Chicago Family Business Council at DePaul University

04 Mar Chicago Family Business Council at DePaul University

This week I flew from my hometown of Dallas to address the Chicago Family Business Council at DePaul University.  I was so honored to address this illustrious group of family companies and I am very appreciative of their faith in me and the work I do.

The Council, also known as the CFBC, is made up of some 157-business owners who represent about 90 different companies across a broad spectrum of industries. The membership also varies in size and profitability, from the “mom and pops” to the bigger, more diversified companies. About 80% of CFBC’s membership is comprised of family businesses while the rest is privately held or headed up by a sole entrepreneur.

Every year the Council hosts a wide number of conferences or events. Many of their activities are centered around the smaller, roundtable discussions involving some key elements of family business or managerial best practices.  This month they decided to bring me in to give my keynote presentation, Texas Patriarch – The Rise and Fall of a Family Business.

In the fall of 2016, I completed the written version of this story in a newly released book entitled, Texas Patriarch – A Legacy Lost.   I was tickled when CFBC bought 10 copies of my book and gave them away to randomly selected winners in the audience. I made sure each winner got an autographed copy.

Founded in 1993 by the late visionary, James P. Liautaud, CFBC began with an association at the University of Illinois. For the next two decades, CFBC operated under the auspices of the University of Chicago but in 2012, a new alliance was formed with DePaul.

I have to admit that in some ways, this was a strange trip for me. It was the first time I’d ever visited the Chicago area without actually seeing the big city, of which I have become a huge fan. That’s because the conference was held out in the suburbs of Oak Brook, located a bit south and west of downtown.

Late that afternoon, the conference finally gets underway and when it does, the pace is fast and furious.  The next four hours is terribly intense for me as I am completely focused on giving the best presentation I can and, following that, meeting all the families of CFBC and hearing their stories.

But I have to say that the most interesting part of the experience for me is what happens after I am done speaking.  For the next hour and a half, I am working the room.  In almost every case, those who approached me were just as open as I was during the hour and a half talk.

Their stories all seem to follow a familiar pattern; a founder who is fast approaching retirement and the next generation grappling with all sorts of questions about what to do with the business.

  • Who should run the business after dad retires?
  • Should we keep the business or sell it?
  • If we sell it, can we manage our money well enough to last forever?
  • If we do decide to keep it, how should we run it?

These, as well as so many other questions are weighing heavily on the minds of all of these entrepreneurs.

There is one point during my talk in which I am always very firm. I tell each audience – just as I told the one at Oak Brook – that I have a bias. My bias is that I am almost always opposed to selling the family firm.

This then, is my value proposition…to do whatever it takes to keep the family enterprise alive. Working together, if we can come up with a strategy to perpetuate the family business and get through these difficult transition periods, I believe we can create real value.

In fact, tremendous value.

This, in essence, is what my practice is all about…perpetuating, preserving and sustaining the family business and doing all that we can to serve the best interests of the family that owns it.

Many thanks to the Chicago Family Business Council.

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