Austin Family Business Program Comes to Bend

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Addressing the importance of family businesses in the local economy and how the Family Business Forum can help the business community. See event dates May 17-18.

May 17 there will be a Family Business Reception, 5:30–7pm at the Riverhouse.  Co-sponsored by Oregon Open Campus and OSU-Cascades the program is for family business owners, educators and advisors.

In addition, the Austin Family Business Program will host a Business for Breakfast event on May 18, 7:30am–9:30am featuring Banking for Generations of Success with Tom Van Hemleryck, Bank of the Cascades; Bob Eberhard, president of Eberhard’s Dairy Products; facilitated by Robert Nosler, president of Nosler Inc.

Family Business Student Conference in Bend is set for 10am–3pm. Location for all events is the Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center.

800.859.7609 for details or visit www.familybusinessonline.org.

How will the Family Business Forum activities help Central Oregon’s business community?

The Austin Family Business Program at OSU is providing Bend’s family business leaders with three important opportunities to strengthen their family business network. First, the reception will connect owners to a diverse set of family businesses and to the OSU faculty and staff who support family businesses. Second, we’ve designed a breakfast program to address financial planning and capitalization, specifically from a family business legacy standpoint. We’ll discuss how succession planning helps secure future financing, the importance of a good relationship with your banker, questions owners should ask of their banks and good financial practices to implement in the business. Additionally, we are partnering with Oregon Open Campus to host a conference for business students working in family businesses in Central Oregon. Part of our mission is to develop leadership in the next generation. We have a fun, educational event planned for Central Oregon’s business students.

Does the business community understand how important family businesses are to the economy of Oregon?

We may be underestimating their contributions. People understand family business contributions on an individual business level in their local community rather than as a combined economic force. Also, many people think family businesses are only small businesses and that’s not the case.

What are some emerging issues that can challenge family businesses?

The issues of succession and communication haven’t changed, but the context surrounding these challenges is constantly evolving. For example, we have new technological tools that can be used to facilitate succession planning while keeping a family connected when they live in different parts of the country. Another trend, that may be short-term, is the lack of opportunity to work outside the family business after college graduation. Developing leadership skills outside of the family business is harder for new graduates because of the current economic situation. Also, family communications and long-term planning have to be flexible to include “blended” families that are being created by the demographic changes of higher divorce and remarriage rates than previous generations.

What advantages do family businesses have over other businesses in dealing with uncertain economic times? What are the disadvantages?

I’ve been meeting with family business owners throughout the state and a former Excellence in Family Business Award winner from Newport commented that a well-run family business is like a “high performance machine.” In uncertain times you have the advantage of relying on the “machine” such that long-term planning and strategy development are easier with the high level of trust and shared understanding that was created by being raised in the same family. These owners are protecting a legacy that is larger than any single individual. Also, families in business are not subject to the pressure of quarterly profits but can wait more patiently to be ready for new opportunities. Families are able to accept reduced earnings and rely on reserves to manage day-to-day.

Many family businesses rely on a higher level of product quality or customer service as a significant advantage in an economic downturn. Having your family name on the company often leads to this higher level of service. Also, family businesses often place a high value on employee satisfaction which can lead to a better customer experience.

What can we look forward to from the Austin Family Business Program?


The Austin Family Business Program is the second-oldest family business education program in the nation and served as a pioneer in family business education for land grant universities. We’re now a second generation program and again have a responsibility to the family business community to improve education for the next generation. We are listening closely to learn about the needs of family businesses. Not much has changed since the program began. Families in business need up to date education to help them plan for the succession of their business. This is challenging work but the results last beyond a lifetime.

The long-range goal is to continue delivering relevant programming that makes Oregon’s family businesses stronger, more proactive and more successful, and supported by trusting and healthy family relationships.

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