Sonderen Packaging has been a family-owned business since founding in 1963, and we recently received the Galliard Excellence Award from the Galliard Family Business Advisor Institute in recognition of our successful transition from second to third generation ownership. Galliard recognizes and honors family-owned companies that have carefully and thoughtfully managed business transitions while taking into consideration the care, dignity, and respect for all parties involved, balancing the needs of the family and the needs of the business.

“We are incredibly honored to receive this award and to be recognized for a successful family business transition. It is much more meaningful and telling of our present and future success as a generational family business than any other awards we may receive,” said Keva Sonderen, who accepted the award.

Sonderen Packaging began the transition process back in 2009 with the guidance of Galliard Advisors, creating a timeline and mapping steps to ensure that the business would thrive during the change in ownership.

“We’ve been students of the process for quite a while now. When I learned that less than 10 percent of third generation companies make it, I realized that this is going to take work and that we would need help,” said Keva. “Very few businesses succeed, and there are many reasons why. A lot of owners get frustrated and decide ‘I can’t figure it out, it’s causing strife in the business and family, I’m just going to sell,’ and we really didn’t want that to happen to us.”

Lise Stewart, the president of Galliard Group, has cheered our efforts. “Sonderen Packaging was chosen to receive this award for demonstrated excellence as a family business and in recognition of leadership in the integration of a strategic plan, succession plan and family governance plan,” said Lise. “The Sonderen family has made both the business and family stronger thereby giving each great opportunities for long term success.”

“Generational transition is a big deal. If you don’t do it right, there can be a lot of issues,” said Keva. “It’s very complicated, the social and financial sides, and we really want to make sure that our dad and mom both feel like they are taken care of and that the business is left in good hands. Navigating how all of that works within our family unit… it’s challenging. But my dad is really an exception. He’s been in the business since he was 11, but he has been able to let go. A lot of owners can’t, and the next generation never gets the chance to learn and lead.”

Last year Sonderen Packaging also hired local advisors Rumpeltes & Lawton to help finish the transition.

“It’s been a really gradual, comfortable transition for us, for the company, our vendors, our bankers, our customers,” said Keva. I’m really proud of the way that we’ve done this so far. We have a great foundation, and as long as Matt and I continue open communication and have the same values and goals for the business, there won’t be room for contention. So far so good! I can confidently say that things are going really well, and we are having a lot fun in the process.

“We hope to have a legacy business and move into the fourth generation someday, with Matt’s three kids and my two kids—that’s going to be its own kind of complicated. Luckily, it’s a ways off still.”