they must gain the respect of the
employees, otherwise you are [in
deep trouble] because you are going
to be their future leader.
Wyllie: My father-in-law used to
say that when the family was in the
dairy business, they would work
365 days a year, and the only time
they made money was when they
sold eggnog at Christmas. So everyone in the family has tried to live
well below their means and work
hard. It is a cultural thing with us.
We have always reinvested in the
business as well.
What I am most proud of is the development of Miami Lakes, Florida,
a 3,000-acre master-planned community that started out as a dairy
and now is home to 35,000 people.
We did that without ever missing a
payment to anyone or tearing up the
family. We have an annual board
meeting and annual dinner that is
like a big family reunion for us.
Why does the ;rm
elect to remain a family-
Alter: There is so much blood,
sweat and tears that my family put
into this business in 62 years, I
can’t imagine selling it. My father,
my brother and I built this business from one small of;ce in a
Class B building [and expanded it]
to 25 markets all over the country,
stretching from Washington, D.C.,
Heins: We have a lot of unsolicited
offers to buy the business. We have
never been tempted to sell. Real
estate is now considered the fourth
asset class and this is justi;cation
for me not to sell. Besides, what
would I do with the money? Invest in
stocks, bonds or commodities? An
existing real estate portfolio provides
and have a great reputation in the
community. We would not have
gotten where we are with just my
father. We have a lot of great people
in the company who want to con-
tinually make it better. While we are
one of the largest contractors in the
region, we have managed to maintain
the small, family-owned feel and
culture that go along with that.
Heins: What is unique about our
business is that my wife and I were
able to come to the United States
from Europe, get into the commercial
real estate business and build a portfolio that is now self-sustaining. We
have about 3 million square feet of
of;ce and industrial space in which
we own more than 50 percent and,
in some cases, 100 percent. We
take pride in identifying the land,
designing the building, developing
it and continuing to manage it.
Alter: We have employees who have
been with us for 35 years and an
executive team whose tenure is
approaching 30 years. That is what
I am most proud of; we’ve created
a culture that’s as much about high
performance and success as it is
about family. There are people here
who saw me grow up.
Klatskin: What is unique about
the business is that I am working for myself and my family, not
some pension fund in Boston that
couldn’t [care] less about my family. Then there are the nonmonetary
bene;ts: If your child has a baseball game at 3 p.m., go to it! Leave
work and attend your child’s game.
That goes for all of our employees,
not just family members.
What makes me most proud is
successfully transitioning from one
generation to another and gaining
the respect of the industry and
employees along the way. When a
new generation enters the business,
a reasonable risk/reward investment
return and it allows us to shelter
income. These are great attributes.
Russell: As the second-generation
person in the business, I have asked
my father that same question. He is
only 56, and a young 56 at that, so
selling the business is not something
he is even considering at this point.
I think there is a general sense that
we are just getting started.
Wyllie: We have learned from our
two earlier generations that by
sticking together as a family and
not selling either land or company
stock, we can create long-term value
that exceeds what any family member
could achieve on their own. Even
when times get tough, we make
money because we have low leverage.
Family members feel safe about
leaving their equity in the company.
It is an ef;cient way to grow wealth
because, in essence, we are not
paying taxes on it as it grows.
We bring in a company from New
York once a year to do a stock
valuation for gifting purposes and
in case someone wants or needs
to sell. The stock in the company
has compounded an average 7 to
8 percent annually for the past 30
to 40 years. If someone wants or
needs to sell, however, they have
the right to sell to another member
of their family group; there are four
family groups. If no one in the family group wants to buy the stock,
then the company will buy it.
Klatskin: We resist selling. If we
were to sell the company, where
would we invest the money? There
is no reason to sell the business at
this point. We will leave the keys to
the business to the next generation
to decide what they want to do with
it. If they [mess] it up, so be it.” ■
Ron Derven is a contributing editor to
“We have learned ... that by sticking together as a family and not
selling either land or company stock, we can create long-term value that
exceeds what any family member could achieve on their own.”
Stuart S. Wyllie