BANGOR, Maine — It was almost wistfully that Gov. Paul LePage fondly recalled his favorite memories in the private business sector before a crowd of 100 people attending the Family Business Forum on Thursday morning.

“I really enjoyed having the freedom of running my own business. Believe me, I don’t know where I got this brain cramp that I should be governor,” Gov. LePage joked, provoking laughter from the audience at Husson University’s Gracie Theatre.

“There are many challenges working with family-owned businesses, but believe me, it’s a cakewalk next to being the chief executive,” LePage added. “Although I must tell you I absolutely love serving the state of Maine.”

LePage — the head of a family consulting business which provided executive officer, CEO and chief financial officer, or CFO, services and advice to banks, firms, insurance and other companies for 15 years — delivered the keynote presentation for the Institute for Family-Owned Business’ forum.

“The most enjoyable part of my business career was working together and having my wife running the office,” said LePage, who also served two terms as a Waterville city councilor and as the city’s mayor. “It actually strengthened our family.”

After performing some transitional work for Marden’s Surplus and Salvage, LePage was hired full-time as general manager in 1996.

“I look at Marden’s as a state icon,” LePage said. “I became governor because I was general manager of Marden’s more, I think, than my political skills, because they are lacking.”

The four-hour forum featured presentations by LePage and panelists including Deborah Delp, president of Yankee Marina and Boat Yard; Harry Fraser, general manager of Johnny’s Selected Seeds; and Maria Baeza, master of social work, as well as smaller panel discussions.

“In any business cycle, about 40 percent of family-owned businesses will change hands,” LePage said. “When that transition occurs, the statistics are not good. Just over 40 percent of family-owned businesses will survive the second generation. Third generation drops all the way down to 12 percent and if you get to fourth, it’s 3 percent.”

LePage went on to outline what he considers some of the key factors affecting that declining rate.

“The biggest challenge for family-owned companies that I’ve experienced initially is communication among the owners,” LePage said.

“One of the biggest failures of family-owned businesses is in the transition,” he added. “The emotion of being a parent and wanting your child to be in charge, and [the] emotion of wanting the company to succeed sometimes conflict.

“They need to understand that what’s good for the family isn’t always good for the company, and that’s tough.”

The forum is the brainchild of IFOB executive director Gina Weathersby, who met with LePage after hearing him speak at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. It was LePage who suggested Husson to host the event.

“I was quite impressed by his passion for business, especially family business,” said Weathersby, who ran a health management company and a service that helped professional athletes set up nonprofit organizations and family foundations.

Weathersby, who is planning on holding two forums a year in different locations, was impressed by the turnout and the quality of questions by participants.

“We can feed off this one,” she said. “This gives us a chance to evaluate what people are particularly interested in and what we can do better.”

40 replies on “LePage tells Husson crowd family-owned businesses the future of Maine”

  1. Running a family business couldn’t be more different than running our state government. I’m sure he knows that by now. Regardless of how any of us feel about his role as governor, it’s hard to detract from the success he had at Marden’s. I know, wish he was still there etc.

    1.  Ask the people that worked for him at Marden’s for the real story, he was not a loved manager there, check it out!

      1. I’m not going to debate his” lovability factor”. We all  know that’s not his strength. The story is about small business. He helped Mardens to become a very successful Maine company. I voted for Cutler. Lot’s of people dislike their boss-even some folks  not working at Mardens.

    1. You might want to find a list of family owned businesses in Maine. One of them begins with L.L. and by most accounts is an excellent place to work.

  2. Mr. LePage has his daughter on the payroll for $40k a year, a job created for her despite her having no experience in the field.  Does he consider the State of Maine a family-owned business?  Methinks he does, but it’s a better business than Marden’s was; he can be king and pay family well… not $8 an hour (with a raise to $8.25 after a year).

    1. What hourly wage should a Marden’s associate be earning after a year on the job? Keep in mind that wages for the retail trade really have nothing to do with his daughter -even though hiring her and the brother in law showed poor judgement.  

    2. Maybe you should check other retail businesses and what they pay for new workers. Retail has always been and always will be low paying jobs.

      1. Retail would be wise to unionize. They cant ship the stores that sell to Americans overseas where they can exploit with impunity.

        1. Unions are just a bunch of money grabbers, they have wore out their welcome a long time ago. They are legalized extortion and benifit the big wheels .The wages they pay is not sustainable to compete inthe free market

    3. I know a dude that lives in DC that gets paid over 400k and still dont know jack about the job he was given

  3. 100 people that’s it? Subtract his staff the attendance must have been around 20?

    Let me not forget:

    “The most enjoyable part of my business career was working together and having my wife running the office,” LePage said. “It actually strengthened our family.”

    So in translation he pretty much lets Adrienne Bennett run the state seeing how Paul always needs someone to speak for him, so wife didn’t want to run the state so he let’s his spokesperson do it for him.

    And finally an indication that the State is being run a lot like a business when he says:

    “One of the biggest failures of family-owned businesses is in the transition,” LePage told his audience. “The emotion of being a parent and wanting your child to be in charge, and [the] emotion of wanting the company to succeed sometimes conflict. 

    Is this why he hired his daughter and other family? In case something does not really work out he can’t be blamed?

  4. He is absolutely right.   It is the small business owner who will hire Maine people and make money.   This is definitely the way to go as it is very difficult to entice large businesses into the state with the bad business environment(taxes, etc.) and the  small numbers of people available to do the job.  This man is on the right track .

  5. 80% of businesses in Maine are family owned businesses. We produce 60 – 70% of all jobs in the state.

    I was at this talk, and while I don’t agree on all of the Governor’s policies, the tone of the speech was mostly spot on. Family businesses are important, and we don’t do enough to encourage them. If you were there, you would have also known that the topic of big corporation money going out-of-state was brought up. There was a heavy focus on

  6. Too bad health insurance wasn’t more affordable so maybe more people would strike out on their own.

  7. All comments below (newest first) seem to be spot-on!  We know many of those who are in business of all sizes are “family-owned and operated”. Just look at Bangor’s yellow pages and you can tell by history how many once upon a time family businesses are still carried forth into today’s marketplace.  There are dangers of this if some members in the family get the feeling of “buyouts” and business transfers to larger takeover corporations out of state who have the money and means backups to assume 100% control.  Law firms have family attorney’s.  Is it nepotism?  Yes.  Probably so, but in order to secure the business, and employ family members could be a good or a bad thing.  You decide. 

  8. Bravo Governor ! But enough of the “lip service” !  Now is the time to change your policies and put your money where your mouth is ! Actions speak louder than words Dear Gov.

    1. What planet are you living on? He (LePage) has done more in one year than all our previous governors together since Longley.

  9. Obviously the most common sensed governor that this state has ever seen or witnessed. Thank you.

  10. The joke is on you if you believe a word Republicans say about family owned business being the future. Remember politicians’ say a lot of things, most of it is pure BS, just watch what they do not what they say. Let your eyes be the judge of their true intent. If family owned business were people, Republicans would be mass murderers. How many family owned business are no longer in business because of Big Box stores and fast food franchises rolling into town like an 800 lb. gorilla, that’s the kind of business they’re talking about, monkey business . The current crop of Republicans believes in scale of business not family business, if you don’t scale up you will be put out of business, that’s what they call free enterprise.

    Soon only service type businesses will remain which will service the corporate elite. Sure you can baby sit there children and clean their toilets, repair their homes and cars and even change their corporate depends when they need changing, that is the future of a family owned business.

  11.  “Although I must tell you I absolutely love serving the state of Maine.” LiarPage said
    Then do it Gomer, not just the 30%, serve for all……………. No I wouldn’t believe you if  your tongue came notarized.

  12. Thanks Disqus for not letting me finish my previous edit.

    My goodness, I was at the talk, and I wonder how many commenting here were or know the full text of the speech? While I do not agree with all of the Governor’s policies, his point overall in the speech was that small business is a GOOD thing. Family owned businesses should be helped and supported, not tortured by the state. And he was spot-on in that regard. Did you know there is now a state hotline you can call for help with your small business, that is staff with a live, small business expert to help guide you. They are working to change the tone in all state departments to be one of customer service, not customer abuse.

    This man could be handing out $100 bills and some people would still be complaining. How about offereing ideas on how to help our state move forward? We had nearly the lowest income growth in the entire country, we are the oldest state, a net gainer of federal funds (meaning we get more than we pay in), school enrollments are declining, and we are the most rural state in the country. That’s where we are now. Ok? So how to do we fix it. LePage (and no individual governor or state official is to blame). We are all to blame. If you want things to change, contact your state senators, your town office, state government. Offer solutions.

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