GVSU, WMU join forces for study of family owned businesses

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Photo of WMU sign.

The study is a partnership between WMU and GVSU.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—The Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University and the Haworth College of Business at Western Michigan University have launched a study to explore the magnitude of family owned businesses in the region. The study will involve a series of surveys sent to the approximately 12,000 family owned businesses in 28 counties on the west side of the state.

Nationally, only 30 percent of family owned businesses survive to the second generation. Family owned businesses have a great social and economic impact on the west side of the state, yet little data is available on the number, needs or impact of these businesses.

Evaluating impact on community

"Family owned businesses are unique," says Ellie Frey, director of the Family Owned Business Alliance in Grand Rapids. "For example, they are more philanthropic, slower to reduce their workforce in tough economic times and better environmental stewards. By creating a database of information we can do a better job of monitoring and improving the health of Michigan’s family owned businesses, while furthering research and program development."

Laurel Ofstein, assistant professor of management at the Haworth College of Business, agrees. "In family business, it’s not just about the bottom line," said Ofstein. "The leadership is also focused on the longevity of the organization as well as the industry in which it operates. This long-term focus is especially important for innovation, a theme we hear frequently in political speeches and at educational institutions alike. Family firms are making a substantial economic contribution to the state of Michigan, yet we feel this contribution may be under-valued. We hope to highlight their positive impact through this research."

The study is being administered by the Family Owned Business Institute at Grand Valley with support from the Family Business Alliance in Grand Rapids. The study aims to provide a platform of tools and services to assist and eventually improve the health of family owned businesses. The initial survey data collection is expected to be completed by early November.

The survey will be sent to family owned businesses in the following counties: Allegan, Antrim, Barry, Benzie, Berrien, Cass, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kalkaska, Kent, Lake, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola, Ottawa, St. Joseph, Van Buren and Wexford.

The survey can be found at gvsu.edu/fobi/survey.

For more information contact J. Kevin McCurren, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at GVSU, at (616) 331-7582; Ellie Frey, director of the Family Owned Business Alliance of Grand Rapids, at (616) 331-6827; or Laurel Ofstein, assistant professor of management at WMU at (269) 387-5417.