Wake Forest Schools of Business honors family businesses

5.20.2010 Article, General, School News

Wake Forest Family Business Center Presents Awards
Originally Posted on Thursday, May 20, 2010
Reposted from Business Leader Triad

Family businesses, John Allison said, make up the backbone that supports our nation’s economy and its communities.

“Every business in America, to some degree, is a small business.”

Sustaining a family business hinges not only on financial success but also on the personal relationships built along the way. “I think successful family businesses have something that’s very important. You have character,” Allison told the group of about 150 that gathered for the 2010 N.C. Family Business of the Year Awards.

Allison, former BB&T CEO and a distinguished professor of practice in the Schools of Business at Wake Forest University, was the keynote speaker for the second annual event, held at Discovery Place in Charlotte.

The Family Business Center at the Wake Forest University Schools of Business honored four N.C. companies that have successfully combined the best of family and business while making positive contributions in their respective communities.

Kathy Baker, director of the Family Business Center, congratulated the winners and thanked all FBC members and the corporate sponsors who helped to make the second annual N.C. Family Business of the Year Awards such a success. She encouraged all family businesses in the state to take part in the FBC and to share their stories.

“While the awards program provides an opportunity to recognize our winning companies for their achievements, it also offers the opportunity to share a bigger story,” Baker said.

“The applications we read, the family business histories and the stories, were just wonderful. It’s nice to win, but even if you don’t win you have a beautiful collection of history to pass on to your family.”

More than 100 companies were nominated for the awards.

“The event was a great success, and it built on the momentum gained from our first inaugural ceremony last year. I expect interest in the awards and Family Business Center to grow throughout the year, culminating in the third annual N.C. Family Business of the Year Awards in 2011.”

The 2010 winners are: small category, Griffith Real Estate Services of Charlotte; medium category, Partners In Care of Charlotte; large category, Pate Dawson of Goldsboro. Birch Brothers Southern of Waxhaw is the winner of the Century Award, which honors companies that have been in business for 100 years or more.

In commending the family businesses, Allison talked about his company, BB&T, and its 10 core values, which are non-contradictory and integrated. Found within those core values are three great virtues – purpose, reason and self-esteem. Referring to the first virtue, he said most people want to make the world a better place in which to live, and businesses represented at the May 6 awards ceremony share that common goal.

“People should pursue things that give them energy and make them feel better about themselves,” referring to the second virtue, reason. “Family businesses can make the world a better place to live and at the same time self-energize.”

Allison also talked about the necessary commitment to life-long learning and the importance of gaining knowledge from experience.

“I suspect that in this room we have a lot of very successful experiential learners. I find that small business owners are primarily experiential learners,” which enables people to better learn from their mistakes, to evade less and to focus more. “That is a giant competitive advantage in life.

“To be happy you have to have high self-esteem,” which, he said, is earned through how you live your life.

“Self -esteem is the foundation of happiness, and happiness is the end of the game.”

Ron Norelli, president of the Family Firm Institute, cited case studies that indicate just 60 percent of family businesses survive from the first to the second generation, and fewer than 10 percent survive into the third generation.

But in regard to the businesses honored May 6, Norelli said, those statistics ring false. A common theme among the family businesses that received the awards, he said, was a system of values.

“I want to congratulate the winners tonight, who clearly have known how to change, known to change their business models and change their strategies. But they haven’t compromised the value system.”

The E.C. Griffith Company, which began in 1912, is one of Charlotte’s oldest family-owned real estate firms, and the company has developed some of Charlotte’s leading institutions for the past 98 years. The E.C. Griffith Company, Griffith Real Estate Services and the members of the Griffith Family are concerned environmentalists, constantly working toward a balance between development and conservation.

In 2003, Don and Sally Olin founded Partners In Care, an in-home care-giving service for seniors and adults, but it’s also much more. The company helps seniors retain their dignity and remain independent in their homes while providing peace of mind for their families. The company’s tagline, “Families Helping Families,” is truth in advertising, proving a for-profit service can flourish if its foundation and operational structure is built with strong morals and ethics. The company’s five family members and 160 extended family members work by the same philosophy — treat each client as though they would treat their own parents.

In the past 125 years, the Pate Dawson Company Inc. — founded in 1885 as by J.H. Pate as J.H. Pate Grocery — has grown from a small independent grocery store to the 27th largest food-service distribution company in the US. With a family history that has focused on a willingness to change and always putting family first, the company has not only survived but has thrived through bad and good economic times. During the past five years, the Pate Dawson Company Inc. has grown sales to more than $25 million, yet the values — hard work, honesty and integrity — remain firmly rooted.

The Century Award winner, Birch Brothers Southern, was founded 127 years ago in Massachusetts by Albert Birch, though the business actually began in England 38 years before. The company has transitioned from a manufacturer of textile machinery to the maker of custom machinery for a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, nonwovens, technical textile, medical, paper, home fashions and others. The company, which has 25 employees, has purposely managed sales and company size to remain flat for the past five years, thus avoiding debt accumulation and overextension as new markets were explored.

Awards Patron level sponsors BB&T, Fennebresque & Co., GenSpring Family Offices, PricewaterhouseCoopers, ReGeneration Partners and Southern Community Bank & Trust provided generous financial support for the event. Business North Carolina was the media sponsor, and GenSpring Family Offices sponsored the special section on the Family Business of the Year Awards to run in the May issue of Business North Carolina.

Several Family Business Center members have contributed to the success of the awards program. Wildfire provided design of all the marketing materials, and Sun Printing printed the programs. Biltmore Wines provided wine and beer for the event.