Goering Center Family Business Report
June 15, 2007
UNDER DURESS, STEINHAUSER SIBLINGS LEARN TO RUN FAMILY BUSINESS
Inheriting the family business isn’t supposed to happen tragically. But it did for Tara and Trevor Steinhauser. The untimely death of their father last August made Tara and Trevor the fourth generation owners of their family business much sooner than expected. Tara, 34, and Trevor, 29, said their dad, Robert, structured the company so it could run without him.
“My dad put his blood, sweat, and tears into the company and took a lot of risks” Tara said.
When transitioning into their new leadership roles at Steinhauser, Inc. – the family’s 100-year old printing company in Newport, Ky. – they were pleasantly surprised with their father’s pre-planning for the company’s succession.
Robert Steinhauser’s plans for the family business founded by his grandfather included naming Tara president in June 2005. Robert’s full intentions were to work alongside his daughter and train her to assume the responsibilities of Steinhauser, Inc.’s top official.
Tara wasn’t new to the business. She worked at the printing company summers during high school and college, and officially joined Steinhauser after graduating from Denison University in 1995.
But just five days after Tara was named president, Robert Steinhauser learned he had a brain tumor. The news was shocking, to say the least, and put the family in “complete panic mode” said Trevor, vice president, who joined the ranks after his graduation from the University of Kentucky in 2001.
Tara and Trevor, along with their brother Tyler, pulled together to support their mom, Polly, their dad, and each other during what would be the most difficult time in their lives. Symptoms of Robert Steinhauser’s illness started just shortly before his cancer diagnosis but progressed quickly afterward, which didn’t give Tara and Trevor much time to get a handle on the complex workings of the family business.
“Dad already was several steps into the succession planning process, and we were ready to begin our discussions of executing his plan” Trevor said. “He was so willing to pass on the reins.”
One of Tara and Trevor’s first business decisions was to seek the advice of Steinhauser, Inc.’s outside board of directors, which Trevor said was their “saving grace.” Both Tara and Trevor credit their father for having the foresight to hire the three-member board nearly 30 years earlier.
“They (the board of directors) took some serious time out of their schedules to make sure we were okay,” Trevor said.
One of the single best pieces of advice the board gave Tara and Trevor was to join the Goering Center for Family & Private Business, known for its expertise in Succession Planning.
Tara and Trevor’s involvement with the Goering Center started with the Next Generation Institute, the center’s highly interactive flagship program that covers a comprehensive curriculum of issues unique to family firms.
Tara said the Next Generation Institute also served as a “kind of support group.”
“We totally poured our hearts out,” she said. “Everybody was so comfortable opening up to people they never met before.”
Trevor said the Next Generation Institute was “a very cohesive group which provided us with extremely valuable information.”
Tara and Trevor graduated from the Next Generation Institute in 2006. A year later, they graduated from the Goering Center’s Leadership Development Institute. Designed exclusively for the Goering Center by Cincinnati-based Leadership Excelleration, Inc., this program equips participants with the critical leadership and business skills essential to improving performance in an organization.
“It taught us how to identify what kind of leader we are and as a result, how to structure our communication more effectively with people who have different personality types,” Tara said. “We also learned how to improve our relationships with our employees and our customers.”
Tara and Trevor continue to remain active in Goering Center programs and events and have shared their story more than once, including at the May 2007 Next Generation Institute graduation.
In retrospect, Tara said taking over her beloved father’s job so soon after learning of his cancer was gut-wrenching. But with help from Steinhauser, Inc.’s board of directors, the Goering Center, and through Robert Steinhauser’s savvy investment in a new printing press, Tara and Trevor were able to “rise above it.”
This past year, under their leadership, Steinhauser, Inc. saw revenue grow more than 50 percent.
But perhaps even more empowering for Tara was her personal growth in the company that came just a few months ago. That’s when Tara decided it was time to begin working out of the president’s office at Steinhauser, Inc. – a room last occupied by her dad.
“Until now, I couldn’t work in here,” she said. “But I know dad would want me to be here.”
From the president’s chair, Tara points through the open door into an adjoining conference room. A wall portrait of her father and mother is in direct view.
“I can see my dad from here,” she said. “And I ask him for help and guidance.”