Perspectives

Supportive family

As CEO of Supportive Living Solutions, Bill Arrigoni aims to establish a lasting legacy

Bill Arrigoni was 13 years old when his future purpose came calling. His mother, Virginia, had just completed treatment for alcoholism. Seeing the need for addicts to have continuing care and more time in a safe environment, Virginia decided to turn her own home in St. Paul into a safe place for people to continue their chemical dependency recovery.

Arrigoni didn't know it at the time  or even much later ­ but his mother's unusual decision would eventually lead him to being CEO of one of the largest services for housing and support to people with chemical dependency and mental illness in Minnesota. Today the family business, Supportive Living Solutions, has not only helped people lead better lives, but it has also become a business in which several of Arrigoni's family members have taken leadership roles to sustain its future.

Arrigoni and his niece and president, Vicky Frahm, don't like to call Supportive Living Solutions a "family business," however. Most employees  biological family or work family  have had to earn their way up from entry-level jobs to roles in human resources, finance, property management, and client advocacy (a few have been hired from the outside for leadership positions). The staff teaches clients about goal setting, health, and leadership, and those same values have served the business team as well.

"We never have power struggles or turf wars within the family or the management in the business. We have spent many hours and communicate consistently about what a healthy environment needs to look like," Arrigoni says. "We always choose healthy versus unhealthy leadership and communication."

Arrigoni has benefited from "game changer" influences in his life, such as a strong mentor when he was 19 and personal leadership resources like the late author and speaker Zig Ziglar. Those influences have helped him with setting goals and personal improvement. Today, Arrigoni's passion for leadership and personal development is clearly evident.

In his youth, Arrigoni worked in corporate sales for several years before returning to college and becoming a pastor. He was running a church he started when his sister, Mary Ann Dukek, died unexpectedly. She had been running their late mother's growing business, which fell to Arrigoni and his niece.

"My niece and I took over what was a half-million dollar company with two locations in 1996," Arrigoni says. "In 2001, we purchased a $1.1 million business providing housing and services to clients with mental illness. Now my wife and daughters and son-in-law work in the business, and Vicky's children and sister are also involved."

The overall goal of health that Virginia Arrigoni set out to accomplish in 1973 has been realized three-fold in the company's healthy business, healthy management team, and healthier clients.

But Arrigoni knows the leadership must evolve as the company expands  into, for instance, home health care services. And he knows there's a need to define some transition strategies that will carry the family's legacy through the next generations.

Harmony in business isn't easy to maintain, especially when family comes into the mix. But when the larger goals of excellent service and improving lives are emphasized consistently, personal conflicts can resolve into healthy decisions.

Bio

John P. Palen is CEO of Allied Executives (jppalen@alliedexecutives.com) and works with CEOs, business owners, and executive leaders on leadership development and business performance improvement through peer groups, coaching, and educational workshops.

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