Fourth Generation Leads Family Business and Philanthropy

Published: April 28, 2016 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

Ron Olson announced that he was retiring at the end of 2015, after almost 43 years of overseeing Paulson Electric. The company would be left in the hands of his son Tyler, his daughter Mindy and her husband Ethan. The story of a fourth-generation family business is remarkable enough, but Ron and Sue both say it happened organically. “We encouraged them to pursue their own interests and experience other communities,” Sue insists. “We almost didn’t believe it when they came back, and wanted to be involved with the company.”

Now, Tyler, Mindy and Ethan have all had years of experience in the construction business, and Ron describes the transition as “seamless.” “They’ve taken the reins and run with it,” says Ron. “We’re looking forward to the next 20 years of their leadership.”
Ron and Sue are confident in the next generation’s ability to lead the company into the future, but there’s another aspect of the business that they’re entrusting to their children – Paulson Electric’s corporate philanthropy.

Paulson Electric has both an Endowed Fund and a Corporate Donor-Advised Fund at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. They opened their funds in 2007 because they believe that corporate philanthropy is an important part of the mission of their company. “I think it’s very important for businesses to give back to the community,” says Ron.

But it’s not just their business that has given back. Throughout their lives, the Olsons have been involved in community service at every level, be it serving in leadership roles, volunteering with numerous organizations, or even serving on the school board. “My sense,” says Sue, “is that philanthropy starts in the home. We were both involved in the community as volunteers. The business philanthropy was an extension of our own philanthropy and volunteerism.”

And it’s that history of personal philanthropy, volunteerism and community service that makes Ron and Sue confident that their children will be well-suited to carry on Paulson Electric’s legacy in that regard. When pressed about how they instilled philanthropic values into their children, the Olsons say they never discussed charitable giving and they “always felt like actions speak louder than words.” Sue admits they asked Tyler and Mindy to ensure that their memory was correct. Both children agree their parents never directly preached about the importance of giving. Tyler replied, “they led by example.”

Ron and Sue wouldn’t want it any other way.

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