Volume 33, Number 8, August 1998


Keeping it in the Family

Where Family-Owned Companies May Seek Business Advice

by Tara Taffera

Maybe you’re a parent who is contemplating whether or not to bring a family member into the business. You’re not aware of the issues involved in this decision, and if you are, you don’t know where to go for information and advice.

Or maybe you’re a business owner who, together with your spouse and children, has run your company smoothly for a few years. But, you’re just beginning to encounter problems and issues that you’re not sure how to handle, such as personal issues and differing objectives and personalities.

Whether glass shop owners know it or not there is a host of issues to be confronted on a daily basis when the worlds of family and business collide.

There are many places to turn to for guidance in these situations. But, before discussing where to find this information, it is important to understand the challenges facing family-owned businesses.

According to the University of San Diego Family Business Institute, one of many such institutions sprouting up at colleges and universities across America, businesses owned or dominated by the member of a single family make up as many as 95 percent of the businesses in America, including approximately 175 of Fortune 500 companies. And according to the Austin Family Business Program (AFBP) at Oregon State University, half of the gross national product is generated by family businesses.

These and other similar institutions study some of the challenges faced by family-owned businesses. The AFBP cites these challenges as communicating, working together day-to-day and surviving succession.

A joint survey conducted by Arthur Andersen and Mass Mutual yields a number of insights into difficulties facing family-owned businesses. More than 3,000 survey forms were returned by business owners. Some results are found below but the entire survey may be viewed on Arthur Andersen’s website (address found later in article).

Survey Results:

Knowing the challenges is the first step for family-owned business owners to take. Individuals must then take the necessary steps needed to combat these problems such as seeking advice from those with specific knowledge in this area. Following are a few websites providing useful information to those employed with family-owned businesses.

Arthur Andersen Center for Family Business


Individuals who would like to view the entire family business survey may log on to the address listed above.


The Family Business Institute


The Family Business Institute is a small multi-discipline consulting firm with more than 100 years of experience specializing in assisting owner/managers of family-owned and privately-held business enterprises.


Family Business Roundtable


This website offers an abundance of valuable information such as the latest news affecting family businesses, a collection of resources, monthly case studies, family profiles and recommended reading.


Family Business Magazine


This magazine describes itself as a guide for building and managing family companies. A recent issue discusses topics such as protecting your business against disaster, what to do after you pick new leaders, and more.


Austin Family Business Program,


This site includes a wealth of information and visitors may spend several hours searching this site. A variety of articles, information, resources and helpful links may be found here.

Family Firm Institute


The Family Firm Institute is a professional organization of family business advisors, educators, researchers and consultants. The website includes discussion online forums and family business resources.

Above is just a sampling of where family business information may be found. Most or all of the sites have links to other sites, article listings, reference materials and more. These sites will definitely get you started and will lead you to other family business resources. Also, several books on family-owned business topics may be found at your local library or through the Amazon Bookstore.

Amazon Bookstore

This website offers several titles of interest to family business owners. Two selections are found below and may be purchased through the bookstore’s website:

The Family Business: Power Tools for Survival, Success and Succession

by Russell S. Allred, Roger C. Allred C.P.A.

Synopsis: Two brothers who own a California consulting business offer customized action plans for small and large businesses that need to address privacy concerns, priority concerns, priority-setting, emotional dynamics and others issues specifically facing family-run companies.

Keeping It In The Family: Successful Succession of the Family Business

by James W. Lea

A realistic view of the ins and outs of ownership succession of a family owned business, it guides the owner or prospective successor of a family-owned business through the complex and often frustrating succession process.

In addition to websites and other reference materials, family business institutes established at colleges and universities around the country have membership programs open to family owned and managed businesses. Members meet on a regular basis, attend workshops and obtain information on issues not covered in traditional business school programs. These programs may be a great way for those involved in family businesses to cope with challenges faced on a daily basis.

Another resource, the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise (CAFE), is a helpful resource for Fred Fulton, who runs Fulton Windows with his son (see article page 67). CAFE is a cross- Canada organization run by members, with 12 chapters covering the majority of Canadian provinces. Members may participate in personal advisory groups and discuss problems, both of a personal and business nature, share views, seek opinions and become educated.

So, whether you are a father reaching retirement who wants to turn the family business over to his son and is seeking advice for how to do so, or if you contemplating whether or not to bring your 20-year-old into the family business, there are a variety of resources available aimed at helping you make an informed decision.

Tara Taffera is the managing editor of USGlass magazine.


Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.