On June 1, 2017, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP hosted its 5th annual Farm to Label Summit, bringing together food and beverage industry executives, investors, and entrepreneurs. The program included a series of interactive panel discussions focused on a variety of business topics infused with perspectives on diversity, resource stewardship, and economic sustainability.

One such panel discussion focused on the challenge of reinvigorating an established business for future success, a challenge faced by even the most successful family-owned and other closely held businesses.  Drew Steen, a partner from the Seattle office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP with a practice focused on family-owned and other closely held businesses, moderated the panel.  The panelists, Joth Ricci, President and CEO of Adelsheim Vineyard, and Chis Sarles, CEO of Oregon Fruit Products, shared their insights informed by successes with their respective companies.

Here are a few takeaways I captured in this session:

  • Developing a Culture of Innovation
    • Change often times seems risky, and it is important to recognize when it might not be necessary. However, in a changing market, to maintain the freedom, position, and success that an established business has enjoyed, it is hard to imagine when change would not be necessary.
    • A culture of innovation is never new for an established company – some innovation was needed to make it successful and to distinguish it from its competitors in the first place. Letting complacency trump that innovative heritage is rarely a good thing.
    • A leader in an established business should be the champion of adopting a culture of innovation to ensure that the adoption is sincere, deep, and effective. A culture change must come from the top down.
    • Innovate around the “how” to update your company before jumping into the “what.”
  • Maintaining Heritage
    • Brands are difficult to build and a heritage of value does not come overnight. These assets can be invaluable for an established company, especially in a shifting market. However, the importance of maintaining a brand or heritage should be distinguished from the value of maintaining a product. Product lines can frequently be the domain of outward-facing innovation, which does not have to harm the brand.
  • Making an Informed Investment
    • Invest in what you need to reinvigorate your company. Sometimes this means updating your business infrastructure.
    • Move more toward data-driven decision making. An investment in the tools needed for collecting and analyzing the data about your business is often a worthwhile one.
    • When developing ideas, listen to your customers more than you look at your competitors
 Mark Johnson concentrates his practice on corporate and financial matters and supports clients across a range of transactions. Mark can be reached via email at MarkJohnson@dwt.com or directly at 206.757.8355.