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Sharing family business stories

Many family business stories were told in small groups around tables like these at Transitions East in Orlando.

Storytelling is a key element in a string of successful conferences on both coasts of the United States produced in partnership by Stetson University’s Family Enterprise Center and Family Business Magazine.

To be sure, there are other vital elements of the Transitions conferences – the most recent of which was in Orlando in April – but personal family stories about family business in a private setting are a central ingredient for success in the competitive field of business conferences.

“What makes the Transitions conference series unique is its emphasis on family-to-family education,” said Barbara Spector, editor-in-chief of Family Business Magazine. “Family business stakeholders speak directly to attendees, describing their strategies for resolving real-world family and business dilemmas.

“The conference offers a safe, confidential environment where participants can share their family business stories,” she said.

Business leaders discuss sensitive subjects like sibling rivalry and conflict, how much to pay a relative, dealing with in-laws in the business, who should own what and how much, transitioning to the next generation, writing policies and managing wealth.

“The focus is on the families telling and sharing their stories,” said Dr. Greg McCann, founder and director of the Family Enterprise Center in the School of Business Administration.

Transitions has another elemental focus, said McCann, one that is multifaceted and as important to the Business School as the family business is to those who attend a Transitions conference.

“It’s an opportunity to showcase one of our most innovative programs, promote our students, recruit interested stakeholders, and inform the premier family enterprises from across the nation that Stetson is a great place to learn,” McCann said.

“At the conference we were able to have our Family Enterprise students in the audience, on the event staff and on the speaking panels,” said Peter Begalla, instructor and outreach program manager for Stetson’s Family Enterprise Center. “Having our students meet such amazing multi-generational family enterprises is wonderful for Stetson, the student, and those family members.

“The event truly showcases the significance of a Stetson education,” Begalla said.

Family Business Magazine promotes Stetson and the Transitions conferences at the top of the magazine’s website and in its print edition.

The magazine takes pride in the partnership with Stetson’s Family Enterprise Center, which Spector called “a pioneer in educating and training the next generation of family business stakeholders.”

The third East Coast Transitions conference had nearly 200 participants – sponsors, speakers, staffers and members of a wide range of family businesses seeking exceptional and expert knowledge. The conference was held at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando, owned by The Kessler Collection, a family business of hotels. Planning is underway for the second West Coast conference, in the Los Angeles area in November.

All have been sell-outs and received glowing reviews from participants. Numerous nationally known speakers, all engaged in family business, sit with owners and managers to discuss matters that concern them all.

Family businesses as old as seven and eight generations from across the nation and Canada took part in the April Transitions conference. Engaged in a wide range of enterprise, including agriculture, mining, entertainment, construction, finance and entertainment, they employed an average of almost 1,000 and had average annual revenues of $217 million.