One of the happiest days in Jake Marvin’s life took place eight years ago, when he asked family members involved with the business a tough question.
As CEO and chairman of Warroad-based Marvin Windows and Doors, and a member of the Marvin family’s third generation, Jake assembled the stockholders in his family’s company. He had something momentous to tell them. Due to changes mandated by the Internal Revenue Service, the family had to sign off on a new buy-sell agreement to govern future ownership structure.
“The way ours was written, it required 100 percent agreement from all shareholders,” Jake recalls. “One of the things we did just before we got to that was to [convene] all the shareholders in the fourth generation that were the age of majority; that was nearly all of them, at the time.” As he explained at the meeting, there were a number of ways the family business could proceed. “We could sell it, we could sell it in part, we could bring in professional management and continue to own it, or we could own, operate and manage it.”
It’s not to say that Jake Marvin and his siblings have made it easy for the fourth generation. Family members don’t “inherit” a job – they have to earn it. And that is why Marvin Windows and Doors has lasted so long as a family business.
“We try to give this fourth generation varied experiences that will help them as leaders for the future,” Susan Marvin says. A case in point is niece Christine, who became the company’s director of corporate strategy in August after serving as director of marketing for the Marvin brands. Before joining the family business full time in 2008, Christine Marvin worked a couple of years for a California building materials wholesaler.
There’s something else that Marvin family members need to prove: a commitment not only to the company but to Warroad, a town of 1,778 just six miles south of the Canadian border. And that’s one of the reasons Frank Marvin’s son Paul was named president at the beginning of this year, succeeding his aunt Susan.
All owners over the age of 18 attend the annual shareholder meeting. There, the younger family members learn more about the business and ask questions. “All of our children work for the company in summer jobs and sometimes on vacations from school, before they sign on.” Jake Marvin says. Those interested in building a career at Marvin Windows and Doors are sent to seminars for more formal training.
In addition, “We put them with [consultants] who can do a complete profile and analysis and really get in the corners with them,” Marvin says. “That’s not just testing, but a series of long interviews and a lot of back-and-forth to determine, along with testing, what their skill sets are, what it is that moves them, how do they see themselves going forward, where can they contribute if they want to be in the business – or if they don’t want to be.”
This past summer, three members of the fifth generation, whose oldest members are in high school, held jobs with the company. “They’re involved very early on in their lives,” Jake Marvin says. That was true of him and his siblings. The members of the Marvin Family, Campell says, “are the bedrock of Warroad.” And they’re working hard to stay that way.