WILKES-BARRE — A structured communication strategy is the key to creating generational growth for a family business, Patricia Mikelson and George Brown of Highlights for Children enterprises told 50 Wyoming Valley business leaders at a Wilkes University forum on Wednesday.
Mikelson and Brown represent the third and fourth family ownership team of a monthly magazine, Highlights for Children, which circulates over two million copies throughout the country.
The cousins presented a seminar called “Highlights of Healthy Communication in the Family Business” at the Henry Student Center on Wilkes University’s campus.
Highlights For Children was founded in 1946 by Garry and Caroline Myers in Honesdale.
“They were great editors, but bad in business,” Mikelson, family and company historian and shareholder relations manager said.
Non-family members took leadership roles following Myers’ death to keep the publication growing. Family members were kept informed of the businesses progress.
Today, five out of 106 family members work for the publication in different positions, including Brown, who is the manager of publishing technologies at the company.
A strict communication strategy that covers everything from business affairs to maintaining the Myer’s Honesdale homestead and deciding if pets would be allowed at the family reunion, Brown said.
“We communicate the state of business, what is important within the family and the property management,” Mikelson said.
Even the flow of communication is determined.
The chief executive officer of Highlights for Children sends out an annual letter about the state of the business and financial statements, Mikelson said.
An annual July three-day retreat is used to update the family on business issues and opportunities for youth internships, Brown said.
The Family Steering Committee updates the family on related issues, and the Honesdale property trust updates family on matters related to the homestead, Mikelson said.
A private Facebook page and family website are available to share family related news, Brown said.
Following the event, Bernard Banks Jr. of American Asphalt in Shavertown found it interesting to see a “different insight.”
American Asphalt is a fourth-generation family-owned business, he said, and “drawing the line between family and business is tough.”
“It (Highlights for Children) has a different type of structure with more outside management,” Banks said.