Family Business

Integrating family and non-family talents in the business


3 min




Watch the Darleys, a 3rd generation manufacturing business family operating W.S. Darley & Co and specialized in pumps, fire apparatus and emergency products based in Illinois, USA, describe their philosophy for attracting and integrating the various skills sets needed to operate and grow their business with a work force of family and non-family members. In any large scale family business, recruiting outside talent is essential to acquire new skills and innovative ideas. In a family business, it is especially important to treat non-family members equal to family members in order to garner their respect and commitment to the business.


Paul Darley


« Back to Catalogue


It is important as we look to the next generation that we have balance in our management that is both family members and non-family members. There is no way that you are going to have the skill sets that you need just within your own family to do all of the tasks that need to be done in a business, certainly one as complicated as ours, with engineering and production and web and, you know, sales and accounting. You are obviously in any, just about any family business, going to have to rely on outside resources, and in order to attract the best talent possible, you have to make sure that you are promoting those people along with the family members, and at the same pace. And in fact, one of our rules in our family participation plan is that we pay family members market rate for their positions. So, ... View More that ensures that the best person gets the job for that particular duty, whether it is a family member or not.

In our experience, it is incredibly important for significant size family businesses to have a board of directors, or at least an outside advisory board of directors. What we realized that as we were going to grow, and if we were going to grow professionally, we needed a strong, outside board of directors. So, we went out and we found the very best people we could. We wanted to surround ourselves with the best possible board who would challenge us on a regular basis. We pay them well, but there are very strict rules on, very strict guidelines that you can follow on what to pay a board member. And then we also make sure that we have got an eleven person board that is dominated by family members so that we as a family still have control, and yet we look to this outside board for advice and counsel on our strategy, on our investments, on where we are headed in the future, what we are doing now. The input that they bring, the fresh perspective that they bring, from being strategically involved, remotely involved, meeting on a quarterly basis, and coming in, and either supporting our decisions or challenging our decisions is what we really want them to do. The input has been phenomenal.