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New center at Rockford College to help family-owned businesses

Friday, June 25, 2010  
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For immediate release – 6/25/10
Contact: Chuck Brown, Communications, 815-226-3374

The old family-owned businesses down the street aren’t dying. As a matter of fact, they make up a huge portion of this country’s gross national product. But they are facing challenges. And that’s why Rockford College has created a Family Business Center to help them survive and thrive.

Created with the aid of a federal grant shared by nine other colleges and organizations with the aim of job creation and retention, the new center will be housed at the college’s new classroom and office facility at 5100 E. State St.

Family-owned businesses are arguably a significant part of the economy. Some 65 percent of the wages paid in the U.S. come from family-owned businesses (FOBs); they also represent 50 percent of the nation’s GNP. But sadly only 33 percent of FOBs survive into the second generation, and only 10 percent of those make it into the third generation.

Some family-owned companies have survived for years and their names are familiar, like Anheuser-Busch which has been around since 1852. Locally, there is a tradition of FOBs among restaurants, machine shops, and retailers. Companies like William Charles Ltd., Eclipse, Entre Computer Solutions, and Forest City Gear are some of the more notable.

"Businesses like these have had to go to Loyola, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee or Marquette to get help with FOB issues prior to now,” said Steve Kadamian, a Rockford College business professor who will head the center. "Today, they have the new center at Rockford College, which taps into the resources of the college’s economics, business, and accounting department and the MBA program.”

Among other things, the center will provide business assistance, education and training, help with estate planning, business roundtable discussions, access to student interns, and research support. Because much can be learned from the experience of other FOBs, networking is a key component of the center. "

"Misery may love company, as they say, but two heads are also better than one,” says Kadamian. "As a matter of fact, when we surveyed FOBs to see what their needs were, they said ‘they wanted to be with people like us.’”

Family-owned businesses are unique in many respects. They all tend to do things a certain way because "it’s always been done that way.” Yet, technology and planning strategies that have changed structurally may not have been set up properly to deal with succession. This often leads to conflicts and other challenges. The center at Rockford College can help with a succession plan to help companies plan for the future.

Related to this, the other problem is when nobody in the family wants to take over the business. In cases like this, the center can help owners position the business where they can sell it. Part of the problem is that FOBs often don’t know the value of their business and don’t know how to pretty it up for eventual sale.

"Despite the fact that many firms--including family-owned businesses--are struggling in this economy and may have limited lines of credit, it is not a bad time to be in business, said Kadamian. " The key is to find a service or product that fits a unique niche.”

For more information on the Family Business Center, call Kadamian at 815-226-4109;

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