Family business: 3 making it work

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Dennis Hines , Dan Plutchak and Jenny Sharp | February 15, 2015

The most prolific incubator for the next generation of entrepreneurs may not be across the country in Silicon Valley, but right around the corner at a neighborhood family business.

Although 92 percent of all businesses are family owned, only 30 percent make it to the second generation, and by the fourth generation, only 3 percent still are around.
But those numbers don't tell the whole story, said Sherry Herwig, director of the Family Business Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


"Those statistics are fairly accurate, although what they don't take into account is that it's not because those businesses fail, but because they change," she said.
Family businesses can be great environments for entrepreneurship, teaching the next generation the skills they need to create and run a business. Often, that next generation will move on to pursue their own ideas and start a completely new business, Herwig said.

Many people think of a family business as small business -- a mom and pop operation -- but some are very large, like Wal-Mart, Ford, Harley-Davidson and S.C. Johnson, Herwig said.

Family-owned businesses typically have a long-term approach and one of their goals is to pass the business on to the next generation.

They also are good for their communities and typically are involved and supportive of community activities.

Sometimes  they'll take those new skills and apply them to the family business -- even if it takes some time to get there.

Stebnitz Builders owner Chris Stebnitz knew he wasn't cut out for the construction end of the building business when, in the early 1990s, he was working on a roofing project on a sweltering summer day.

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