Megan Multanen grew up around composites and the leaders who shaped the industry. Her father, Gary Multanen, began his composites career more than 50 years ago and served as president of ACMA’s two predecessors, the Fiberglass Fabricators Association from 1982 to 1983 and the Composites Fabricators Association from 1999 to 2001.
“Sometimes it felt like the only vacations I got as a kid were around association board meetings,” she recalls. Now those board meetings are business for Multanen, who began a two-year stint as chair of ACMA’s Board of Directors in July.
“I genuinely love the work we do because the board is something special,” says Multanen. “It’s made up of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and researchers who passionately believe in composites.”
Gaining Outside Experience
Multanen is co-CEO of Bestbath, a manufacturer of FRP bathing products based in Caldwell, Idaho, alongside her brother, Jay. Their father began working at the company – then called Component Structures – as plant manager in 1971 before purchasing the firm and changing its name a decade later. But Multanen wasn’t handed the keys to the family business. She didn’t even work at the company full time until 10 years after graduating from Boise State University with degrees in economics and sociology.
“Occasionally while I was growing up our parents would pay us to pull weeds in the parking lot,” she says. “While I went to Boise State, I worked part time organizing travel for the sales reps and scheduling appointments in the showroom we owned at the time.”
Multanen moved to Arizona in 2002 to attend graduate school. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Arizona and worked for six years as a technical assistance provider at the Pima Prevention Partnership, a non-profit organization that supports underserved adolescents and their families.
“I fundamentally believe that it’s imperative to get outside experience if you grow up in a family business,” says Multanen. “It’s beneficial to expose yourself to other methods of management and business practices. It was really important for me to work in an entirely different industry – and to prove I could do it.”
Growing the Second-Generation Business
In 2010, Multanen moved back to Caldwell, approximately 28 miles from Boise on the western edge of Treasure Valley, and interviewed for a position in Bestbath’s marketing department.
“They sure gave me the impression I was just one candidate among many!” she says. “I took a pay cut to come home and go to work.” She reported to Tammy Harris, now president of Bestbath.
“Megan came in without ego and was ready to learn,” says Harris. “Through the years she has worked in many different departments.” Multanen has served as a salesperson and senior sales leader in the company’s dealer network, general manager of the Oasis Seated Shower product and national sales manager. When Gary Multanen retired from day-to-day business and became chairman of the board in 2018, Harris was named president and the Multanen siblings were appointed co-CEOs.
Approximately 70% of family-owned businesses fail or get sold before the second generation takes over, according to the Harvard Business Review. The Multanens wanted to beat the odds, so they sought outside expertise to help with the transition, consulting with the company’s bank and accounting firm, as well as a therapist to help with communication. Even so, the changeover was challenging.
“I think back to how tumultuous the transition was going from my father to Megan and me. It would have been easy to give up or adopt a ‘this isn’t worth it’ attitude,” says Jay Multanen. “But Megan stayed in the fire, and when we came out of the other side, we were all the better for it.”
Gary Multanen had built a thriving business, but Jay and Megan had to forge their own path – grounded in their business philosophies – to ensure its continued success. One of the ways they have done so is by leaning on their individual strengths in the shared CEO role. Megan excels at sales and marketing, while Jay has moved through the ranks on the factory floor and understands composite materials, science and chemistry.
“The three of us are a strong team,” says Harris. “We are the Coaches Club.” Under their leadership, the company achieved two milestones last year – the acquisition of family-owned RANE Bathing Systems in Sparta, Tenn., and hitting $50 million in revenue. Bestbath is currently negotiating a second acquisition.