woman to run Asher’s Chocolate Co. in its 126-year history.

 

But Sophie Asher has quite some time before she can do that — she’ll start her freshman year at Pace University in the fall. And to work at Asher’s Chocolate, she’ll need to work outside of the business for several years. If one doesn’t get those years of experience, “your thinking can certainly become stale,” Jeffrey said.

 

Asher’s Chocolates has been family owned since its start in 1892. Jeffrey is a fourth-generation family owner, following the departure of his father Robert two years ago. It’s now one of the largest family-owned businesses in the Philadelphia area, ranking No. 14 on the Business Journal’s Family-Owned Businesses list with 200 employees.

 

Women didn’t have a chance of running the business until now, Jeffrey said, because the family was worried their daughters would join other families once they were married.

 

In the last year, Jeffrey bought out his other family members for control of the company. Leadership was organized in a way that no one person had a controlling interest, so Jeffrey wanted to streamline decision-making.

 

“The problem with five people running anything is coming to consensus,” he said.

 

Though Asher’s owners and operators have all been relatives, Jeffrey said the company’s employees are treated like family. He grew up with the people he now works with, and the chocolate factory has employees who have worked with the company for more than 35 years.

 

“It’s all a big candy family, and we treat our employees that way,” he said.

 

Perryman Building and Construction Services

Perryman Building and Construction Services is preparing to take on its third generation of family leadership. President and CEO Angelo Perryman’s children both work at the company.

 

Angelo’s daughter Angelina is the vice president of administration and his son Anthony works in the company’s field construction department as a project engineer. In the near future, Angelina will assume leadership. Angelo will most likely stay at the company as chairman.

 

Angelina is ready to take on the role, he said.

 

“It’s not as much the title of the person, but it’s the dedication of the leadership to the mission of the company,” Angelo said.

 

Perryman Building and Construction was started in 1954 by Angelo’s father, Jimmie, in Evergreen, Ala. The company is now based in Philadelphia and has worked on more than 1,000 construction projects including the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and Lincoln Financial Field.

 

Perryman BC tries to identify people who can rise up the ranks in the company and continue their mission, Angelo said.

 

“I think, for the most part, we make sure that everybody understands their role and expectations and how to graduate to the next responsibility level,” Angelo said.

 

Brownstein Group

Marc Brownstein is the only member of his family to catch the Brownstein Group founder’s advertising bug.

 

His siblings and his children have never shown interest in running the Philadelphia-based marketing agency his father started in 1964. 

 

Berny Brownstein, Marc’s father and founder of Brownstein Group, was one of the Mad Men of the 1960s advertising boom, Marc said. He accompanied his dad to the office on weekends and spent time writing in and out of the ad office.

 

“That’s what I learned at the dinner table,” Marc said. “That’s all I knew.”

 

He has no plans of retiring soon — Marc said he still has a lot of energy and he loves what he does. Berny, at 82, still serves as chairman.

 

“I really believe that when you rest, you rot,” he said.

 

Marc’s three children all work in creative fields in Los Angeles and New York City, but none of them have expressed any interest in taking over Brownstein Group, he said. His eldest daughter is a social media influencer, his son works at Twitter and his youngest daughter works at a sports management company.

 

He is still mulling over the company’s succession plan.

 

Though most Brownstein Group employees aren’t relatives of Marc or Berny, the company calls them “extended family,” Marc said. On the company’s website, the nearly 100 employees are known as Brownsteins, and its careers listings are called “Soon to be Brownsteins.”

 

“You’ve got to have culture,” Marc said. “You’ve got to have a great working environment where people are motivated every day to come in.”

 

Original article published: https://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/news/2018/07/05/whos-next-succession-planning-at-3-local-family.html

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