Meet Rob Ferguson
seasoned CEO and family business advocate
I grew up in a family of “business guys” – both my grandfathers owned businesses and my father was an executive. I caught the business bug early.
I spent most of my career in leadership roles at both public and private companies
When I started working for some large family businesses, I realized that these businesses had something uniquely different. They had an affinity towards their legacy and their businesses were deeply steeped in their family values – which translated into their business culture.
This was intriguing to me, so I began to research – and I discovered that while family businesses tend to last longer than non-family businesses - over the past 100 years, they had declined in lifespan by over 30 years! I recognized that the same family values and culture that made some family businesses great, was getting in the way of other businesses’ survival.
I saw that I had the experience and expertise to help these businesses overcome these issues so that they could survive from one generation to the next, to the next, and so on in perpetuity. My aspirational mission is to change the statistics so that family businesses live longer. In fact, it’s my contention that with the right foundation in place, family businesses can achieve an Infinite Legacy.
I became an advisor because I’m good at it, it’s fun, and it’s my primary passion and interest
My friends sometimes tease me because they are “retiring”, and they see me actively growing the firm.
The idea behind retirement is that it’s a time in your life to do what you most enjoy.
For others it might be playing golf or collecting cast iron pots – for me, it’s advising family business owners and sharing the knowledge and wisdom I’ve accumulated over the years. This is what I love and enjoy doing the most – so my retirement hobby is to build an advisory practice.
My strengths: getting to the real issue at hand and separating emotional responses from facts during difficult conversations
When you combine family and business, things get personal. Experiences, feelings, and relationships outside of work come as part of the package. It can be challenging to see your “child” as a company leader or to negotiate who does what with the brother who used to break your toys.
I’m comfortable with conflict and helping people get perspective and focus on the business issues at hand – without dismissing feelings, which are perfectly valid. The key to doing this well is to ask great questions and to listen closely with discernment. I have a knack for hearing what is underneath, what is actually being said.
I’m also good at keeping clients accountable and on-task, while remaining respectful of them as individuals.
Trust is a core part of our Prosperity model, and the way to build trust is through accountability. People are depending on you. If you don’t get your things done, you can’t expect others to get their things done.
2 pieces of wisdom: you learn more from mistakes…and every problem has a solution
In 30+ years of leading companies and advising leaders of companies, I won’t say “I’ve seen it ALL” – but I’ve seen a LOT.
I’ve experienced some wild successes and some catastrophic failures. And two things stand out for me. First…the real lessons come from the mistakes. One of the most valuable things I can provide for my clients is sharing my firsthand experience so that I can help other leaders avoid making the same mistakes. I can look at a situation, see what’s coming, and say: “yeah…you really don’t want to open THAT door.”
The second is that every problem has a solution. You may need to think, you may need outside perspective, you’ll probably have to do things you don’t want to do…but every problem has a solution.
I’ve been doing this work for over 30 years, and I haven’t yet met a problem that didn’t have a solution.
About me personally: I collect antique clocks
It all started when I inherited a clock. I started studying up on clocks, was drawn in by the history and craftmanship…and next thing you know, I’m collecting them!
My oldest clock is from the early 1700s. It’s a tall case clock, built out of mahogany and cherry for a John Buckingham who lived in Davenport England. I bought it in Pennsylvania. I like thinking about the history: who was John Buckingham? How did his clock get to Pennsylvania? (I suspect he was an English ship captain in the Merchant Marine.)
The thing that intrigues me the most is how a clock that was made in the early 1700s, with all original parts, can still keep perfect time. With care and attention, you can keep that clock running forever. I can guarantee that an Apple watch that someone might have won’t be around in 300 years…but my clock will be!
It’s also clear to me that the same principles that keep a clock running for 300 years will also keep a business running. It comes down to fundamentals: structure, rigor, discipline, quality, maintenance.