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News & Press: Industry News

Generation Game with Casey Avent

Wednesday, February 28, 2018  
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There are many success stories out there of companies where the baton of leadership has been passed on through the family for multiple generations. Among the well-known ones, Smead stands out.


Good businesses may make it look easy to still be going strong after many years, but it requires constant attention, agreement and alignment of company goals. A company’s culture and philanthropic vision also plays a key role.


In 1916, PA Hoffman became the first Hoffman to lead Smead. One hundred years later it had become a highly successful, family-owned enterprise with nearly 2,000 employees and over 3,000 products. 


Harold Hoffman was thrust into the management of Smead at a young age when his father suffered a debilitating stroke in 1928. He ran the company until 1955 when he passed away unexpectedly while attending an industry meeting in Buffalo, New York. 


Knowing it was her husband’s intent to pass the company on to their children, Harold’s wife Ebba Hoffman became Smead’s President that same year and ran it successfully for 43 years until her daughter Sharon Hoffman Avent became President/CEO in 1998. And 18 years later, effective 1 July 2016, Sharon announced my promotion to President. She remains heavily involved in our day-to-day business and continues as our CEO. 


A history of philanthropy

Smead’s history of philanthropy began with Harold and Ebba Hoffman and has continued through the generations. In 1955, Ebba started on a journey that transformed Smead from a relatively small family-owned business into an industry leader. In an era when a woman running a business was a rarity, she accomplished amazing feats by creating a foundation of high ideals within the company and reaching out to the community. Sharon has continued this legacy – navigating significant growth and extending the company’s philanthropic vision even further.


According to Sharon, Harold was instrumental in bringing a hospital to Hastings, Minnesota, where we are headquartered. She and her mother carried on that legacy through their caring nature, service and generosity with their continued support of local community projects. 

35 years ago, when corporate leaders from the office products industry united in support of a higher cause – to help City of Hope find the cures to cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses – Smead was there from the start. And in 2003, the industry honoured Sharon, naming her as the first (and only) woman in our sector to receive the Spirit of Life Award from City of Hope. This award is City of Hope’s most prestigious honour and is given to an outstanding volunteer who expresses the concern of City of Hope in improving both the quantity and quality of life. 


Inspiring Hope was Sharon’s campaign slogan. Where else is hope more needed than among those who have none? And where else is hope more elusive than among those whose futures seem hopeless? Proceeds from Sharon’s 2003 Spirit of Life campaign went towards supporting the Center for Biomedicine & Genetics at City of Hope Cancer Center – our nation’s largest bio-manufacturing facility at an academic institution that is capable of producing FDA-approved biological therapeutics. The centre provides a cost-effective means to move multiple leading-edge technologies into human clinical studies more quickly, while maintaining the high level of quality control required by the FDA.


Continued commitment

Smead continues its commitment to City of Hope fundraising efforts with an Annual Smead Golf Tournament and multiple other fundraising activities, including the City of Hope Tour, Curling for a Cure, the SP Richards Heritage of Hope Golf Outing, Office Partners’ Bass Fishing Tournament, Hike for Hope, Bob Parker Memorial Golf Outing, the Northern California City of Hope Golf Outing, the Howard Wolf Golf Classic and the Spirit of Life Gala (see page 49 for a calendar of events). Smead’s history of successful succession has not only had a positive impact on the business and the office products industry at large, but also on its culture of philanthropic efforts – like City of Hope – and the values passed on through multiple generations. 


Generations for Hope is the theme for the 2018 City of Hope campaign and the entire Smead family are proud supporters of Rick Toppin and the National Business Products Industry. Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much. - (OPI)


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