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Family Enterprise goes West

Building on the huge success and energy of the first two family business conferences, Family Business Magazine and Stetson University’s Family Enterprise Center are going national and taking the powerful production to San Francisco, Calif., this week.

The winning formula of world-class experts sharing honest, useful information with multiple generations of veteran family business leaders, and the synergy produced within the entire group, will make Transitions a success on the West Coast, according to its producers. The conference is “noncommercial safe harbor,” for family business executives, said Dr.Greg McCann, academic director of the Family Enterprise Center.

“It’s a conference created by family businesses for family businesses,” said David Shaw, publishing director for Family Business Magazine.

Both men said the expansion will allow them to reach family businesses west of the Mississippi. New content is planned, and there will be special attention given to next-generation family members as well as those who have married into the family.

The conference will be Nov. 1-3 at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Dozens of national and international business leaders are participating as speakers and sponsors.

The Family Enterprise Center in Stetson’s School of Business Administration was founded in 1998 by McCann and, under his leadership, has helped re-define the field of family business. The nation’s first undergraduate major in the field was established here.

Family Business Magazine targets multi-generational family businesses inNorth America and is the only one of its kind. It is a family business that is run for family businesses and Shaw says the Transitions Conference is a chance for the magazine to “come to life.”

The partnership is a strong match and the guiding principles of its successful venture will not change, said Shaw and McCann.

Family Business Magazine has world-class family business connections and the Family Enterprise Center has deep expertise in creating an environment for “direct, honest and informed conversations,” said McCann. The combination “has proven to be the magic recipe for what families in business want and need.

“The noncommercial safe harbor that we have created with the Transitions Conference combines top notch resources, attention to the entire experience, and most of all our shared passion to help the attending families get what they want,” he said.

Participants echo his confidence. “I’ve attended a lot of family business conferences over the years and I felt this was one of the best,” said Caroline Bailey, Gallo Family Council chairman and a third-generation member of the family business. “It was professional, organized and well-managed, with good content and networking opportunities with other families.”

E.&J. Gallo Winery is an example of the high-caliber participants in the most recent conference, held in Orlando in April. Gallo is the world’s largest family-owned winery and the largest of California’s wine exporters.

Other conferees hailed from companies like Cardone Industries, the largest privately held automotive parts remanufacturer in the world; Crane and Co. which supplies the U.S. Treasury and the European Union with currency paper and H&R Block, world’s largest tax services provider.

More than 100 family members of some of the oldest and largest family businesses in the world attended, double 2010’s attendance. Businesses represented have sales from under $1 million a year to more than $1.5 billion a year and employ a handful of staff to more than 5,000. The businesses are an average of 3.5 generations old, but some stretch to eight generations.

One of the most popular and most lauded elements of the conference was a session specifically for “next generation” family members, those aged 15-25 who will be tomorrow’s leaders. They met alone, with McCann and four Stetson Family Business majors, including Alyssa Thompson, of Mims, whose family manages property and investments.

“There are many differences between the generations that often times go overlooked until a problem arises,” Thompson said. Tactfully resolving those issues with older generations was part of the discussion.

That panel’s focus is part and parcel of the mission of the School of Business Administration’s award-winning Family Enterprise Center, said McCann, founder of the center. Other focal points are preserving family values, growing family wealth and strategic advantages of family.

An East Coast Transitions Conference, the third annual, is being planned for April 26-28, 2012, in the Orlando area where other conferences have been held.

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