Conway Center for Family Business Educates Family Businesses for Success

Columbus is home to many resources for small businesses, but one center takes a special interest in the needs of family businesses. The Conway Center for Family Business educates and connects family business owners across central Ohio. Abundant educational programs target the special issues that face a family business, while  networking opportunities bring owners together to share successes.

The center’s nearly 150 business members employ 10,000 people across the area. The Conway Center wants to keep those jobs in Columbus and works to help families with succession planning, but that’s just one part of their services. Many programs focus on the relationships that are inevitably woven into a family business and what it takes to manage them and make a business successful.

Associate Director Deana Gordon answers our questions about how the center develops family business and what resources are available to help them thrive.

Q: Tell us about the background of the Conway Center for Family Business.

The Conway Center for Family Business was co-founded in 1998 by attorneys Bea Wolper and Dick Emens with a singular vision: to be Central Ohio’s best resource for the challenges and issues specific to family businesses. A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, the Conway Center provides educational programs and resources, peer groups, and networking opportunities to family business owners and their employees to promote business success.

The Conway Center’s mission is to help family businesses be profitable and successful, to assist family business owners with transition to the next generation, to celebrate accomplishments of outstanding family businesses, and to increase awareness of the positive impact of family businesses on Central Ohio’s economy.

Q: What services do you offer for family businesses?

The Conway Center for Family Business provides nine monthly educational programs and four quarterly roundtables that focus on issues important to family business – including succession planning, inter-generational communication, strategic planning, leadership development and marketing strategies.

We also offer six monthly peer groups, including: Business Development, CEOs, Next Generation Leaders, Online Strategy, Succession Planning and Women in Family Business. The peer groups are facilitated by industry leaders and attended by representatives of family businesses interested in improving their skills in each area.

The Conway Center’s Annual Awards Program, which takes place on November 1, 2013, has recognized more than 120 family businesses for their achievements and contributions to the Central Ohio community over the past fifteen years. The event promotes family businesses to the community and brings them together to celebrate and learn from each other. This year, we’re also hosting a Family Business Expo in conjunction with the Awards. The Expo will showcase products and services offered by family businesses to the more than 300 business leaders and service providers attending the awards program.

Q: What size of business do your services support?

Our services help family businesses in a variety of sizes and industries. We work with businesses that range in size from two to three employees up to thousands of employees. The Conway Center’s 148 family business members employ more than 10,000 people in the Central Ohio area alone, and many more nationally.

Q: What factors create the necessity for a center focusing on family-run businesses? What special areas do you address that other businesses may not face?

Family businesses face an extra layer of complexity and additional challenges in running their businesses. Adding family relationships to the mix changes the dynamics of ownership, management, and how growth is handled. There are special issues around communication among family members, between family members and non-family employees, and across generations. In addition, family business leaders need to plan for transitioning the business to the next generation which includes estate planning, business valuation, succession planning, strategic planning and leadership development.

Q: How can a business take advantage of the Center’s resources?

There are two ways that family businesses can take advantage of our resources. They can join the Center as a member for an annual fee of $385 per business. Up to four members of their organization may then attend all of our educational programs and most of our peer groups for that fee. Non-members may also attend any of our educational programs for a fee of $35 per individual per event.

Q: What impact does the Center hope to have on a family-owned business?

According to the Family Firm Institute, only about 30 percent of family and businesses survive into the second generation, 12 percent are still viable into the third generation, and only about 3 percent of all family businesses operate into the fourth generation or beyond. We work to improve those odds by providing family business leaders with the tools they need to grow and develop their businesses as well as prepare the next generation to lead the business successfully.

Q: What events provide networking opportunities for business owners?

While the primary focus of our organization is education, many of our events provide opportunities for members to build relationships with each other. Our Annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event, hosted by a local family business each August, allows attendees to get a behind the scenes look at the business and hear from its leaders about their experiences, challenges and successes, while meeting family business peers.

In 2013, we are adding a Family Business Expo to our Annual Awards Program to give member businesses a chance to showcase their business and learn more about each other in a trade show environment. Family Business Night at the Columbus Clippers each June brings together nearly 200 family business leaders and their families to share an evening of camaraderie, baseball and making connections.

Additionally, there is an opportunity to network and mingle prior to each of our educational programs. We find that many of our event attendees come early and stay after events to continue conversations or get to know each other better.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

The Conway Center for Family Business is the only organization in Central Ohio dedicated to the success of family businesses. No matter the size, businesses can interact with and learn from some of the region’s most successful business leaders.


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