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This piece is presented by Prairie Family Business Association.
“Our family business crisis and how it made us stronger.”
“The top nine reasons family businesses fail – and the eight building blocks for creating a sustainable closely held business.”
“You don’t have to die to win – success and succession for family business.”
If these sound like themes you’d like to explore, you must meet Wayne Rivers.
President and co-founder of the North Carolina-based Family Business Institute, Rivers has authored those books and more as part of a career supporting family businesses.
An expert who has appeared on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC and CNN and written for The Wall Street Journal, Rivers will be a featured speaker at the 2018 Prairie Family Business Conference April 12-13 in Sioux Falls.
We visited with Rivers to learn more about his upcoming visit.
Your book about surviving a family business crisis suggests you’ve been a member of a family business. What’s your background?
My father-in-law and I started the Family Business Institute, and we worked together a few years until it became apparent we did not share a common vision for the business. We were probably the first family business consulting firm that was a family business, and then we became the first that had to hire a family business consultant because we were so dysfunctional. No other speaker you’ve ever had can make that claim. I’ve been on both sides of the table and prefer the side I’m on now.
What led you to form the Family Business Institute?
We’re in North Carolina and nobody here was doing anything about it. There were traditional advisers — lawyers, CPAs, financial planners and stock brokers — but nobody was helping family businesses with communication or long-term business planning, and we saw an opportunity to deliver value that the traditional business advisers were not delivering. So we don’t compete with any of them. We just saw a niche opportunity to do something different.
What’s the most common question you receive from family businesses?
How long is it going to take and how much does it cost? (laughs). It’s always in a form of how-to. I’m having trouble with this or that and how do I fix it. It’s not rocket science. You have to sit down, talk, be reasonable and come up with a plan. Our clients are experts in project management in many cases. They manage projects for a living every day. Why they don’t bring a project management approach to planning for the future of their businesses, I really don’t know. Perhaps it’s a forest-in-the-trees thing. But we reduce planning for the future into bite-sized project management steps and before long, voila — you’ve got a plan everybody can agree to and we can make tweaks along the way and keep the plan on track.
Here’s a sampling of his expert advice.
Are any issues “trending” for family businesses? Anything you feel like you’re seeing more of?
I’m seeing a lot more encouraging things. People are definitely embracing the concept of work-life balance. Having said that, family business leaders still work insanely hard, but they definitely have better work-life balance than a generation ago. The state of estate planning is infinitely better than a generation ago. Everybody has wills and trusts now for the most part, and if they get struck by lightning, things look pretty good. Most family business still don’t do long-term business planning and forecasting. They assume they will continue to be successful, but past performance is no guarantee of future success.
Give us a preview of your talk in Sioux Falls. What themes will you focus on?
This is an irreverent approach with the title “No-BS family business planning.” The first slide talks about Eastern Airlines and Pan American and Circuit City. Circuit City was featured in “Good to Great,” which is considered one of the best business books of all time, and they’re gone now. For family businesses to have the conceit they will succeed over generations when these giants are gone now just reeks. So my point is family companies better wake up and smell the coffee and figure out what they’re going to do to prosper over the years. So I’ll lay out the eight building blocks for creating a sustainable family company.
What’s one key takeaway people can expect from your presentation?
One frustration all speakers have is they engage the audience and see people scribbling notes and we know in our hearts when everybody goes home they’re not going do to a darn thing different. Life slaps them in the face. And so I really want people to write down three things they’re going to do as a result of the presentation and three things they’re going to stop doing, and with that simple starting point, go home and make a difference.
Prairie Family Business Association is an outreach center of the USD Beacom School of Business.
With a presentation name like “No-BS family business planning,” you know it’s going to be memorable. Here’s a preview from the family business expert coming to Sioux Falls.