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Montana family business programme aims to address vacuum of support in the state

By Michael Finnigan

A new family business programme launching in Montana this month has been prompted by a lack of support for family firms in the region, says the associate professor who will be leading the course.

Issues addressed in the University of Montana course, which begins this month, will include succession, leadership and governance.

According to course leader Michael Braun, a management and marketing professor, family firms represent 80% of all enterprises in the state.

“We looked at the makeup of companies in Montana and noticed that nobody is providing information and seminars that can help family businesses not just flourish but stay in the state,” Braun said.

Montana has a GDP of $40 billion, largely built up by businesses operating in agriculture, livestock and tourism.

However, Braun explains there have been a record number of family businesses being sold in Montana in recent years, primarily due to leadership transition issues, whether to a family or non-family member.

“All too often succession issues come a day late and a dollar short for most family businesses here in Montana,” the professor said. 

“A major aim of the programme is to show family businesses how to go about competitively setting themselves up so that they can succeed whatever generational step they're in.”

Braun has wrangled a host of family business academics and industry leaders that will lead workshops and provide their own stories.

Braun hopes that the course will draw in multiple family members from varying generations who will discuss their weak points and identify what areas of the business need attention.

Barry Reid, owner of family business Diversified Plastics, is one guest speaker from the region who will speak about strategy in highly competitive markets.