“Folks, we have now reached cruising altitude so I’m going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about the cabin as you wish but we ask that you do wear your seatbelts when you’re seated in case we encounter turbulence.”
Tyler Young reached for his laptop in the seatback pocket and flipped down his tray table. As he waited for the notebook to power up he looked out the aircraft’s window and studied the clouds, thinking about the pilot’s well-worn announcement, one he’d personally heard at least 1500 times: In case we encounter turbulence.
All businesses have turbulent times and family-owned ones were no different — the unlucky ones possibly had more turbulence than publicly owned companies, he mused. But W. F. Young Company had never worried much about turbulence. There had been periods of struggle and of change, but turbulence? Not so much. He pondered that for a moment, analyzing why.
Well, first of all, we’d started with a great foundation, he thought. The initial 50 years of Mary Ida’s guidance had laid solid bedrock. Mary Ida had been the impetus behind the business, all of it driven by her love of horses. She had been a formulator, and a passionate advocate for the improvement of the products through several decades, working at home as Wilbur traveled the northeast selling Absorbine® liniment from the back of the wagon. Her vision and passion continued to guide the business when Wilbur Jr. took the reins. After her son passed, Mary Ida ran the company with tactical and logistical help from Harry Caswell for several decades until she finally retired, putting her daughter Sally and grandson Wilbur III in charge. Through half a century and two world wars, the development of the automobile and the plane… it was remarkable, really.
Although Wilbur III was the true helmsman during the next period, great aunt Sally’s competitive instincts and philanthropic missions created a much bigger presence for the company … and that was, in hindsight, an important accomplishment at a crucial time.
Tyler opened a spreadsheet but felt unable to focus on the numbers. He looked back out the window. After Sally, of course, there was Jean. Tyler’s wife Jean had been indispensable. She had a degree in finance and had served as treasurer of the company. She now sat on the board. Jean had always been a quiet but important presence, instrumental in bringing corporate norms to the business when Tyler took charge. Not to mention, of course, the way she’d always supported him.
Tyler grinned to himself as he felt his train of thought gathering steam and rattling down the tracks. How about his sister Jamie? If Tyler was most like the original Wilbur in his outlook and skill set, there was no doubt that Jamie Young was most like Mary Ida. Jamie put her all into the creation of great products to benefit animals. She walked the walk and talked the talk, as they say. An avid horsewoman from a young age, it was all about the animals with her, in a way that kept the company’s mission very focused.
And how about Jamie Young’s son, Sean, the Digital Communications Manager? Sean gave the business his all and had proved indispensible in marketing and communications. Naturally, he had a deep knowledge of the family history and the family business but he was also constantly creative in finding new ways to tell the W.F. Young story and connect the brands with loyal customers.
Tyler thought of the other Jaime: his niece Jaime McKinley. She had terrific marketing and sales skills, but also seemed to have inherited the management and planning skills of her grandfather, Wilbur III. She was super organized and had been an amazing mentor to others on the team. Jaime had led the charge on acquiring the Missing Link products, Yup, Jamie was the whole deal.
And then there was Jessica Young. She’d worked in advertising, managing the Levi Strauss & Co. account, among others, before she joined the family business. Her passion for pets made her the ideal leader for the Pet Division. Jessica was as inspired as Jamie Young and as buttoned up as Jamie McKinley. It felt awfully good to see a new generation with all the potential of the first.
Yes, Tyler thought, as he woke his laptop and pulled in on a closer view of his spreadsheet, if the W. F. Young Company had to point to one through-line in its history, it would be inspiring and inspired women. Sure, there had always been men helping to run the company, but what had made their business thrive for 125 years was a true passion for animal care — and that, the heart and soul of W. F. Young Company, came right from the women in the family.
Tyler looked out the window a last time, appreciating the rosy color lighting the edges of the puffy cumulous clouds. And at that moment, he was sure Mary Ida was proud.
Find the complete series on the history of Absorbine® here!
W.F. Young, Inc. is a marketer of many top equine brands, including ShowSheen® Hair Polish and Detangler, UltraShield® Insecticide and Repellant, Hooflex® and Horseman’s One Step® Leather Cleaner and Conditioner.