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Workshop offers strategies to grow family business (Released: 2/6/96)

by Richard Veilleux, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- For the typical family business, staying even is not an option.

"If you think you're standing still, in reality, you're falling behind," says Richard Dino, director of the Family Business Program in the University of Connecticut's School of Business Administration. "Whatever the reason, failure to grow in the long run threatens the survival of family businesses. Even more so than the major corporations, which can operate for months or even years simply by inertia, family businesses must have a growth plan."

On March 7, Dino will be joined by Steven W. Floyd, an associate professor at UConn and an expert on strategic management, to discuss growth strategies with interested family business owners. "Regenerating Your Business for Future Growth," the seventh in a series of hands-on workshops sponsored by the Family Business Program, will be offered from 4-8 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell.

"Business growth is essential to support family growth. As more generations, siblings, and in-laws enter the business, growth is required to prevent their participation from becoming a zero-sum game. The pie must keep getting bigger. Few things are worse than family members fighting over how to share a shrinking enterprise," says Floyd, a business strategist and author of the forthcoming book The Strategic Middle Manager.

"It's just one of the things that family businesses confront," says Floyd, who also has served as president of his family's business. "As you bring in more family members, unless you grow the business, there's less money spread out among more family members."

Workshop participants will get more than a lecture, says Floyd. In fact, in the standard hands-on format that has become a hallmark of the Family Business Program's events, as many businesses that can be accommodated will come out of the session with specific growth strategies in hand. Participants will be clustered in small groups, where business owners can use Floyd's advice to strategize and brainstorm ways to grow each other's businesses.

"It's a format that fits the family business owner's basic skills," Floyd says. "These are people with innovative minds -- they're entrepreneurs, people who already had enough skills and competencies to start their own business."

Floyd says there are about a dozen tried and true growth strategies for small businesses, from adding new distribution channels or new product lines, to diversifying into related markets or even expanding uses for an existing product. In the latter case, Floyd cites baking soda as a model product -- a cooking ingredient began also selling itself as an odor controlling tool, a marketing scheme that proved so successful it ultimately allowed producers such as Arm & Hammer to add product lines like deodorizers and cat litter, Floyd says.

But, Floyd cautions, business owners should be aware there are also risks involved. "Growth for its own sake is not the goal. It should be profitable growth, a method of improving the business. The pressure to do new things can become intense in family firms, but decisions about how to grow the business cannot be made on instinct or emotion."

For more information on the workshop or UConn's Family Business Program, call (860) 486-4483. Registration is free to members of the program, and $95, including dinner, for prospective members.

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