A Sixth Generation Family Business Journey

By McKenzie Wisdom, 6th Generation of Wisdom Adhesives Worldwide

Journey: [jur-nee]. Noun. “The passage or progress from one stage to another”. The journey to success.

Journey; also known as the best way to describe family business. Whether part of the 30% of family businesses transitioning into the second generation, part of the 12% maintaining viability into the third generation, or part of the 3% functioning into the fourth generation and beyond (Conway Center for Family Business), family businesses of all kinds travel a unique journey.

Being a member of the 6th generation at Wisdom Adhesives Worldwide, I have watched from the sidelines the growth and development of a remarkable family business journey that has been evolving for over 140 years. Despite the highs and lows, Wisdom Adhesives Worldwide currently stands as the longest continuously running adhesives manufacturing company in the world, and the 19th leading worldwide manufacturer of adhesives and sealants (2016 Adhesives and Sealants Industry Top 25 Leading Worldwide Manufacturers of Adhesives and Sealants). Priding ourselves on strong enduring relationships with customers, Wisdom Adhesives Worldwide continues to revolve around the same family values that my great, great, great, great, great grandfather, Phillip Wisdom, founded his company upon in 1875.

I grew up knowing Wisdom Adhesives as my Dad’s “glue factory”, and the place where my sisters and I wore oversized goggles and adventured throughout the warehouse on an electric scooter, playing hide and seek behind glue barrels on Saturdays. I remember when Wisdom Adhesives consisted of only one plant in Elgin, IL, and my Grandmother would come in on the weekends to put out bowls of candy for all of the employees.

I recently began my journey within the Marketing department at Wisdom. Being one of the rare few that represent the sixth generation of a family business is daunting. Generation after generation, Wisdom Adhesives has built a legacy of outstanding leaders that have each grown the company in their own unique ways. One of the most difficult parts of establishing yourself as an individual within a family business is capitalizing on your own distinctive qualities, rather than trying to bear resemblance to the successful family members that have come before you. Wisdom Adhesives has played a role in my life since I was a young child, and now working within the Marketing department, I’ve combined my connection to this family business with my passion for writing and creative strategizing. I am excited about my current role at Wisdom and the beginning of my family business journey.

I have a strong interest in what it means to work within a family business, and the obstacles and triumphs that accompany this type of career path. Not only am I interested in the course and the future of my own family’s business, but also in the paths that other family businesses pave for themselves. This summer, I started a blog called “Family Business Journey” that explores Wisdom’s business journey, as well as other family business pilgrimages. I have been investigating the thoughts, memories, and aspirations of Wisdom employees, as well as other family business owners. My hope is that others will join me in the family business dialogue and discuss the in’s and the out’s and the up’s and the down’s of the family business journey.

For more on the history of Wisdom Adhesives Worldwide, read our Now & Then feature from 2014.

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