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2011 Distributor Family Business of the Year: Kaeser & Blair
By Joe Haley
June 2011

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What’s the key to a successful family business? Kurt Kaeser, CEO of Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600) thinks it’s a lot of hard work and some degree of luck. But the most important thing for a family business is succession. “The hardest part is transitioning from generation to generation,” he says. “I think to do that successfully you have to have prudent planning.”

By all indications, Kaeser & Blair has done a good job in this area. Kaeser is the third generation to run the distributorship. He took over from his father who took over from Kurt’s grandfather. But in actuality, he’s the fourth generation to work at the firm, as his great grandfather was employed there at one time.

In 1923, Kurt’s grandfather, along with business partner Bill Blair purchased a company called Cincinnati Printing & Paper Products and then incorporated the name Kaeser & Blair in 1924. Blair sold his share of the company in 1954 but the name remained. And the one thing that has remained constant since then is having a Kaeser at the helm. Kurt’s father is still considered to chairman of the board and frequents the office. “The family is still involved with making the decisions for the company,” Kurt says. “My sister, Christy, is one of the owners and she comes in on a regular basis and is part of the management team.”

Also considered part of the family are its 120 employees. “A lot of our employees have been here for a good number of years,” Kaeser says. “When we have our annual convention we call it the Kaeser & Blair Convention and Family Reunion.”

Kurt has two college-aged sons, one of whom is an independent dealer who actively sells. “He’s shown some interest in joining the company,” he says.

The adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” applies to this family-run business. “I think overall our model has been the same as far as selling through independent dealers. We haven’t had any adjustments to that, but we certainly have had a lot of adjustments as far as processing orders and with technology advances.”

As that model has proved successful for the Kaesers, the major challenge comes back to the family. “We probably share all the challenges that every other company does, although added in that is the challenge of keeping the company intact and going on to the next generation,” Kaeser says. “I think that’s a big hurdle for family businesses: How do you move that ownership over from one generation to the next?” – JH

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