The Family Business Forum, held in February 2016, welcomed nearly 80 people, including Northwood students, their families, and the general public. The 100 percent student-focused Forum was conceived and developed by John Gustincic, Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity & Enterprise director and associate professor. DeVos Graduate School student Nick Langlois, who handled event logistics, also contributed to the evening’s success. A natural extension of the Center’s focus on developing and supporting family-owned business, the Forum gave voice to common concerns of families whose companies are integral to a free market’s diversity, vitality, and profitability.
“The Forum was a celebration of family-owned businesses and effectively countered the common perception that these students are handed jobs by their parents and walk into cushy careers when they graduate,” said Gustincic. “Like all of our students, they have to prove themselves. True, they will have opportunities that many people don’t have. But a big part of their reality is that they will ultimately be responsible for the success or failure of their families’ businesses.”
In addition to being educational and inspirational, the event kick-started Northwood’s new organization, the Family Enterprise Alliance. The group gives students from family businesses a comfortable setting in which to openly share, brainstorm, and even gripe with others who understand. As panel member Griffin Williams noted, “It’s a great sounding board for new ideas, concerns, and ways to handle problems like family dynamics.”
“At the Center, we envision expanding this support even further. We hope to develop a program that will connect family-owned business decision-makers with Northwood students who will objectively evaluate their problems and offer useful solutions as class projects,” said Gustincic. “And we are continuing to offer educational resources specifically targeted to this model that cover topics like innovation, entrepreneurship, international business, marketing, and accounting.”