Family Business Confidential celebrates the role that Family Businesses play in the community as well as the impact on the lives of the Family members. Family Businesses come in different sizes, industries, family members and longevity. Despite the differences, the common feature is that growing up as part of a family business impacts how you feel about yourself and view the world around you.
Family Business Confidential – Classic Family Business
Business Name – Billing Horns
NxtGen Member – Sydney Horn – 3rd Generation
Position – Senior Vice President
What is Horns Billing?
We were a selling organization that worked with high profile companies including Ocean Spray, Weight Watchers Sylvania, etc. We worked on commission and our job was to place products into retail stores and merchandise the product to create the highest sales. We covered three territories including Southern California, Northern California and Phoenix and had sales offices in each location. At it’s peak, we had 100 employees.
Can you provide some history on the family business?
My grandfather started Rosenfield Brokerage Company in the 1920s and sold merchandise to local retailers. My father joined his father-in-law in the business so it became Rosenfield Horn Brokerage. My grandfather sold his stake in the business to a non-family business member and it became Horn & Associates. Eventually, my father bought out the partner and it became Horn Brokerage. My dad merged with Dean Billings and formed Billings Horn and sold it to Advantage Solutions, a global brokerage in 1997.
Were there other family business members including siblings, cousins aunts/uncles that worked in the business?
I have a brother who is six-years older who worked in the family business. I have another brother who didn’t work in the business.
Can you talk about your work history inside and outside the family business?
During high school and college, I was involved in merchandising our clients’ products in the store. I worked 20+ hours a week depending on whether I was in school or on vacation.
After college, I went to work for Coca Cola Bottling Company which was owned by Beatrice Food. I could have joined the family business at that time; however I thought it was important to get outside experience. I sought out a big company with a great name and best practices so I could gather as much expertise as possible.
My initial position with Coca Cola Bottling was with “Alternative Channel Accounts” which meant I called on company’s such as Zody’s, National Lumber and tried to get them to sell our products. Eventually, I was promoted to Chain Store Sales Manager and promoted Coke and our other brands into stores including Ralph’s, Hughes and Alpha Beta, two family-owned grocery chains that were sold to larger competitors.
How did you get back to the Family Business?
I received an amazing education working for Coca Cola; however, I would never have the same economic opportunity working at Coke as I would in the family business. In 1987, I was invited to join the Family Business and it was the right move at the time.
Was it a difficult transition into the business?
Yes it was. I joined the business as a Vice President. The other people in the organization looked at me differently because I was my father’s son. I’m assuming every family business son or daughter goes through the exact same process. If people believe you’re handed something and don’t deserve it, they’re going to hold you accountable until you could prove your worth. My goal was to simply work harder and perform better to earn their respect.
Was there a moment when you earned their respect?
We won the “Broker of the Year” award from Ocean Spray which was a very big deal. Ocean Spray was our largest and most difficult client and I was the point person on the business. When I was assigned to the Ocean Spray account, there was a lot of concern about my ability to handle their issues. By winning the Broker of the Year award, I was able to prove to everybody, internally and externally that our organization and I could really deliver at a very high level.
How did you feel about the business being sold?
I didn’t have any issues with the sale. There was a paradigm shift in the industry and the largest brands were moving from a regional to a national brokerage model. Manufacturers wanted one broker to represent them nationally, not 15 to 20 manufacturers to represent them around the country. We weren’t situated to have a national presence and we weren’t interested in going in that direction. Over the next couple of years, we knew that we’d be losing some of our major clients so it was time for my Dad to cash in on his lifetime work so we sold to Advantage Solutions. It was absolutely the right move.
Are there any family traditions that developed around the family business?
We would go to conventions together and after the conventions, we would extend it to a family vacation. Typically we’d go to Hawaii or the Bahamas but my Dad loved Hawaii. My dad also took off the entire month of August. This wasn’t dictated by the needs of the business, he wanted to take the month off to travel and spend time with his family.
- Biggest non-family idol or inspiration? – Peter Burns (boss at Hain Celestiial)
- What are you streaming? – Ted Lasso
- What’s on your turntable or Spotify playlist? – Bruce Springsteen
- Godfather I or Godfather II? – I
- Favorite LA Sports team – Lakers
- Favorite LA College – USC
- Favorite place to listen to music – Greek Theater
- Quintessential LA activity or experience – Walking around Rancho Park
- Desert, Beach or Mountains? – Beach
- Where do you take visitors to spot celebrities? – Hollywood
What are you doing now that you’ve sold the business?
I went to work for Hain Celestial as Vice President of Sales. Hain was one of our brokerage clients and I had built a good relationship with Peter Burns, CEO of the company. This was at the beginning of the organic product craze and during my 18-years there, we went from $100 million to $1.2 billion sales. I’m now working with Halen Brands which is disrupting the beat with unexpected, emerging brands that challenge the status quo within the better-for-you food and beverage spaces. Our brands include Owyn, From the Ground Up and Parmacrisp.
Any final words on Family Business?
Family business are at the heart of Los Angeles and the country. It’s sad to lose them because there’s something very special about them moving from generation to generation. I look back at our family business when my grandfather was selling produce to retailers, my father building up a large regional brokerage business and selling to a public company. It was an incredible 60+ year run for the family business and the family.