Working with family requires the right approach

By James S. Cassel

James Cassel headshotWorking with family can be a blessing or a curse — for the family and for the business — depending on how you handle it. Here is some practical guidance for keeping your business and family life healthy.

The ugly truth is that some family members can have an entitlement mentality that can be a big problem for both the business and the family. They assume they deserve everything and should automatically come in at the top, and they can get offended if they think they are not getting what they believe they deserve. Based on what I have seen in my years of experience working with family-owned businesses of all sizes, I often discuss with clients the need for not only an investment banker and a lawyer, but also for a psychologist and a business coach to help them manage these touchy situations.

As an example of a family that did things “right,” recently I met with the owners of a manufacturing business where the son began working at the business at the entry level while he was in high school. He got to know everyone and every facet of the business, from the bottom up. Along the way, he developed strong relationships and earned the team’s respect. Eventually, he became the president and an equal co-owner of the business along with his brother and father. He expanded the business far beyond what his father had done and contributed so much more than his sibling that eventually his father restructured the equity so he would be better rewarded for his accomplishments. Today, the son continues to successfully run the company as the majority holder while working with his father and brother, and everyone is happy.

That family is one of the lucky ones. Others encounter major challenges while trying to incorporate or distance themselves from family members wanting to join the business. Years ago, I met with an 80-year-old patriarch who wanted to sell the successful family business. When I asked why he did not want to keep the business in the family, he pointed at his 50-year-old son sitting next to him who had been working at the company for many years and shouted: “What, am I going to leave my business to him? That would be the end of the business.” The son sank in his chair. This was demoralizing for his son, and there is no telling how this has affected the family relationship.

Fact is, family members often have to say “no” to those who may not be a good fit, despite their blood ties. The key is to deliver the message in the right way, or you can destroy the family and/or the business. While you need to be clear and direct, it is important to consider your unique family dynamics and err on the side of politeness and tact.

There is no doubt that families and businesses can be devastated by issues that arise, such as jealousies between siblings who are competing for the same positions or when an under-qualified or disruptive spouse wants to enter the business. Years ago, I became acquainted with a family business that the father had founded, and his two sons took control of. One brother was phenomenal, but the other was not as talented. Eventually, the phenomenal one had the presence of mind to suggest to his brother that he would increase his salary as long as he was no longer actively involved in the business. He did this in a nonoffensive way, and the brother accepted the arrangement. The family and the business thrived.

It can be easy for business owners to overestimate or underestimate the experience and capabilities of their family members and thereby place them in the wrong positions with too much or too little responsibility. In my experience, I have seen companies derive great value from giving people tests to ensure that they are in the right positions. There are all sorts of psychological and business aptitude tests to choose from that can help you make more informed business decisions. I have also seen companies benefit from relying on external boards or bringing in outside business consultants to help navigate these decisions and conversations. Having the family members trained by non-family members can also help.

Working with family can be very rewarding and a tremendous opportunity, but like most things in life, it must be managed right. The bottom line: It is important to apply sound business practices and be honest with your family, while at the same time using good psychology and managing things with tact.

James Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC, an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle- market companies. 

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Cassel Salpeter & Co. Represents Avenger Flight Group with Growth Capital Financing

MIAMI – June 6, 2016 Cassel Salpeter & Co., a middle-market investment banking firm providing financial advisory services, served as exclusive financial advisor and facilitated a growth capital financing for Avenger Flight Group. The investment will enable the company to expand its services and geographic reach.

Avenger is a South Florida-based provider of commercial aviation simulation and training services to domestic and international airlines, using state-of-the-art simulators located in strategically convenient locations including: Fort Lauderdale; Las Vegas; Mexico City; and now Dallas.

The Cassel Salpeter team, led by Director Joseph “Joey” Smith and Vice President Marcus Wai, identified and approached Patriot Capital and Seacoast Capital, the private equity firms that provided the capital. Cassel Salpeter assisted Avenger through the closing of the transaction.

“We recognized that Avenger is a high-growth company in a unique and defensible sector within the commercial aviation industry and were eager to get involved with a company of this caliber and support its next phase of growth,” Smith said. “We enjoyed working with Avenger, Patriot, Seacoast and their excellent deal teams, and we look forward to our future collaboration.”

Cassel Salpeter, with its headquarters in Miami, has experience providing clients in diverse industries with a range of advisory services including: mergers and acquisitions; equity and debt capital raises; fairness and solvency opinions; valuations; and restructurings, such as 363 sales and plans of reorganization.

“We greatly appreciate Cassel Salpeter’s ability to understand our needs and move quickly to address them by finding the type of strategic partners we wanted: ones that would offer more than just capital,” said Avenger President and Founder Pedro Sors. “Patriot and Seacoast were able to quickly grasp the passion and vision for the future of the company. We are confident that this will be a long and successful relationship for all parties.”

The Patriot team was comprised of Managing Director Daniel Yardley, Senior Principal Charles Bryan, and Associate Jonathan Cope. “Patriot is excited to partner with Pedro and the Avenger team,” Yardley said. “We are very impressed with what they have been able to accomplish by focusing on delivering a best-in-class experience to their aviation partners and look forward to supporting them in their continued growth.”

Added Seacoast Partner Thomas Gorman: “Pedro Sors and his team at Avenger have built a unique and promising company that provides a critical service to the domestic and international commercial aviation industry and flight training community.” The Seacoast team was comprised of Partner Thomas Gorman and Associate David Romagnoli.

Salazar Jackson, LLP, Partner Linda Jackson supported Elsa Gagnon, Avenger Flight Group’s Vice President & General Counsel, in the transaction. John Evans and Chris Fowler of Moore & Van Allen PLLC represented Patriot Capital and Seacoast Capital.


About Cassel Salpeter & Co.

Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC is an independent investment banking firm that provides advice to middle market and emerging growth companies in the U.S. and worldwide. Together, the firm’s professionals have experience providing private and public companies with a broad spectrum of investment banking and financial advisory services, including: mergers and acquisitions; equity and debt capital raises; fairness and solvency opinions; valuations; and restructurings, such as 363 sales and plans of reorganization. Co-founded by James Cassel and Scott Salpeter, the firm provides objective, unbiased, results-focused services that clients need to achieve their goals. Personally involved at every stage of all engagements, the firm’s senior partners have forged relationships and completed hundreds of transactions and assignments nationwide. The firm’s headquarters are in Miami. Member FINRA and SIPC. More information is available at

About Avenger Flight Group

Avenger Flight Group is a provider of commercial aviation simulation and training. Avenger provides simulation training to domestic and international airlines using state of the art simulators located in strategically convenient locations in Ft. Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Mexico City and now Dallas, Texas. Avenger also provides classroom training for trainers and pilots. The company is led by an experienced management focused on meeting specific customer requirements in an environment dedicated to exceeding and surpassing all expectations.      For more information, please

About Patriot Capital

Patriot Capital is a leading source of growth capital for middle market companies seeking to finance business expansion, acquisitions, management buyouts or balance sheet recapitalizations. Patriot senior deal professionals each have more than 20 years of diverse corporate finance experience, providing companies with capital and seasoned business judgment for transactions. Patriot Capital utilizes a disciplined investment strategy developed over many years that focuses on capital preservation, consistent earnings growth and income generation. Patriot Capital has invested in and managed companies successfully through varying periods of economic expansion and contraction. Patriot understands and employs successful strategies and tactics needed to guide our companies through these periods.

For more information, please visit

About Seacoast Capital

Seacoast Capital invests mezzanine and equity capital in small, growing companies led by strong, entrepreneurial management teams. Seacoast invests in high quality U.S. businesses that are market leaders in our target industrial sectors of manufacturing, distribution, business services and industrial technologies. The investment opportunity may be an acquisition, management buyout or internal growth. Seacoast has a particular interest in companies located in underserved urban and rural markets. In all cases, Seacoast partners with managers who have proven track records and significant equity stakes. With over $300 million of funds under management and over 50 investments since 1994, Seacoast Capital is among the nation’s leading mezzanine investors in our target small company sector. Seacoast’s demonstrated ability to respond quickly and offer value beyond dollars makes Seacoast Capital an excellent financial partner. For more information, please visit