Top 3 takeaways from Mike Wells

Aug 28, 2023

Top 3 takeaways from Mike Wells

We kicked off our sixth season of the Virtual Breakfast Series this week with an amazing guest family speaker and topic. Mike Wells, former third-generation CEO of Wells Enterprises, engaged with our members to talk about his family’s 110 year old company – known by most of us as Wells Blue Bunny ice cream!

Mike joined us to speak about his family’s history and recent decisions to sell to another famous family company – Ferrero Group – a six-generation family owned company in Italy.

As I always do after each session, I like to put together a “Top 3” of the things I learned. This session provided our audience was far more than that, but I will try to pick out some of my biggest takeaways.

  1. Family-first business or business-first family
    The top advice I took from our session was one a true treasure from Wells. He used a mantra to describe his own family’s inflection as moving from a “family-first business to a business-first family.” The phrase is simple but quite complex when it comes to how a family views its business. I could write an entire piece about this one concept–and I probably should. For now, think about it: How do you view your business? How would putting it first look in terms of the decisions you make? How would that effect your family short and long term?
  2. Independent Directors
    I’m glad Mike talked about their board and its impact on the business and the family. We are doing a push this year to help families develop advisory and fiduciary boards, and thus hearing of how important it was to the Wells family was well-timed. The presence of outside directors brings new ideas, connections, expertise, accountability, and some separation–to name just a few powerful benefits.
  3. Plan far out into the future, before something hits the fan.
    This was another piece of great advice shared by Wells. Consistently taking the time to strategically plan–for the family and the business–is a crucial process for opening up and maintaining lines of communication, especially among various branches of the tree. Using your common values and established mission–overlay this into your planning as a recipe to keep everyone on the same page of information and what “north star” you are headed for.

That’s my top three. I hope you enjoyed it and we’ll see you for our next session!

Dan Beenken
Director, UNI Family Business Center