University of Northern Iowa



Pass the Turkey

Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2018
By Jayne Kielman

As you gather around the table this Thanksgiving, consider the idea that for some families this can be a very positive holiday experience and for others it is laced with stressors that may be close to the boiling point.

Cue an episode of “Jerry Springer” or Dr. Phil’s voice asking, “how is that working for you?”. 

Family businesses are different.  Most owners and employees get to go home and remove themselves from the stress of the day.  Family businesses are often intertwined and the lines blur between work and home.  The positives of putting family together and running a business can result in dedication and focus to the business that is unmatched by any other structure.  However, when things are not going well professionally or personally the spill over can be toxic to all involved.

Recently, the University of Northern Iowa Advance Iowa program launched the Family Business Forum that brings family businesses together from around the state.  This has been initially set-up as a pilot three breakfast series that highlights topics that include succession, family business transition between generations and next generation leadership. 

The feedback from families attending has been outstanding!  The topics have been helpful to family businesses to reflect and understand where they are at and different approaches to move their family business forward.  “Meeting other family businesses and understanding that we are not alone in our challenges has brought new ideas and discussion to our family business”, comments a recent attendee of the UNI Family Business Forum.  “The network that is being created is invaluable.  Some of the ideas presented we have considered, but stalled.  This forum provides people we can reach out to and ideas that we know work in a family business”, adds another attendee. 

Breakfast sessions are confidential and all participants are family businesses, so each family knows they are surrounded by people that walk in their same footsteps.  “We have enjoyed seeing this come together and continue to add more family businesses to this growing community”, adds Dan Beenken, Director of UNI Advance Iowa.  A group of family business attendees will be gathering after the next session to discuss ideas for future planning.  “It’s important to have this group provide input into the things that will assist their family business in continuing to troubleshoot, grow, innovate and be able to bridge generations”, Beenken comments.

The next session of the UNI Family Business Forum is scheduled in Ankeny for Friday, November 30th.  Chris Vernon, Vernon Company will be discussing generational issues and transition.  Vernon is the fourth generation of Vernon Company.