The inaugural Resnick-Wynn Family Business Conference, headlined by media mogul Steve Forbes, donated $25,000 to establish a scholarship fund for business and entrepreneurship majors at Florida Gulf Coast University who plan to launch or lead a family business.
Held March 4 at FGCU, the conference – titled “Family Business: Thriving in an Ever-Changing World” –attracted more than 250 family business leaders and explored best practices through the experiences of dynamic, successful family business owners and executives. In addition to Forbes, primary speakers included John Resnick, principal of The Resnick Group; Michael Wynn, president of Sunshine Ace Hardware; Shelly Stayer, co-owner and chairwoman for Johnsonville Sausage; and David Hoffmann, chairman of the Hoffmann Family of Companies.
“The conference was geared toward family business owners with at least two generations of active family members; the complexities of running a business in today’s environment requires the equivalent of an advanced education,” Resnick said. “That’s why we wanted to create a scholarship program at FGCU. It’s an investment into students’ education, but also an investment into the economic future of our region.”
According to a 2022 report from FGCU’s Regional Economic Research Institute, 68% of the college’s alumni who own companies operate their businesses in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry or Glades counties. Among alumni survey participants, one in four graduates who earned a business degree now owns a business.
“Family businesses are the lifeblood of our community, and their success should be a priority for all Southwest Florida residents,” Wynn said. “It is for this reason that we are excited to partner with FGCU to help prepare the future family business leaders and entrepreneurs for our region.”
Federal statistics show only one-third of family-owned firms survive to the second generation and just 13% are passed on to the third generation.
Forbes, a third-generation leader who serves as chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, said the ability to innovate and adapt keeps his company, and others, ahead of the competition.
“Knowledge is wealth,” Forbes said, “not physical things.”
Hoffmann, who appeared on stage with his wife, Jerrilyn, and two sons, Geoff and Greg, oversees a company with more than 240 operations worldwide, including 37 properties in Southwest Florida that include some of the highest-valued commercial real estate in Naples. He was asked if any of the acquisitions didn’t go as planned.
“We’ve had a couple of disappointments, but never a failure,” Hoffman said.
As a family business owner, Hoffman said succession planning was the most difficult task he’s accomplished during his career, a sentiment echoed by Stayer, who heads a company founded by her in-laws. With a blended family, leadership of the company was a contentious issue. What ensued was a six-year succession planning process that culminated with one significant clause in the agreement.
“No family member will ever be our CEO,” Stayer said.
Conference speakers also addressed the importance of:
- Maintaining strong core values and a cultural foundation
- Family businesses as a vital component of the local economy
- The need to include outside voices in a family business
- Learning from every failure and disappointment
- Innovation and building upon success
Sponsors for the Family Business Conference included Fifth Avenue Family Office, Forbes, The Resnick Group, Sunshine Ace Hardware, Hoffman Family of Companies, Johnsonville, Barron Collier Companies, Florida Gulf Coast University, Stock Development, Corporate Dimensions, McDonald & Osborne, First Foundation Bank and Scotlynn. Media sponsors included FOX4, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Gulfshore Business, Gulfshore Life and Naples Daily News/LOCALiQ.
Due to strong demand and enthusiast feedback from this year’s attendees, organizers have already begun work on a second conference with plans to make the Family Business Conference an annual event.
About the Family Business Conference
The Resnick-Wynn Family Business Conference was created by John and Billie Resnick, and Michael Wynn, to support the success and survival of family businesses in Southwest Florida. The Resnicks are principals of The Resnick Group, a firm that provides estate planning and life insurance guidance to affluent family business owners throughout numerous states. Wynn leads Sunshine Ace Hardware, a Naples-based company founded in 1958 by his grandfather, Don Wynn. The Resnicks and Wynn reached out to local business leaders Shelly Stayer, David Hoffmann and Blake Gable to form a steering committee for the programs. Stayer leads Johnsonville Sausage, a company founded by her in-laws in 1945 and previously managed by her husband, Ralph. Hoffmann’s company, which includes his wife, Jerrilyn, and sons Greg and Geoff, specializes in commercial real estate, retail and hospitality, and now has more than 240 total operations worldwide with 6,000 employees. Gable is the CEO of Barron Collier Companies, a fourth-generation private investment, agriculture and land development company.