How can family businesses be successful?

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 13:49

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- How do Mom and Dad juggle being both parent and boss to children working in a family-owned business? How do they decide which family member will be named a successor? How do brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, parents and children handle the delicate mix of family and business while working together?

The challenges facing family-owned businesses will be discussed in a new class offered for the first time this fall through the University of North Texas College of Business. The class makes up part of a new Family Business Initiative developed by Department of Management faculty members to help entrepreneurial students, alumni and community members succeed in family-owned businesses.

With the help of a community engagement grant from UNT, students in the class this fall will study Candy Haven, a Denton bakery, and offer solutions to a particular challenge faced by the business.

"We have entrepreneurship classes that address similar issues, but this will be the first one that focuses purely on family business," said Danielle Cooper, assistant professor of management, member of the Family Business Committee and a principal investigator of the grant. "In entrepreneurship class, you learn about starting a business and how to maintain cash flow, but you don't talk about some of the interpersonal dynamics of a family firm."

Candy Haven owner Jane Boyle started the business about 30 years ago, and over the years, her children and several other family members have worked for her.

"You have people you love and support working with you, and it certainly makes it a different dynamic than a corporation," Boyle said. "It encompasses home life and work life together, and sometimes that is an easy thing and sometimes not."

She hopes the class will help people see the opportunities in owning a family business – while arming them with the knowledge they need to succeed.

"Family business serves a real purpose," Boyle said. "There are people who would like to do something dynamic, and they feel that their family needs to come first and foremost. They can have the best of both worlds."

Boyle remembers running from the store to a child's soccer game, back to the store to get more work done and then heading out to an event. At the same time, she navigated the challenges faced by small businesses, dealing with issues in marketing, finances, logistics, human resources and more. How should she handle comp time and vacation time for employees? How could she market her business through social media? A class such as this could help entrepreneurial families build a solid business foundation, she said. 

"I understand the need to keep a family rolling," she said. "There's a certain group of people to whom this would be a very big plus if they could handle their family and their business at the same time."

The class is offered from 2 to 3:20 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays starting Aug. 26 and will be taught by Mike Sexton, senior lecturer of management in the College of Business.

The community engagement grant will also help fund a forum for community members and students with family business ties. The committee also plans to form a family business club that will focus on issues such as handling family dynamics and reaching business goals.

About UNT's College of Business

With more than 5,500 students, UNT's College of Business is one of the largest business schools in the nation and has been continuously accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International since 1961.

With 103 full-time faculty members, the college offers 16 undergraduate degrees, 22 master's degrees, seven doctoral programs and 17 certificate programs. Five centers and institutes in the College of Business create synergy among scholarship, research and teaching. Classes take place in the new 180,000-square-foot Business Leadership Building, which opened in 2011.

Students enhance their learning experience through student organizations, study abroad programs, internships and the Professional Leadership Program to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today's technological and global business environment.

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