Chris Herschend - Third-Generation Owner of Theme Parks, Attractions & The Harlem Globetrotters [The Business of Family]


26 October 2020

1 hr 2 mins 52 secs

Season 1

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode

Chris Herschend is a third-generation shareholder and Chairman of Missouri-based Herschend Enterprises, the largest family-owned themed attractions company in the US. HFE properties span 26 locations and 10 states, employing over 10,000 people who collectively host over 13 million guests annually at properties including Silver Dollar City, Dollywood and the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters.

Standout Quotes:

  • "That's not your board members' primary role; to be experts on your business, they're really there to be a resource for you, a check for you..they also provide a level of protection" – Chris Herschend
  • "I hear a lot of family businesses that do not have shareholder agreements in place, and that's a mandatory first step, you've got to have a shareholder agreement before you do anything else" – Chris Herschend
  • "You can't trust somebody if you don't know them; you can't know them if you never see them" – Chris Herschend
  • "You'd be amazed at what millionaires would do for a $250 plane ticket" – Chris Herschend
  • "It's not about you and you are not your own" – Chris Herschend

Key Takeaways:

  • Humility and Accountability define the principle behind the business model of a majority independent board for their family-owned company.
  • The primary role of your board members is not to be experts in your business, they are there to be a resource, a check, and for protection
  • Humility of an owner who wants a true board is so attractive to high-quality board members and business thinkers that they want to be a part of that
  • You need to know where you are in the generational business cycle
  • The primary role of the board is to be truth-tellers
  • One of the hardest things you have to do as a larger family is to define 'Family'
  • The simplest most important thing done in their family business is "Gathering"
  • Chris emphasizes to his kids that their job is to steward the family business

Episode Timeline:

  • [00:49] An Introduction to Chris Herschend
  • [01:26] The mission of Herschend Enterprises is to create memories worth repeating; Chris shares the history of the company
  • [07:26] The day to day operations of the business as a theme park
  • [10:10] Chris gives a detailed description of the governing structure of the family business
  • [13:30] Reasons behind the business model of a majority independent board for a family-owned company.
  • [21:33] The family is constantly around the business but rarely in the business.
  • [26:03] Chris describes his role in the family business
  • [35:40] The different phases or eras in handling the wealth of the family business
  • [48:50] Are there any key resources that your family has invested in to get to where you are today?
  • [56:27] A letter from Chris to his kids

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Episode Links

  • Herschend Enterprises — Herschend Enterprises is a family of companies who focus on family entertainment. For nearly six decades, Herschend Enterprises has operated with the purpose to bring families closer together by Creating Memories Worth Repeating®.
  • Harlem Globetrotters — The Harlem Globetrotters are worldwide icons, synonymous with family entertainment and great basketball skills. The Globetrotters represent 90-plus years of breaking down barriers, acts of goodwill and a commitment to fans that goes beyond the game.
  • Herschend Family Entertainment – America's Largest Family-Owned Themed Attractions Corporation — Herschend Family works daily to create wholesome, immersive entertainment experiences with soul and depth. Experiences for every generation of our family. Sometimes thrilling. Sometimes lighthearted. Always distinctive. Their award-winning theme parks, entertainment and attractions aim to inspire happiness and family bonding.