Recognizing that family businesses are a vital part of Connecticut’s economy and that the leaders of multi-generation businesses experience unique issues, the UConn School of Business revamped and re-introduced its Family Business program last year.
Although several universities offer family business consulting, UConn takes a different approach, says Lucy Gilson, head of the management department. The UConn program offers executive education to family business owners while simultaneously preparing undergraduates for internships and potential jobs within family businesses.
“The UConn family business collaboration allows experts in fields as diverse as family studies and finance to all work together,” says Gilson.
The revamped program boasts an undergraduate course in family business, a student summer internship program, and executive education “basecamp” classes.
“There is something unique about working in your family’s business,” says Julie Paine-Miller, vice president of Paine’s Inc. Recycling and Rubbish Removal. “You have the motivation and inner drive to be better than just good. Your name is on the business and your reputation is tied to it.”
When asked what it is like to be employed in a family-owned business, Paine-Miller shares that some of her fondest childhood memories involve riding in her family’s garbage trucks.
“I have a deep-seated love for trash,” she says with a laugh. “I have memories of being around the trucks from the time I was a little girl.”
Paine-Miller started working at the bottom rung of the East Granby company, as all family members do, answering customer complaints. Founded in 1929, today Paine’s has its fourth generation of family leaders, employs more than 70 people, and serves 45,000 customers in Greater Hartford and the Northwest Corner.
Almost one quarter of all Connecticut businesses are family owned, according to the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.
Family businesses are abundant in Connecticut and a significant contributor both to the economy and employment, according to John A. Elliot, dean of the School of Business.
Whether they are household names, such as the 350-employee Bigelow Tea Company, or smaller mom-and-pops that serve giants like United Technologies, Electric Boat, and Stanley Black & Decker, family businesses touch all industries, says Elliot.
“While it’s easy for the corporate giants of the world to pack up and move elsewhere, family businesses just don’t do that,” says program director Robin Bienemann. “They are much more likely to stay in Connecticut because their business has been here for generations. It is our goal to keep them here, keep them strong, and help them over the obstacles that they encounter.”
— CLAIRE HALL