Formulas for Success in Family Businesses

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Families who have been successful in operating a business together find that working and living together is not as big a challenge as it might seem if family members communicate, make time to have fun and above all, work hard, according to a report in the Shreveport Times. “You've got to be there. You have to be the first one to come and the last one to leave,” said Fred Lytle whose family has owned Lytle's Framing and Art in Shreveport for 35 years.

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Quoting Thomas Edison that success is a mix of “10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration,” James Lea of the Portland Business Journal suggests that owners of family business should work 12-hour days at every opportunity. Other secrets of successful family business owners Lea says, include not taking other family members for granted. Family members should treat one another with the same respect as other co-workers. Family business managers should sort out responsibilities associated with family roles and business roles. They need to take time away, and finally, he says, let their pride in their family show.

Urskin McAllister, II, who operates MacSpeed Motorsports Body Shop in North Shreveport with his two sons, thinks that it is easier to work with family members. “I think what it does is it brings you closer because you're around each other all the time. So it's not really a challenge, it's a benefit,” he says, according to the Shreveport Times.

Deborah Cone, who owns Shreveport Tractor Inc. along with her sister, Maribeth Forsythe and their husbands says, “When you have multiple strong personalities, it can be challenging, but it's more helpful than a hindrance.” But it is important to be able to step back, she says “Go with the flow, do what you can and be able to live life.”

Statistics show that 30 percent of family owned businesses are expecting a change in leadership in the next five years, but 70 percent of family businesses don't make it to the second generation and 90 percent don't make it to the third, the University of Vermont News reports. Lee DeWitt, dean of business administration at the University of Vermont (UVM) and Dann Van Der Vliet, director of UVM's Vermont Family Business Initiative, have introduced a course in the university's business program entitled “Leading and Managing the Family and Closely Held Business” for students who hope to enter family businesses.

The course combines the theoretical and the practical, DeWitt told UVM News. “What's distinct about the course is that we also deal with interpersonal dynamics and issues such as typical assumptions with first-born children and gender roles.” Students learn to question themselves about their personal skills, financial acumen and the real depth of their interest in joining the family business.

The changes that occur as a new generation enters the business are big hurdles, according to Deborah Cone of Shreveport Tractor Inc., the Shreveport News says. “For instance, it was hard getting Dad to upgrade. He came from an era when shaking hands was all you needed to seal the deal, but now you have to cover your bases with paperwork, and sometimes with things like that it's hard to change out the old with the new.”

Her sister Maribeth added, “I would imagine the next generation says the same thing about us.”

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