THE FIRST 10 YEARS
As we said in “The Beginning,” for the first few years, there was no paid staff at the Family Business Center of Central Ohio. Bea Wolper and Dick Emens planned the educational programs, started the Women in Family Business Peer Group, and invited family business leaders and business experts to speak at the monthly meetings held at Franklin University.
After the Center left Franklin University, we held our programs at the “Confluence” for two years until we were invited by Ohio Dominican University to collaborate. At the time, ODU was Ohio Dominican College and was looking to bolster its business school as they went through the University accreditation process; having us on campus helped attract and benefit students and gave the Family Business Center a place to call home. The relationship continues today as we host most of our programs there, bringing hundreds of business leaders to their campus each year. We help also partner with them on their Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship as well as the Career Center.
Fast forward to 2008: we received a generous gift from Jim Conway through his Charitable Lead Trust. Mr. Conway owned Marion Steel Company and was a member of the Family Business Center for many years. He was so grateful for the guidance he received, that his trust named the Family Business Center as a recipient of his generosity.
This gift allowed the Center to invest in business infrastructure, including hiring our very first staff member, Becky Blatt. In appreciation, the Center was renamed the Conway Center for Family Business. Under the stewardship and watchful eye of Dick Emens, the gift continues to grow.
From the beginning, we knew the importance of providing resources and expert advice to our members. These entities that help family businesses be more successful and grow are referred to at the Conway Center as “Service Providers.” The decision was made to be non-exclusive for service providers, but to be limited by a ratio to the number of members. The belief was, and still is, that family business owners want to spend time with other family business owners, and do not want to attend meetings composed mostly of service providers. In fact, a prohibition from any solicitation was established so that the family business owners would not be pressured at meetings.
We continue to refine and enforce the non-solicitation policy at our programs, and it is one of the reasons why our members feel comfortable being vulnerable and transparent when sharing their family business experiences. We encourage service providers to invite their family business clients, because the more family business members the better!
Stay tuned for the next installment where we’ll discuss how the Conway Center continues to grow and evolve…