The psychology and personality characteristics behind people electing to be entrepreneurs versus seeking employment as a career choice has interested me as a topic of study for decades. As a twenty-five year “sell-side” mergers & acquisitions intermediary, I generally start my first meeting with a potential client with an inquiry into their background, how they became an entrepreneur, and the history of the business they are thinking about selling. Two common reasons for selecting a business ownership career path of my clients have been a desire to reap the rewards of their personal abilities & knowledge and to have control of their own destiny. I have also found frequently that entrepreneurs come from families with a history of business ownership.
An excellent example of a successful individual, Corinne Cobson, that came from an entrepreneurial family who desired to control her own destiny and create her own fortune unfortunately passed away recently. For those unfamiliar with Ms. Cobson’s story, she was the eldest daughter of Elie & Jacqueline Jacobson, founders of the influential Paris fashion house, Dorothee Bis. A “doer” rather than a student, Ms. Cobson elected to go to work for her parents at 16 instead of continuing her education. Demonstrating hereditary talent for fashion design, she progressed based on her ability in the company and was designing clothing for Dorothee Bis by her 20’s. Not an individual to stay in anyone’s shadow, Corinne changed her last name to Cobson and launched her own eponymous brand in 1987. The “Rock & Roll” inspired brand, which gained international acclaim in the 1980’s & 1990’s, for self-assured women frequently incorporated men’s wear silhouettes, unexpected material pairings, and bare skin. Building on this successful business platform, Ms. Cobson went on to create her own furniture brand, cosmetics, lingerie, and sunglasses. Her fashion influence continues to be seen today in the work of Isabel Marant and Nicolas Ghesquiere.
The story of Corinne Cobson is not unique. Many successful entrepreneurs are branches on family trees filled with business owners. The concepts for successful business ownership are often modeled and taught at kitchen tables. Common concepts & practices in profitable family owned companies include a strong work ethic, a willingness to adapt & innovate, and a corporate culture where employees are treated like family members.
As common as it is for a family entrepreneur to “leave the nest” and want to “fly high” independently, it is also common for family members to enter the family business and grow, prosper, and contribute to the multi-generational success of the entity. A local example, and another unfortunate recent early departure from this earth, is Blake Nordstrom. As legend has it, Blake worked in the stockroom and women’s shoe department for the company prior to moving into management and eventually becoming the president of the company in 2000. Nordstrom is a textbook example of success for an American family owned business where leadership was transitioned through generations. The company started as a single shoe store in Seattle in 1901. Today, the company has 122 Nordstrom stores, 244 Nordstrom Rack stores, a strong online identity, and still has Nordstrom family leadership in co-presidents Peter & Erik Nordstrom. The company’s corporate culture has also developed many entrepreneurs from the Nordstrom’s employee family, including Kenzel Wilson, who after serving as the general manager of Nordstrom’s flagship store in Seattle, went on to own & manage his own retail business in City People’s Mercantile, which he purchased from the founders in an IBA facilitated transaction.
If you are the owner of a family business that wishes to retire, feels you have taken your business as far as you can as an entrepreneur, does not have a successor in your family or team, or needs assistance negotiating a sale of your business we would welcome the opportunity to learn about your business and provide an overview of the services we provide our clients. 100% of IBA’s fees are payable upon performance at completion of a transaction. IBA does not charge any administrative fees or retainers for providing a professional opinion of the market value of a business for an entrepreneur considering selling their company. We also welcome the opportunity to be a resource for information whether a sale is desired in 2019, 2020, or 2025. IBA is a regional, family owned business that has only had two owners in its 44-year lifespan serving the Pacific Northwest. We strongly value our reputation, legacy, and want to see continuity of our brand into the future. If these three goals are in alignment with your business sale goals, IBA would welcome the opportunity to discuss how to turn that vision into a reality.
IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, and mergers & acquisitions community on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses. IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.