It's 'All in the Families'

Article excerpt

"Succession problems alone kill two out of three family-owned companies before they're passed on to the second generation," says Dr. Nancy Upton, director of the Institute for Family Business. Helping family businesses deal with just such issues is what this Baylor institute is all about.

In conjunction with the Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship, the institute provides support to family-owned businesses and entrepreneurial firms through the Innovation Evaluation Program, MarketSnapshotTM, the Family Business Retreat, and Family Business Forums.

The institute is aided in its efforts by corporate sponsors U.S. Trust Company of Texas, MassMutual Life Insurance Company, Ernst & Young, and Baker & Botts, L.L.P.

An Economic Cornerstone Family businesses have always been, and continue to be, an economic cornerstone of our country. It is estimated that 90% of all businesses in the United States are family-owned or family-controlled. These firms range from the small corner grocery to over one-third of the Fortune 500 companies. They generate about half of the U.S. gross national product and the majority of the wages, and they outperform nonfamily-owned companies by a ratio of 2 to 1.

In 1989, recognizing the value of such enterprises to the nation, the institute initiated its first Family Business Conference, out of which grew an award program for family businesses who demonstrate a commitment to the family business concept and its continuity and to the needs of their communities and industries.


By 1993, the award program had grown and increased in stature so much that a total of seven family business awards were given during October ceremonies in Houston. The institute presented four awards from its corporate sponsors and three Outstanding Family Business Awards.

Winner of the outstanding family business award in the large firm category was Lawrence Brothers of Sweetwater. J. M. Lawrence founded his grocery business 68 years ago. Today, second-generation sons, Jere and Tere, operate 19 West Texas retail grocery stores. Their wives, daughters, and daughters-in-law all work in the business, and third-generation sons, Jay and Kyle, are partners. Three generations of Lawrences have served as mayor of Sweetwater.

Sample House of Dallas won in the medium firm category. Sample House has been described as "six marvelously junky" stores, each with its own personality. Foster and Nancy Poole created the concept, and twin sons, Bryan and Brad, operate the retail and wholesale divisions. Daughter Ellen works part-time while attending SMU and nephew Charles Webb is a retail store manager. The Pooles have done much for their community and have established a large cottage industry called L.O.L. (Little Old Ladies).

The small firm winner was Waldrop Furniture Company of Abilene. Gideon Waldrop founded the company in 1923 and was joined in the family business by his son Sam in 1948. The store has expanded twice despite a fire in 1971. Third-generation son, David, who was elected president in 1991, deeply respects the traditions and values of his father and grandfather and continues to run the store based on their principles. …