The founder of a global blueberry nursery company based in Oregon is stepping down as CEO, to be replaced by a triumvirate consisting of his two children and chief operating officer.
Forty years after starting the Fall Creek Farm & Nursery in Lowell, Ore., Dave Brazelton is handing the reins to his son Cort Brazelton, daughter Amelie Aust and COO Oscar Verges. Brazelton said he plans to remain involved in the company as chairman of the board and looks forward to “ambassadorial duties” meeting with customers and partners.
“Probably the most important thing is I want to be available for advice to this new leadership group,” he said.
The new role will also allow Brazelton to re-immerse himself in actual farming, which he often didn’t have time for as the company’s chief decision-maker.
“I didn’t want to become one of those people that are holding on and on and on,” he said. “When you’re running things, you spend a lot more time at the office than you’d like.”
From humble beginnings, the company has grown to operate as a blueberry plant producer and breeder with locations in U.S., Mexico, Peru, Spain and The Netherlands.
Cort Brazelton and Amelie Aust will serve as co-CEOs beginning in 2019, while Oscar Verges will oversee the company’s day-to-day functioning as president and COO.
Though the three-headed structure may seem unusual, Cort Brazelton said Fall Creek has long adhered to a belief in consensus-driven decision-making.
“Shared leadership is a cultural norm in our company,” he said. “If it wasn’t, I think it would be a challenge.”
Each of the three chiefs will have a “portfolio” of duties, with Cort acting as the company’s outward-looking face while Amelie focuses on intellectual property and company culture.
Fall Creek sees itself as a “local global” company, meaning that it operates internationally but aims to maintain the best aspects of a family business, where employee input is valued, Cort said.
“The best ideas do not come from headquarters at our company,” he said. “The hard thing is doing it at scale and remaining a good company.”
Amelie Aust joked that she’s had more than three decades of experience with overcoming disagreements with her brother, so they’re both comfortable with clashing over ideas.
For the past six months, the two siblings and Verges have worked with a professional coach to learn how to deal with conflicts and how to resolve them early, she said.
“One of the things about shared leadership is it forces good debate,” said Amelie.