Last month I came across an article in Lehigh Valley Business that discussed the succession plans of Yuengling, the famous brewery headquartered in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. In a family business that has traditionally been handed down from father to son, Yuengling is now preparing for its sixth generational transfer – this time, from father to four daughters.
The daughters (Wendy, Debbie, Jennifer, and Sheryl) represent the first generation of women leaders for this 190 year-old family business. With each of the daughters possessing different strengths, they are carving up their responsibilities accordingly. The daughters will serve in varying roles throughout the business, including administration, sales and pricing, orders and distribution, and brewery operations.
Their father, Richard “Dick” Yuengling Jr., is planning to stick around for a few years, but getting the next generation involved now while staying involved in the business and providing guidance is usually a good idea and one that we encourage in most transition situations. This provides an environment for the newer generation to learn and implement new ideas, while the older generation can provide the advice and perspective that comes from working in the business for years.
For example, the Yuengling daughters are planning to get the company more involved in social media as a way to collect customer feedback. This feedback will provide valuable input as the company looks to launch new products and expand its market, which currently includes distribution into 22 states. Their father’s experience will help them as they explore ways to evolve the company and adapt to new trends and customer preferences.
Yuengling has a long history of pivoting to keep pace with change. That started in the 1920s during Prohibition, when the company was forced to convert one of its brewery buildings into a creamery as a way to offer non-alcoholic products and keep its doors open. While Yuengling was eventually able to return to its core business following the repeal of Prohibition, that short-term shift became a long-term success in its own right. Today, the Yuengling Ice Cream Corp. is a separate company that is owned and operated by a different branch of the family.
With a long and entrenched history, Yuengling is a cornerstone of the Pottsville community, employing roughly 350 full-time and seasonal staff throughout the year, including several generations of non-Yuengling family brewers. Yuengling is just another example of how privately-held family businesses impact local communities and why they are the fabric of our country’s business community. Planning ahead and breaking traditions are key ways to keep those family business alive for generations to come. Best of luck to the Yuengling sisters on their journey ahead!
Steven E. Staugaitis is a director at Kreischer Miller and a specialist for the Center for Private Company Excellence. Contact him at Email or 215.441.4600.
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