Our monthly Chamber Update in the Wichita Eagle (published on Jan. 25) features an excerpt from this blog post introducing our 2018 Chairman of the Board, Bill Wood. Wood is a partner at Foulston Siefkin LLP, and specializes in mergers and acquisitions. He has nearly a decade of experience assisting the Chamber with everything from updating bylaws to serving on the Board of Directors.
Wood recently provided information about his firm, shared his thoughts on the Chamber and its 2018 priorities, and talked about the local business environment.
About Foulston Siefkin
Foulston Siefkin’s presence in Wichita goes back nearly 100 years to 1919, and is inextricably tied to our community’s history, with founder Robert Foulston serving as the City of Wichita’s first City attorney. His partnership with George Siefkin created the foundation for what’s now the largest law firm in Kansas and a practice and client list that’s growing throughout the Midwest and US. With offices in Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City, we can deliver a Midwest cost structure for legal services from lawyers recognized by national organizations as among the leading lawyers in the US.
With nearly 90 lawyers and total staff of almost 200, the firm’s practice areas cover a broad spectrum of legal issues, including corporate and business, commercial litigation, employment and labor, real estate, environmental, energy, intellectual property, taxation, and mergers and acquisitions, as well as specific industries, such as health care, construction, and banking. This wide range of expertise, headquartered here in Wichita, allows us to fulfill our mission: to provide excellent legal advice and client service in a variety of areas of the law at a reasonable cost to the client.
What is the best thing about doing business in the Wichita area?
What’s NOT great about it? This community has great people, opportunity, and a great business climate; it’s a wonderful place to start, build, and maintain a successful business while also offering a terrific quality of life and a very reasonable cost of living. You don’t have to give up those other things to do business in Wichita.
Describe your firm’s most recent success.
Much of the work we do for our clients is confidential, but one transaction that’s public is our work to help MVP Holdings form a joint venture, Great Salt Plains Midstream Holdings, LLC, to build energy infrastructure in Oklahoma. We also recently worked with Kansas Bank Corporation to sell First National Bank of Liberal/Hugoton to Equity Bancshares and helped Cobham AvComm (formerly Aeroflex Wichita, Inc.) win a $2.1 million punitive damages award earlier this fall based on wrongful conduct by Tel-Instrument Electronics. Our clients’ success is our success.
To what do you attribute your success?
Great mentors and colleagues, a supportive family … and plain old hard work
What is something people may not know about your business?
People might be surprised to know how many different areas of law and industry areas our firm offers. I’m not sure everyone knows that we can take a business or organization from cradle to grave – from the start-up and entity formation to the sale transaction and estate planning phase, and everything in between. We’re known for business law and litigation, but it also may be a surprise for some to know the broad range of expertise we can deliver, from water rights and intellectual property to cybersecurity and alternative energy.
Where do you see your organization in five years?
Continuing to have the opportunity to grow with our clients.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to your firm?
Helping our clients be successful. It’s fun to help clients achieve goals, like buying or selling a business.
Is your firm involved in any community/civic activities? Why did you select those activities?
Yes, we encourage our lawyers to pursue their passion by volunteering and sitting on boards (our lawyers are on the boards of more than 60 organizations in the Wichita area); we also foster community involvement by supporting those organizations they’re involved with. The organizations we touch through volunteerism include health and human services, arts and culture, civic and economic development (like the Chamber), and countless others. We don’t choose the organizations, but simply encourage people to get involved in a way that’s personally meaningful to them.
What are some historical facts or unique aspects of your organization?
— Foulston’s 100-year anniversary falls in 2019; watch for our celebration.
— Longtime Foulston partner George Powers was a Rudyard Kipling fan and thought a portion of the Kipling poem “The Law of the Jungle” described a successful law firm.
— Every partner who has worked for the firm for 30 years earns a wolf statue for their desk with this excerpt from the Kipling poem engraved on it: For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack
— It’s a reminder that organizations do better with strong individuals, and those individuals benefit from a strong organization.
Thoughts on the Chamber
What do you find most valuable about Chamber membership?
It’s very hard to choose! But I find the Chamber’s advocacy work of tremendous value. The fact that our community’s businesses and organizations have a voice in the legislative process and someone looking out for our best interests is a great asset for us all. We absolutely must have a strong educational system to maintain a skilled workforce and continue our economic development progress.
What is your favorite Chamber event, program, or service and why?
Honors Night is my favorite event. Every time I go, I learn something about a business or person that I didn’t know before. It’s a giant Wichita-area cheerleading event, and I always walk out feeling better about our community!
How has your business benefited from Chamber membership?
The Chamber works to make our community better in every way – to improve our workforce, our economy, our diversity and inclusiveness, our quality of life, and our leadership capabilities. There are many very specific ways the Chamber has helped our firm, but the bottom line is that when our community benefits, Foulston benefits.
How do you think the community benefits from Chamber membership?
At a high level, the community benefits in the same way that our firm has – making our community overall a better place to live, work, and play. At the individual business level, there are as many ways to benefit as there are Chamber initiatives, ranging from education seminars to help you run your business better, to networking, to making sure you’re aware of the Kansas legislature’s actions and how they might affect your organization. As with many organizations, the more you participate as a member, the more you get out of it.
Where do you see the Chamber in five years?
Continuing to help lead our community in the areas critical to our success
On a scale of 1 to 10, how strongly would you recommend Chamber membership to a colleague?
Being a Chamber member helps continually make this a better place. As the Chung data showed us, we’ve still got some work to do to reach our region’s full potential as a vibrant, entrepreneurial and thriving hub. This is a great place right now – but if we work together, we can build an even better future for our businesses and our children. Along the way, we’ll have some fun, do some networking, and meet new friends.
What differentiates the Chamber from other organizations you belong to?
Its ability to have a powerful effect on the entire community
Which of the 2018 Strategic Priorities do you feel most passionate about and why?
They’re all important, but education rises to the top for me. If we don’t get this right, we can’t provide skilled workers at the rate we need to replace retiring workers – and we don’t have the workforce to retain and build economic vitality with new and growing businesses.
How long have you lived in Wichita?
All my life except for three years at law school. You can guess how long that is.
What are you most passionate about when describing Wichita to a colleague?
The quality of life here is exceptional – we have the amenities of a much larger city, but the friendliness of a smaller town. You don’t have to be from here to get involved and make a difference; everyone who wants to help sees a welcoming attitude.
What is something people may not know about you?
Even though I spend a lot of hours behind my computer, I love being outdoors playing golf (St. Andrews’ Old Course is on my bucket list), fishing, waterskiing, and surfing. My kids like to wakeboard, but I’m an old-school slalom skier.
Favorite business app?
Please join Wood for the annual Chairman’s Lunch on February 1. Two elected officials and four area leaders will discuss Place Possibilities: Wichita’s Next Big Vision.
See images from the 2017 Chairman’s Lunch