Goering Center news: Family business or business family?

There’s much in a name

By Carol Butler

If you think about the focus of the Goering Center, what comes to mind?

I’m finding out more and more that the answer for many people is “family business.”

It’s easy to draw that association. So many family-owned businesses that are now considered icons in the greater Cincinnati community have been part of the Goering Center story. We have transformed — and sometimes salvaged — many multi-generational family businesses.

Yet, we are the Goering Center for Family and Private Business.

Private businesses are very much a part of our work. They represent half of the awards at our Family and Private Business Awards event, the majority of our programs cater to the needs of private as well as family businesses, and our boards and committees are blessed with many private business owners.

So, are we missing the boat somewhere? Is it just semantics? Does something need to change?

The answer to the last questions, in my mind, is almost always “yes.” That’s not a reflection of any failure, but of a need to continually evolve and be relevant to a rapidly changing business market. Consider these statistics:

  • There are about 27 million businesses in the U.S. Public businesses represent less than one percent of that total.
  • Stripping aside our Goering distinction between family and private businesses, these non-public firms represent nearly two thirds of GDP and employment, and three-quarters of new job growth.
  • Add to this the explosive growth in entrepreneurial start-ups, which by definition are either family or private, and stay that way rather than go to an IPO.
Shane Meeker, 22 year veteran at P&G spoken during the Goering’s Luncheon Series at Radisson Hotel Cincinnati Riverfront in Covington, Kentucky, UC/Joseph Fuqua II

Carol Butler having a conversation with Paula Asmus and Sonya Hall of Pathway Guidance at Goering Center "StoryMythos" luncheon in January of 2019. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services.

Many of our members have forged deep and profitable relationships with each other through their participation in the Goering Center. We must celebrate that!

Carol Butler

The reason I suggest we strip away the distinction is as much an issue of mindset as it is statistical parity. The reason Goering started with the premise that family and private business needed this kind of resource is that they were under-served, or that their issues, both being “private,” were harder to address in more public forums. They both needed a safe and relevant place to address the issues they faced.

I’m convinced the similarities as well as the shared focus are more evident than ever.

  • Management tenure in both family and private businesses is longer. Many leaders of both types of companies often have an ownership stake in the enterprise or have some relationship connection within the team that makes them want to stay in the game.
  • We speak of the unique family dynamic — how to maintain family harmony and cohesion while running a business together — but private businesses can have much the same in a team of invested partners. Relationship stresses are the same, no matter what name is on the door.
  • As a family business matures, it is not unusual that it starts to look more like a private business with non-family members moving into leadership roles, or even taking on new, non-family investors.
  • Businesses often start as private, and this certainly applies to the flurry of start-up ventures. These fledgling businesses have all the same need for connection, community and support as any family business.

So, what does all that tell us? As much as we celebrate the great stories that come from our family business members, we need to put more attention on the equally compelling stories that come from our private business community. Many of our members have forged deep and profitable relationships with each other through their participation in the Goering Center. We must celebrate that!

Today, our curriculum is as relevant to private businesses as it is to family. Yet we recognize we have opportunity to develop offerings that are specifically tailored to private business, perhaps leaning toward partner and investor harmony, attracting capital, or even cultivating a “business family” feel within a non-family structure.

We are collectively working to make Greater Cincinnati a benchmark region for business and social growth. One that is fueled by family and private businesses that feel supported, engaged and valued.

I invite you to send me your thoughts or reach out and connect over a cup of coffee or a local craft beer to further this conversation. I look forward to hearing from you.

Carol Butler is the President of the Goering Center for Family & Private Business. You can reach Carol at carol.butler@uc.edu or 513-556-7414.

Featured image at top: Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services.

About the Goering Center for Family & Private Business

Established in 1989, the Goering Center serves more than 400 member companies, making it North America’s largest university based educational non-profit center for family and private businesses. The Center’s mission is to nurture and educate family and private businesses to drive a vibrant economy. Affiliation with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati provides access to a vast resource of business programing and expertise. Goering Center members receive real-world insights that enlighten, strengthen and prolong family and private business success. For more information on the Center, participation and membership visit goering.uc.edu.

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