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Episode 19: Tours of Duty in the Family Business

In this episode of the Family Biz Show, host Michael Palumbos, from Family Wealth and Legacy in Rochester, New York, engages in a rich discussion with two seasoned family business professionals, Raj Shah and Kimberly Miller Wilmorton. Both guests share their unique journeys and experiences within the realm of family businesses, providing valuable insights and advice to current and future family business members.

Raj Shah details his 25-year journey in his family's business, initiated by his father's entrepreneurial leap after being laid off. Raj's narrative highlights the technical passion and evolving responsibilities that shaped his career, culminating in his leadership as CEO and the eventual sale of the business. This transition marked a significant shift, as Raj navigated the complexities of post-sale dynamics and launched his venture in the telecom industry.

Kimberly Miller Wilborn reflects on her multifaceted involvement in her family's business, emphasizing the value of diverse experiences and the power of perspective. She candidly shares the challenges and decisions surrounding her transitions in and out of the family business, underscoring the importance of adaptability and self-awareness in shaping one's path.

Both guests stress the importance of community and support systems, exemplified by their participation in the Family Business Forum in Rochester. This platform provided them with a sense of solidarity and a space to exchange ideas and experiences, highlighting the crucial role of peer networks in navigating the unique challenges of family business dynamics.

The conversation also delves into the broader implications of family business transitions, the impact on personal relationships, and the enduring influence of family legacies. Through their stories, Raj and Kimberly illustrate the nuanced interplay between personal aspirations, family expectations, and business realities, offering valuable lessons for those involved in or considering a role in a family business.

Watch the entire episode!

Episode 19 Transcript


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Michael Palumbos: Well welcome everybody to the family based show. My name is Michael Columbus from family wealth and legacy here in Rochester, New York, and welcome.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Today we have a really great show for you. I'm really, really happy to introduce all of you to people that I've known for a number of years, Raj Shah. And Kimberly Miller wilmorton welcome both of you. How are you

 

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Raj Shah: At are you. Thank you.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Thank you. I'm well.

 

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So,

 

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Michael Palumbos: The way I know both of you is through the, the family business forum here in Rochester, which when I was in the thick of things with you know my dad.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That was very helpful for me to be around.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And I really appreciate the fact that you guys not, you know, had gone in and out of the family business out men, however you want to.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Call it as we call this episode The tours of duty. So for you, the family business form, regardless of whether you're in the business or out of the business. That's been a mainstay for both of you. So that's interesting and fun.

 

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Michael Palumbos: What I what I want to do is just kind of dive in and have each of you take a moment and tell share your journey. How did you get to where you are today and Raj, since you're on top. I'm gonna start with you, if you don't mind.

 

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Raj Shah: Sure, no problem. It's funny how where you end up on the screen right

 

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Raj Shah: Um, but yeah. So I was in a family business for 25 years I am, my dad. My dad was a kind of in the Xerox career path and he got laid off in 1976 and bought a little company called is that ketone and Rochester, New York, and I was living with my mom and Michigan.

 

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Raj Shah: Early on, even in Summers, I recall, because I always liked the technical side of the business and I had a technical bent to it that I would kind of come in and hang around the attacks and the guys and

 

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Raj Shah: Sort of, check out the business and that evolved, you know, if you know I get to 15 a real work permit and kind of work for

 

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Raj Shah: A SUMMER AND GET TO GO OUT WITH THE GUYS. And that was a lot of fun and they seem to have some trust in Me, I recall weekly volleyball games and beer and being instructed not to talk to my dad before I went to bed so

 

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Raj Shah: You're over a year.

 

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Raj Shah: You know, I sort of knew that this is what I wanted to do and I am

 

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Raj Shah: I went off to college and I'm when I got out of college, I had a job waiting for me, which was kind of nice.

 

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Raj Shah: Back in the family business. So that's what I did. And my dad took me through a series of rules and jobs he felt would be important for me to succeed him whether or not I like the rules or not.

 

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Raj Shah: He kind of saw fit. And then

 

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Raj Shah: 25 years later after being the CEO for, I guess it would have been probably four years, sort of made that decision that it was time to sell the business and

 

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Raj Shah: We did that and I expected to stay with the successor business and ownership and that made it as Kim knows well I mean it's seven weeks and

 

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Raj Shah: I say goodbye and started my own doesn't so I'm kind of seven years into convergent. And we're selling selling telecom so feel like I have never left that industry, but sort of my own time. It doesn't since I now I'm I work with my wife. Nice. Yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Thanks for sharing. Yeah. Tell us about yourself.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I'm reminiscing just last night. My dad started Mike in an industry, similar to yours. The window brokerage business. And when I was in like first grade, maybe I would go in on Saturdays and do the filing because by then I do my ABC and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: He sold that original business when we were pretty young. Ultimately, we go back into it but along the line on the timeline acquired us to keep trading business and some commercial real estate and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Just a bunch of different things. So I have the same memories of somehow always being plugged in.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I remember being in that library and doing the filing and earning my what however many dollars a Saturday.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I my story's a little different in that. Well, I've done three tours. So I've been in the business out of the business back in the business and I've been in different parts of the business.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Came out of college wanted to get a graduate degree had a couple of job offers, but none that dovetailed with going to school. So joined in a project management capacity.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: moved over to the brokerage side for a season and then ultimately ran the still keep treating business.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: For a time. So I've done a bunch of different things didn't interim CEO gig at one point. And each time I've left there's been good reasons for leaving. And each time I came back there were good reasons for joining.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I think in terms of where I'm now positioned all that experience is just a blessing. And there's no better way to put it.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I learned something in every role I had in every space that I got to sit in. And now I run a company that does organizational transformation, we have a pretty strong focus on finances, but we do mostly people work and family businesses are very

 

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Michael Palumbos: Great. Well, welcome. I appreciate both of you being here today.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I you know we titled The show tours of duty in the family business because

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know we each realize and Kim you really pointed it out that, you know, being in and out and Raj, you know, was in the family business, then the business is sold

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, so there's many there's many other people out there that you know the family business is I think you said this Kim a season for them, right, there's different seasons and different times in their life. I think it's important to talk about that a little bit because

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know these things happen for us not to us it to make us who we are and whatnot. But not every family member sees it that way. Would you agree with that statement.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I certainly would

 

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Michael Palumbos: Tell you, do you want to, you want to take it you take that ball and run with a little

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Bit I'm chuckling a little bit because

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Actually where I get concerned. So about a third to half of the business that we do as a company and solution partners focuses on either family owned closely held or some combination thereof.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And actually one of my markers of concern is when people say to me like that was the business 32 years and I pretty much done the same thing, the whole time.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: The thing that I would encourage somebody young and coming into the business is

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You can't do the same thing for 35 years. And probably you might be able to stay healthy. But you maybe have a better perspective, if you could get some variety

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: So what's that season look like what's that plan you have for professional development that has a five to 10 year window or are you going to look back and 40 years and say yes, pretty much what I've done all the time.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Gotcha. And for Raj. It was different for you were like you said you were

 

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Michael Palumbos: When you get your, your real work permit and started working there that industry was a love for you all the way through. And even though the business was sold and you're not at the business any longer. That's still what you're doing. You're right. You're

 

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Raj Shah: Still doing it. Yeah.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Can I just ask the question, I mean you and I know each other well enough. Don't you look back and I will mention any of the decades we talked about and data us. But, you know, don't you think you've grown a tremendous amount, like the industry has changed.

 

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Raj Shah: Well for sure. I mean that's completely evolved. I mean, I would. I was gonna also say, you know, I wish you know, while I love that business and I'm obviously I'm still in it.

 

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Raj Shah: Kind of, I call it my Back To The Future nightmare that I'm in now, but I think my dad actually encouraged me to do this and I just didn't do it. I, you know, working for another company.

 

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Raj Shah: Way back when I think would have been really valuable for me just to see how other people did things versus

 

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Raj Shah: The way that our company did things and you know my dad was is incredibly talented, a great marketing guy and really good at what he does, it would just, it would have been good to see a different perspective of that and that's

 

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Raj Shah: That is one regret I do have looking back and we can call it the dumb 90s cam the dumb decade.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Perfect You I you know it makes an awful lot of sense that, you know, especially when you're young.

 

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Michael Palumbos: The, you know, and you're liking what you're doing. It's really easy to skip that step of taking time away from the business that is and we're and working for somebody else. That is one of the key stones.

 

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Michael Palumbos: When we're working with family owned businesses that, you know, we look at the employment policy and we hope by generation three

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know that that they've put that employment policy in place and said, You must work someplace else, so that you can

 

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Michael Palumbos: It does two things. One is it gives you that that separate look of how another business is doing things

 

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Michael Palumbos: But you also may learn some really good habits that the that your family business hasn't implemented yet and so you can also

 

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Michael Palumbos: Get good data and good information and good systems and processes and bring them back to the family business to help kind of, you know, make them better, faster, stronger, right.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So one of you guys you know together. It was the two of you started the family business forum in Rochester and

 

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Michael Palumbos: I just want to talk about, you know, have you talked about that for a bit in your perspectives about in one. How long ago did you start the family business form. What were some of the highlights. What were some of the things that you know

 

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Michael Palumbos: That helped you to navigate all of the different seasons will call them as you were going through your careers and your lives over the last, you know, last bunch of years together.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Kim, do you want to dive into that first

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Oh, the group is certainly existed for a good chunk of time I

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: There's so many things that come to mind as I think about having being in the family business and having, you know, parents or aunts, uncles, siblings, who've been there longer and accomplished and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Getting into a business group that really focused on family business helped me feel less isolation.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Because it gave me people to talk to who could relate to those that unique things to the family business and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: So much

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Like building trust and thinking about

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You know, I went into work the other day crazy Uncle Joe did this. What do I do with that. It was just a real forum for me as a, as a young professional who was maybe just like a year or two out of college.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Brand new to Rochester, in terms of coming back home to the business world and thinking like

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I need to meet people. I need to connect and I think the group has really helped us work through and talk about me, certainly helped me, especially because I think in the group.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I asked you to have my tours of duty. So, you know, talking about a I think it's time for me to go. What does that look like

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And they ask really hard questions. I'm not gonna lie. It is. It's not fun being on the hot seat.

 

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Michael Palumbos: How did the Raj, how, how did the group form. How did you guys start, what was the the makeup of it in the beginning.

 

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Raj Shah: Well, I feel like it started back in 96 or so. Kim and I and I think Don Tobin back in, back in the day and get started. Through that we started through the chamber is kind of an offshoot

 

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Raj Shah: You know, I think we'd all talked about you know how different family businesses are and it doesn't fit in the you know the the chamber at the time at a number of different groups. They had a CEO Roundtable. That doesn't really fit us. They had a

 

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Raj Shah: On I managers for him, which I was in that too and well that was while they're both good groups also didn't necessarily fit, you know, the fact that uniqueness of a family business. So

 

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Raj Shah: We started talking and it all came together nicely and turns out there are a lot of family businesses in the Rochester area so

 

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Raj Shah: Lots of interest. Lots of excitement and it may not for me. I mean, I was like, once we did. I'm like, oh wow I'm really not alone. Right. There's, there's all these other people there that that do this in the family business. And I would always wonder, you know, one of my things was

 

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Raj Shah: You know, how is it possible that I am in my Dad's office getting chewed out for 30 minutes for something and then I go back to my office 10 minutes later he calls. Oh, I'm gonna go to dinner.

 

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Raj Shah: No, I don't want to go to dinner. I don't want to talk to you again for the next two days, but it's things like that that you know

 

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Raj Shah: Other people experienced the same way we sort of help us, help me figure out, like, Okay, well, you know, how do you, how do you sort of distance yourself or separate separate the emotions of the two. The two things.

 

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Raj Shah: We had members like Ray Isaac, who always used to make me feel good. I don't care what did you have 1011 1214 family members.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: 13 and I, it is it is actually my brain that first meeting ever that Ray Isaac came to and I was feeling really stretched by, you know, the number of family members in the business and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: The dynamics of it and re Isaac sat down and said hi I'm Ray Isaac from Isaac heating and cooling and there are 13 Isaacs, and I was like, oh yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Right Ray's been a guest on the show. So this is, you know, all that group has really been helping me to form the family business show. So I appreciate that.

 

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Raj Shah: Nobody's ever beaten this number. I don't think

 

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That's

 

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Michael Palumbos: Not, not yet. Um, you know, that's what's really interesting about what you're saying is that there wasn't a formal group when you started

 

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Michael Palumbos: And I think it's really important for people to understand that, you know, they're not alone. And they do need a group that understands these dynamics and goes through these things and it'll be a different experience for everybody. Right. I mean, I see your go ahead and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You're absolutely right and i what i appreciate most about our group, besides longevity. We have had

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: People graduate, that would be you. We've had people stick around past family business. But there's a real sense of commitment and it's a it's a non selling non competitive really focus group on just the camaraderie. The support.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: All those things that go into those words trusted advisor and it is really important and I I get from time to time invitations to see other groups in action and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: It makes me realize that there is something special about being in a family business and not that it isn't great to connect with other CEOs or, you know, correct. Connect with industry groups, but

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: There is something unique and it is fun to talk about, well, you know, I got chewed out for 30 minutes and you know 2020 minutes later, we're talking about. So who's hosting Thanksgiving. Well, isn't that unique. I feel like

 

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Michael Palumbos: I love it in. And again, I'm going to reiterate for a third time. There may be

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, Family Business Centers, you know, through local universities that you can you can tap into for one of these groups, there may be, you know,

 

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Michael Palumbos: Other facilitated things by, you know, whether it's a financial advisor, a family therapist, there may be facilitated groups, but your group was non facilitated by a professional. It was just a group of family business, members of family.

 

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Michael Palumbos: family businesses that you know you had membership in a family business and you just chose to get together and you worked it out you know it's it's that time of just asking each other's questions.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Putting a hot seat together. What are you going through and then everybody brainstorming right

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: So a lot of individual ownership.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Yeah, and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: In a group and the size of ours to show up and say no.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Would you agree.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Um, so when you're talking about working inside of a family business. You know you, Roger. You've spent years working with your father, how does that shape you

 

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Raj Shah: Well yeah, I gave it a lot of thought.

 

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Raj Shah: And again, I was like he might my dad is always on 24 seven about the business so

 

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Raj Shah: Everything I mean anywhere you would go, you know, with driving down the road, it's oh that's our customer here. That's our customer here and

 

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Raj Shah: Why aren't their customer and he just he he'd make a phone call and call the sales manager, how come. How come we have a mentor who is the salesperson, but it's

 

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Raj Shah: Always. I mean, we could be a dinner. We could be at breakfast. We could be home. We could be anywhere. He's always he was always thinking about it. So it and probably, to this day, to my

 

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Raj Shah: Wife's dismay. Right, I'm kind of the same way, because I'm always sort of thinking about

 

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Raj Shah: Things and ideas night. Not sure you get that outside of a family business. It's just one of those things you know when when we, when we did go to those great dinners those days that I didn't get chewed out

 

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Raj Shah: You know, we would we have great conversations about strategy and maybe people and and things, but it was something that was always, I don't know. It was like always there and perhaps we needed more hobbies, but our hobby was the business. So it really shaped my work ethic and

 

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Raj Shah: You know making that business successful like at all costs. Yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos: It's, it's interesting because both of you, and first generation fathers that were, you know, that, that, that typical entrepreneur, a type driver personality, you know, and you'll laugh about this. We just had a family meeting.

 

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Michael Palumbos: To just talking about mom and dad's estate plan and put some things together. And part of that as we brought in a professional

 

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Michael Palumbos: That does the disc personality. We're trying to work through you know who is everybody get communications working a little bit more open and whatnot.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Long story short, my father takes the disk. And of course, he's got to be a Heidi and everyone in the room when he shares his disc profile when he's not a Heidi really how in the world are you not A. D. It doesn't make any sense. That is, you know, you cheated the system.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And

 

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Michael Palumbos: And at the end of the day what you know for him. You know what we talked about. We talked about this with the specialist was that

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, as a business owner, his persona is takes on the D. But that's not his natural and now that he's retired he's he's gone back into what is the natural persona for him kind of interesting.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So Kim. How does it. How do you feel the, the family business can shake you through the years.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I think about today. So I was laughing I had to sit down with a partner at one of the accounting firms to talk about our clients financial statements before we finalize

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: So we did that Friday and somehow it came up we got an offshoot and I was like, Listen, I can still tell you exactly where we were on East Avenue.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I was 14 years old. We were driving home from the office. I think about that. I was 14 it must have been

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: WAS SNOWING so maybe it was like February break I had gone into work my one or one and a half days to earn some money doing finally

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And my dad and establish yourself reaching the back and grab that folder. I think it's time you start learning how to read tax returns, and I can still remember reading tax returns. So driving home the current need be explaining things to me.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: As from a shaping standpoint.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I certainly was blessed with a tremendous amount of technical knowledge and strategic conversation and and very practical implementable things that I go back to you all the time from a strictly character perspective. I would agree with Raj. I mean work ethic.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: When you we own a family farm. We have businesses like you just don't escape it. It's always there. It's kind of the, in our case, fifth child and for the business is the responsibilities there that that last seat at the table.

 

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Okay.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That's it's interesting. We just did a family picnic on Sunday and you know dad and I sit down next to each other and he's retired. He's like, ooh, tell me about what's going on with this one and and what's happening over here and just, it is that natural conversation.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I find it. Sometimes I my wife pokes me to remind me you don't always have to talk about business, Michael. There are other things that people are interested in. I'm like, is so hard to turn off right you know

 

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Michael Palumbos: That's great. I, I think that it's really interesting. You know how the dynamics of family.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You. Here's one real quick. You know, Kim your mom was she involved in the businesses.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: My dad would tell you that it's because of my one on that he laughed.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Because company that he worked for and started his own business. So my mom was actually the majority shareholder.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: To qualify to be a woman owned business and she did a lot of behind the scenes stuff, but she was never really truly in the office.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: But my dad would tell you straight up. She was always the reason that he went into business because she could manage your budget down to a penny, and that kind of thing. But she wasn't

 

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Michael Palumbos: And Raj. You had mentioned that your mom was in a different

 

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Michael Palumbos: Space or whatnot. My mom I and the reason I brought it up is because I think about my mom as that C. E. O. The chief emotional officer. And I remember, you know, many, many conversations with mom where you sat there and said,

 

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Michael Palumbos: I just don't know if I can to anymore. And she while your father. This or your father that you would not, you know, kind of, dude. Smooth out the edges, many, many times.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Through your family Kim. Did you have that experience.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Well, that that was definitely my mom, she was, she was a social worker by training and definitely the chief emotional officer and I would doubt put her definitively in charge of negotiations and compromise.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: She'd work the crowd over here and work the crowd over there and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You know feather the things going on. I also give her credit. And to your point about even with dad being retired defaulting back to that work space conversation.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: It did really become apparent that there were times when we had this fifth child at the dinner table and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: little trivia detail. I grew up my mom was very European in her approach. So she shocked every day. Cook the dinner and me did not eat dinner as a family, till everyone was home.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Which meant that on an average night we ate somewhere between like 745 and 830 and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: We ate dinner at like 950 and she was, she would feed us a snack at four, when we were little, but that was pretty much my experience straight through. And I just remember hitting an age where she instituted. We are not talking about work.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: We're that you know if there was something that sort of was in the conversation is everybody was getting settled fine but then that was off the table and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: She had all sorts of tricks. She pull out of her her pockets to keep the conversation going and and get us talking about things other than work, and I think

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: As I've reflected getting ready for today. That's something I hadn't really thought about before that.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Is really cool that she really pushed us to have outside interests and have a different perspective on the world. And I don't think it was only easy because I think she spent a lot of time last doing my dad and pulling him back to that the ground rules.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That's great, yeah that's that's very insightful on her part, probably a lot of that training that she had beforehand and now that there's more than one aspect to the lives that we love so good.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Um, we talked about the fact that it takes a village to run a family business and Kim. Those are your words but Raj, you know,

 

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Michael Palumbos: Through the years you've been part of a village with the family business form, and I'm sure there's been other places. What was your, you know, what was your village and who were the people that impacted you as you were going through, you know, working in the family business.

 

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Raj Shah: Well, that's a good one.

 

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Raj Shah: Yeah, because most of my impact from the business is really my dad. Right. It's where I did lots of learning. But as far as, um,

 

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Raj Shah: Yeah, as far as my village giant I would feel like I really didn't have a great village mental this group was formed.

 

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Raj Shah: Honestly, it was I felt really alone in the business because it was like, you know, it's kind of lonely at the top right and i that even more so when you're in this family dynamic so it for me.

 

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Raj Shah: So I guess the family business form came, what, eight years after I joined the business full time, thank goodness.

 

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Raj Shah: But that was probably it for me, you know, some good good

 

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Raj Shah: Lots of good discussion made good friends in that group that are still there today.

 

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Raj Shah: Kim, you and I bounce all kinds of things off of each other and

 

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Raj Shah: that's invaluable.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Long, you know, and that's you know you did find your village through the family business forum and eight years without it.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, like you said it made a big difference when you went in there. I remember that you may or may not remember but I was in Syracuse. When I started in practice with my father. And so even though we were in different cities, you know we we still have this

 

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Michael Palumbos: Some kind of just that strange father son dynamic of, you know, how good are you doing you know he cast a very large shadow both

 

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Michael Palumbos: In the community and in the business world. And so it was for me, starting in a whole nother city was really nice.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I joined the family business group there that also hit was a an offshoot of the chamber in Syracuse.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And I just remember having those conversations that you know that helps you to get through to say I'm not crazy. It's not just me as I'm going through these things so

 

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Michael Palumbos: That's, uh, yeah. Again, if the biggest takeaway from this podcast that you're listening to right now is that if you're in a family business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And you're not part of a family business group, a family business forum start one and it's just you know it. Call your local chamber, or just

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, just do family business and put the name of the city that you're in and you'll find all the other people that list themselves a family businesses and make those calls and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You only need one other person to start

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: If

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You talk to yourself, I don't recommend it all the time, particularly start answering yourself.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: But you don't need 30 people in a room and I will say that

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: One of the things that I think in any business group or any group or you're going to get into really difficult conversations that makes it effective is you have to have some size management to it. So if you have one person that you can be completely authentic with

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Start there and see if you can find two more over the next year and the challenge with that. And whether that's a family business or any. I was thinking about, you know, women's business groups. The challenge with that is the word authentic. I think

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: So often, and I'm thinking of real world for a moment now people have crossed paths with that.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You know, they're attracted to the larger family business group because maybe they don't have to share as much information or they think it will be a good networking opportunity or there's just something out there.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: If you're really feeling like you're on an island and you need a few people in your tribe or your village, you probably need to find a few people that you trust enough to really say, Oh my gosh, I love them to pieces. But right now, working with them socks.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And just like you said you know why it takes a village. You need to be able to bounce things off of other people that understand what you've been going through

 

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Michael Palumbos: I'm Roger wanna you shifted over to you for just a second. What was it like for you when you're the CEO of the company and dead cells. The, you know, dad sold the business. How did that.

 

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Michael Palumbos: How much, how involved in that conversation where were you, how did that go you sharing

 

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Raj Shah: Sure, yeah. I mean, it was, it was my idea.

 

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Raj Shah: Okay. Actually, I saw it as

 

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Raj Shah: I saw you know that our industry going in a direction that was, you know, we'd be better off being acquired by a larger company in it that came to fruition. My dad fought me every step of the way, and felt like, no, you're wrong. It's telecom is alive and well and good, and

 

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Raj Shah: We just need to do this and that it's despite you know struggles in the industry and kind of the handwriting on the wall so

 

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Raj Shah: Yeah, I think he's I think he's still pissed at me today. Like honestly that sold his business, even though you know he was 75 and that doesn't that that deal closed in July of

 

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Raj Shah: 2013 it's probably the best thing that ever happened to me. But it was it was it was trouble but so then fast forward to

 

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Raj Shah: My idea, not my idea was not to leave the business. It was to stay. I felt I generally felt, there's a good opportunity for me to larger business other

 

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Raj Shah: Other vendor opportunities structure and so on. But you know what really happened over the course of the next several weeks. I got tossed into a corner.

 

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Raj Shah: Just kind of solo my title was stripped and I was just expected to generate revenue and then the federal market sector, which it was just, it was crazy. It was a

 

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Raj Shah: And again, since I've never worked anywhere before, but I find out after the fact that this happens to a lot of people right when they sell a business and they expect to stay in it. It generally doesn't work out that way. But I made it all seven weeks and

 

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Raj Shah: You know, we

 

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Raj Shah: Have company bought us was shocked very unhappy ended up suing me suing my dad held withheld final payments etc etc and all got worked out about a year later and everything's good. But

 

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Raj Shah: But yeah, interesting, but you know, I had no

 

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Raj Shah: I had no

 

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Raj Shah: No idea what it was gonna be like, Sure, yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos: It's, you know, there's a there's an author out there that I'm friends with Tom Dean. I don't know if you ever saw his book. It's called every family's business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And it's just interesting because you know what you brought up Raj, is the fact that you were the one that you know came up with the idea of we really need to be thinking about selling

 

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Michael Palumbos: for all the right reasons. You know, it was the markets changing, you know, do we want to change with the market. Are we big enough to be able to handle the change. And that's one of the thing that Tom

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, says in his book, and I just I pushed people all the time is that, you know, every couple of years, you really need to be asking each other, should we be selling

 

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Michael Palumbos: And if you if you don't want to sell, you know, do you want to buy and if we're not having that conversation on a regular basis than it you know it's that going back to authentic like Kim said we're not being authentic with each other and that's really causes friction

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: It's, I think of it is the what next strategy right that might be succession, or some other form of transition. It might be an exit strategy that involves selling if

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You're not having that conversation about, do I really want to be here and I will say that when I left tour of duty number two.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I've been running still keep treating business for just about five years.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Four and a half from there about and had a really ambitious strategic plan for five years. We done everything that I wanted to do. I knew what came next. And I had zero interest zero, and I knew that the best thing for the business was for me to make a shift and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I have such vivid memories of that process in that conversation and and my dad really rejecting this idea that like

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: No, I'm not kidding. I know what needs to happen next. And I'm not interested. You know, it's going to be a very quality focused

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Very technical all the things that that I really love we've gotten our arms around this is going to be a great mission, but I am not the general to lead us into battle for that mission and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: No joke like five hours at the conference table we go around in circles, and then we get to a certain point, Maggie like

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And here are my three non negotiable. And he's like, No, no, we go around again it just it. I think it's hard. But you're right. You gotta check in, because hopefully we're not so static that everything just stays the same forever.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Yeah, but the conversation.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Agreed. And it sounds, both of you, without using the words. It sounds like you know in your head. You're looking at the SWOT analysis of business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And, you know, what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and know that there's some things in front of you.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know of where you're going and what you're doing, but the generation that was controlling the businesses at the time, for the most part.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Weren't in agreement with that SWOT analysis. And there, again, is that cognitive dissonance, you know, and that friction that we try to avoid by open dialogue and communication.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That's interesting, very, very interesting that you know you that you both were had the emotional intelligence to see you know the difference between where you were and what needed to happen or you know where you're going, good for you.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Um, when we look at, you know, we've talked about family business forums and and the importance of making sure that you're part of one

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, I went through one of the things that we're starting probably in the next little and we put a date on the calendar when it's going to start, but we're going to do a family business book club.

 

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Michael Palumbos: For people that maybe don't have the, you know, they can do a meeting a quarter. And so we can read a book and then everybody gets together about it and then that to spur those conversations and spur those things and kind of the

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know, the, the interim I would call it before you jump into a family business forum.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Is there through the years, and I didn't ask it in prep. This one, but any books or anything that you read where you sit there and say even going back looking at my career. These are two or three of the books really made an impact and made it made life better for me.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And it no is a perfectly good answer, because I did not ask you that before we got on.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: So many books for me. I'm a huge reader, so, so many comes to mind, we read, we read a lot in our group. And so the two that come to mind that we've read in Philly business forum that I thought were exceptional small giants, which is a wonderful book and

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: If you happen to love Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. The book is even more meaningful, because they're one of the 10 companies.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: spotlighted

 

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Michael Palumbos: Yeah Oh Burlington right

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: With that

 

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Michael Palumbos: Bow Burlington, that the author, I

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: That's a great question blanking for me.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I have the book because of you. So thank you.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Okay. And that might be it. I can't remember. The other one is we read, which I thought was really interesting as a group, we read the Ritz Carlton book which is like the gold standard.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I so many books that I love leaders eat last, you know, the Simon cynics book.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: A very interesting one, as someone of faith. Jesus as CEO, which was a great interesting model just a lot of servant leadership books. I think it's been really transformative.

 

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Great.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Roger. Anything come to mind for you.

 

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Raj Shah: Not so much for me. I'm not not not a big reader, but the Ritz Carlton buck that Kim had brought up was really an eye opener for me like enjoyed it very much. Good.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Um, when we talk about, you know,

 

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Michael Palumbos: Into and through the family business was something that we that we mentioned when we got together in our prep. What does that, you know, what does that mean for you when we talk about into and through the family business.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Don't you wanna go first.

 

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No.

 

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Raj Shah: Speaks first loses.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I guess for me at the end of the day, I really distinct tours of duty. I loved every one of them.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: They were great in the moment they generally aged really well in terms of the experience that I think I've had

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: There were hard moments, leaving for me leaving the family business.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You know, kind of a funny joke, but so I'm the oldest of four, I have a sibling.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Who left the business during my second tour of duty, and when I finally was completely done at the end of two or three I call them. I said, So hey, how long did you go before dad talk to you.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And this is a running family. Check this out. I think about two years. And I said, Well, four weeks down only 100 to go

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And you know I make light of it because they were really rocky times, but I'm I'm also thankful that as a family. We grew through them. I would say even my dad kicking and screaming did a small amount of rolling. It's not easy, but it's also not fatal.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Love it. That's

 

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Michael Palumbos: What what singing in my head right now is the thoughts of, you know, the dinner table conversations when there's family members that are in the business and family members that are not in the business and family gatherings and like, you know, and in balancing those pieces.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Raj, you know, you spent all of your time in the, you know, in the business. How long were you how long we out of the business before you started your own company when the company was sold you lasted, you know, there was seven weeks. How long in between.

 

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Raj Shah: I started mine right away.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Right away. Okay, and

 

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Michael Palumbos: Here's a question. I don't know the answer. Do we have children.

 

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Raj Shah: I do got a couple of girls.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And are any of them thinking about interested in, is it possible

 

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Raj Shah: Sadly, not even remotely. I don't think I'm sure I've had that conversation.

 

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Raj Shah: But now I mean at least right now doesn't doesn't seem to be I mean our business is a little different than how it used to be, of course, but

 

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Raj Shah: But, you know, I'll also add that I am despite me wishing that I had worked for other another company for a period of time. I don't regret any of my my time in the in the business. I mean, that was a wonderful experience with my dad taught me a ton, which I'm using a knowledge now.

 

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Raj Shah: I will admit to being a little jealous and my younger brother who join the business in his 20s for like the army term like two years. I think he committed to two years for my dad and sure enough after that two years he's gone on his own volition, but

 

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Raj Shah: You know, so he gets to try some different things, but it was really all good and I'm in an industry that I love and continue to enjoy.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Do you mind. What does your brother do today.

 

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Raj Shah: He's a, he's in marketing for an internet company and they do like SEO sort of placement for websites and Denver, Colorado, and he's doing really well. It's got that marketing blood in them.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That's great for him. It was never. It wasn't like one of those things.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Where he felt

 

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Michael Palumbos: And no, never

 

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Raj Shah: Never. I think he felt an obligation to work dad and said he would try it and sales and, you know, was actually pretty good at it. He just it just wasn't as lot of money. Recognize that

 

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Raj Shah: He didn't want to. And he was very respectful of my position and all the all the time, energy and pain that I had put into the business. He had no desire to take it or anything.

 

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Raj Shah: And even in a you know if there was going to be a succession part of it. He didn't want anything to do with ownership of it. He wanted that all to go to me. So it's a very unselfish view of of kind of how it all played out but me and it didn't matter because we sold so yeah

 

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Michael Palumbos: Kim when you know looking at you have the you're the oldest of four, you said was, how many were in the business. It did the everybody do a stint in the family business or people still in there. What's

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Give me, give us a loaded word chewing show. I have two siblings still in the business and I simply these

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Does corporate brand administration. I can't remember his latest title. I'm sorry. He's it. Alrighty, so he did a bunch of things after he left. He's been in development and Grant Administration and so yeah to into right now and I

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: So interestingly, my husband is also his family has a family business, which he is not a part of

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And our kids. I think

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Was so interesting. I don't think the oldest of our kids was even that deep into high school when they said, just to be clear, we don't ever want to work and

 

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Michael Palumbos: It's funny. It really, I mean it's, you know, dad and I had a very good relationship, it was still it was different because you know the way he wanted to do the business was different than me. I, you know,

 

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Michael Palumbos: I was all about. Let's get into family dynamics. I was all into, you know,

 

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Michael Palumbos: Thinking about family office services and, you know, how do we help you know our family business owners with their largest asset. We don't want to just manage the money we want to help them with the business dad's like no that's not what we do.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And I'm like, you know, so that's where a lot of our things came from was my vision and his vision were different, and

 

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Michael Palumbos: It was interesting. He was I had my parents on the show a couple episodes ago and with a family business therapist talking about their state plan and it was I called it family business unscripted, so if you haven't listened to it, go back and find it.

 

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Michael Palumbos: It was, it was very interesting because when I was dealt when we were done with that show. I got a text from dad that, you know, almost brought tears to my eyes and it basically said

 

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Michael Palumbos: You're like a dog with a bone in a good way. You get an ending up and and you just persevere and you keep going with it because you should be really proud of what you're creating

 

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Michael Palumbos: That's kind of you know you love what you when you get those when that when they come along.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Um, it's 1248. And so we've got about 12 minutes left before we're up. And that doesn't mean we can't end early but you know is what are your thoughts, what's been going through your head. What's been triggered that I haven't asked a question about anything.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: That's a great ground.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Yeah, I think we you know we did a great job.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: If we hadn't gotten to it. I would have said and so I'll just echo it

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: This idea of

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I tell the kids all the time. Very few decisions in life are truly fatal.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Most things we can figure out, and I think that is a really good reminder if somebody were listening to us and thinking about being in the family business.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Raj and I are great friends different stories. A lot of dovetail and overlap and places where we've been able to support each other, you know, if you're feeling like gosh

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I wish, I wish my life were different something take comfort you really can survive. I would go so far as to say that we both make a strong case and you too. You can thrive as a family business changes.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And I just think that there's a lot of

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Fear of the unknown. And so people do nothing, or they move really slow or just, it's okay.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Raj for you. Any parting words or comments or things that you want to, you know, if you were sitting down with a family business owner right now that was

 

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Michael Palumbos: Two years into the business. What are you telling them, but what do you think are the most important words of wisdom, you'd share with them.

 

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Raj Shah: Well I you know I family business or not, it's still a business right and I think

 

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Raj Shah: If if long as you're happy in that business, you know, can continue on. I think Kim, you said about fear and I know that I had this myself.

 

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Raj Shah: Right, fear of leaving. Fear of change fear because you're in it for so long and you're doubly tied because your family member, but there is

 

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Raj Shah: There is opportunity outside that business. So I think I would say the same thing to a person just entering business you you've got to have the passion to do it. Otherwise, you should do something else.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Advice tell us if people were interested, a little bit about convergent. Tell us about your business, who do you serve who your clients and how do people get in contact with you if they'd like to

 

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Raj Shah: Sure. No, that's great. So convergent is focus completely in the telecom space businesses of all sizes. When we had left. We changed the focus of the business to just do

 

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Raj Shah: Typically large scale deployments, University of Virginia University of Missouri both our customers. They were 20,000 plus phones. So we helped project manage and deploy those, those are multi year type projects.

 

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Raj Shah: Six months ago. The, the ironic twist is the company that purchased our company decided to close the doors. They went out of business.

 

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Raj Shah: The employees that used to work for me back in 2013 two decades before that voted. My wife and I. Back on the island,

 

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Raj Shah: So we have a smaller version of ourselves. So in addition to the deployment side of the business that

 

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Raj Shah: That we have we in the upstate in Central New York area are selling promise based phone systems. And now, the more popular cloud based systems. We have our own

 

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Raj Shah: Product called Cloud talk which were actually an operating telephone carrier. So, you know, can be as small as a couple phones on up to hundreds of thousands, and we supply

 

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Raj Shah: That you know that service and you know on site support technicians, which is kind of different than people are doing it these days. So again, or we've taken that lava telecom and it's still here.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I'm you.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And your website is

 

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Raj Shah: It's convergent.net

 

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Raj Shah: And our

 

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Raj Shah: Number is 585-770-1000

 

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Michael Palumbos: Thank you very much. Kim, tell us about, you know, the business that you're running today and how do people get ahold of you.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I solution partners is a company that does organizational transformation we work with everybody from financially distressed to stagnant to companies points to grow, mostly in the

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: Closely held family owned, not for profit spaces. It's a combination of organizational development executive coaching outsourced C suite. So maybe you need a CFO for four hours a week or

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You need some CE O kind of resources that you don't have the ability to bring in house full time at, you know, 150 $200,000 a year. If you want to find us.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: We love to chat with you people like that. I love to chat with people solution partners I NC calm is our website and 585-259-1228 is our main number and it's been a lot of fun and very interesting. No two days are like

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I think the biggest thing that we find with the companies who find their way to us is that they know they need something, but they don't know what

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And that's where I joke about that. I love to meet new people. I'm happy to chat, because

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I'm not very ego driven. So a lot of times we can sit down and very quickly say you know you need x y AMP z.

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: And that's not in our core wheelhouse, but we have this phenomenal network will help you find x y AMP z. And that can be a major turning point. Other times, absolutely. There's stuff that we're pitching or we're doing proposals on

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: You know project working long term more retainer style agreements, but

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: I think it's that idea that you really just have to have an interest in having a conversation if you know that you want change, but you can't quite figure out how to get there. That's where we fill a space because we can help you with that conversation.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Love it. It's your past talk and then the family business forum still meets

 

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Kimberly Miller Wilborn: We do.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And so I would throw out if you're listening to this and you're from the Rochester, New York area and part of a family business. I'm positive that, you know, Kim and Raj would welcome you to

 

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Michael Palumbos: To join and I would throw to the both of you, you know, you know, my world was turned upside down and focus was totally different. If ever you need, or would like me to pop in I would be always happy to do that. If you think I can add value at some point.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Thank you both for joining us. Thank you all again my name is Michael Columbus. This has been the family biz show

 

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Michael Palumbos: And if we can help you in any way.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Just feel free to reach out and ask us a question. We're happy to get together and and speak to anybody, my network through you know the purposeful planning Institute and the family business, you know, workspaces national

 

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Michael Palumbos: And I have, you know, friends that work internationally. So happy to help you wherever you are, have a great week. Everybody will talk to you soon. Thanks.

 

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Raj Shah: Thank you. Thank you.

 

 

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Michael Palumbos is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Family Wealth & Legacy, LLC is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a legal or tax advisor regarding any legal or tax information as it relates to your personal circumstances.

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