From Venue to Menu

How one man took his years of small business experience to turn his home into a profitable post-retirement job and mission.

Jim Rose carried his love for business throughout his life and now channels this love and his many skills into The River House, a bed-and-breakfast in Searcy, Arkansas.

When he was around 10 years old, Rose had his first experience with small business, hanging around a produce stand near his home in Dayton, Ohio. He befriended the owner of the stand and volunteered his time to help in whatever way possible, even going to Cincinnati with the owner to learn about supply chain and wholesale. Not long after, he began working as a paperboy.

“My first desire for business started when I was about 11 years old,” Rose said. “I wanted to be a paper boy. I wanted my own money.”

From this young age, Rose had a desire to be financially independent. This pushed him to make his own money, whether it was at a grocery store, delivering papers, or at the local carwash. 

Though his parents never pressured him to do so, he wanted to be able to pay his own way through college. As a college student, he worked at Kroger and was able to pay for over half his college expenses with that job. Rose paid for his final year of undergrad in full by working full time in addition to completing his school work. 

After moving to Delaware with his wife Eva, Rose began working part time for her family’s business, Three Little Baker’s Dinner Theater and Bakery. He became a full-time employee of the business in 1975, when the family acquired a country club.

In the mid 1980s, the family’s dinner theater business took off, and Rose became the general manager, overseeing staffing and the bakery. He liked working in the small family business because he enjoyed having a part in every aspect of the business. He said he wasn’t just an employee. He was a part of the process and the business and had vested interest in its success.  

In 2007, the Roses left the family business. Shortly after, it closed for good. After about seven years working in school food services in Franklin, Tennessee, Rose retired, and he and Eva moved to Searcy, Arkansas, to be near their daughter and her family. 

The couple bought property on the Little Red River, just down the street from their daughter. After tearing down the previous house on the property, the Roses realized they had an opportunity as they rebuilt. They wanted more than anything for their passions and talents for entertaining and hosting to be used by God in some way. From this dream, the vision of the River House Bed and Breakfast was born. 

River House

Their original vision was to reach out to families visiting town for Harding’s various events like Homecoming, Spring Sing, and graduation, but their connection to Dr. David Kee, assistant professor of business administration, his entrepreneurship students and the Waldron Center brought them a bigger and better idea. The students encouraged them to develop their brand and get it listed on Airbnb, which grew their business even more. After having guests from all over the country, the Roses said they have loved the opportunity to do something they feel is a calling and ministry as much as a business.  

James Howard’s “The Modern Log”: A River Runs Through It

Entrepreneur James Howard is an outdoorsman and a craftsman, and sometimes the two intersect, as with his new business that markets his custom river tables.

On the surface, James Howard is a typical recent college graduate: He’s tall and slim with jeans, boots and a ready smile. He’s smart, confident and engaging. Behind that smile, however, is a mind churning with what the startup community calls ideation—and a fierce intentionality: He’s constantly scanning his own backyard for immediate opportunities and surveying the larger landscape for innovative projects with longer timelines. He’s a multitasker:  He can simultaneously manage his own well-defined artisan woodworking business while pursuing and implementing his part in partnership projects. And Howard obviously understands that every human connection in his network may pay future dividends. 

We met today to discuss Howard’s startup, The Modern Log, in which he handcrafts custom wood pieces ranging from tables to 3D wall art. He calls them “river tables.” Made of locally-sourced wood artfully combined with resin and other natural elements, Howard creates the appearance of water flowing through the table. The tables are finished with marine-grade epoxy and are extremely durable. A 20-by-45 inch coffee table with the flow element sells for $1,000.

Combining native red cedar with the flow element, Howard creates the illusion of a water feature flowing through the table.

Tables that are made using a computer numerical control (CNC) wood router to transfer a dimensional design into the wood can feature an exact map of a body of water or a custom logo, recessed with the flow material forming the level surface. Such a piece would be a perfect addition to a hunting lodge or rustic commercial applications, but would also add a unique accent to casual home design. 

A custom CNC router table features a map of Greers Ferry Lake with the flow element.

So how is business at The Modern Log? Howard smiles. “If I can show them, I can sell them.” He has access to an abundant supply of local cedar, so many of his first-year projects have incorporated that material, but he can order virtually any type of wood. If a customer can conceive it, Howard can probably include most ideas in a project. He’s recently brought his brother on board to assist with social media marketing of his creations.

Howard was born in Australia to parents who were vocational missionaries, but later lived in Pendergrass, Georgia. A finance major in the Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration, he ran track for Harding and later married the former Hayley Tobias, who teaches special education at Riverview Judsonia Elementary. They live in Searcy, where he does part of the work for The Modern Log in his garage and part in the borrowed shop of a friend. 

Entrepreneur James Howard's custom river tables are a unique addition to a casual space, whether commercial or residential.
Howard and wife Hayley Tobias.

Ellis Sloan, assistant professor of business, taught Howard in finance classes. “James’s innate business IQ is higher than most students. He seemed more engaged in class discussion. He asked penetrating, relevant questions. His grades were good—but what really struck me was his maturity, his energy, and his ambition. When I say ambition, I mean that he wants to accomplish.”  

We hear so much in the media about self-doubt and fear of failure among Gen Z, but that seems not to afflict Howard. “James is not afraid,” Sloan confirms. “He doesn’t just want to study and understand—he wants to put things into motion. He wants to make it happen, and in the process, to make money. He’s the personification of an entrepreneur. With this table project he’s a craftsman, but he has connections at a gaming resort in Montana from working up there for several summers, and he also has ideas to create a business around those connections as well.”

Sloan introduced Howard to real estate developer and entrepreneur Adam Hart, “who is also an idea guy—and they’ve since created a partnership. James is interested in nontraditional housing and in real estate development. You get a sense about some people that they are going to be very successful, and James is one of those people.”  

Howard’s Instagram profile simply says “Entrepreneur.” We think that’s perfect, and The Waldron Center will follow his future projects with interest. 

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a custom piece for your home or business, you can find Howard’s creations online.  

Are you a Harding alumnus who owns a business? The Waldron Center is always looking for new stories to tell. Email

Dalton Drye Combines Academics with Practical Operations Experience at Searcy’s Oasis

The Waldron Center is fascinated by entrepreneurial journeys. Some people are gifted with a clear vision from the very beginning—a business idea that animates everything they do—but that’s rare.  It’s interesting to hear how the interplay of personality and circumstance drives entrepreneurship. Our previous student entrepreneurs have all been from places far removed from Arkansas. This week, we continue our series by talking with a hometown boy. 

Oasis Wash and Drye is a state-of-the-art car wash located at 700 E. Beebe Capps Expressway

Accounting major Dalton Drye is rooted in Searcy. He’s familiar with the business landscape here, easily identifying who owns various businesses and commenting on where there might be opportunity. And he knows a lot of people. He comes from an entrepreneurial family, and has the enviable advantage of some excellent personal mentoring. One thing is apparent from talking with him: Drye lays it all on the table. There is no hint of pretension; no attempt to artificially impress. He’s getting his education, and he’s got some goals, and he’s working hard and moving forward. 

img_4406-1After graduating from Harding Academy, Drye enrolled in the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. He did Greek life with enthusiasm, but academics a little less so. He joined a fraternity and learned some useful lessons about poise and self-assurance and meeting people, but eventually decided to return to Searcy and enroll at Harding. 

Although he wants to gain broader experience in business, Drye has never envisioned being completely dependent on the corporate world for his future economic security. He once had a dream of opening a quality gun shop and shooting range in Conway. His grandfather, Charlie Adcock, offered an alternative: Adcock was considering opening a new car wash and was agreeable to let Drye help run it to get some experience in business operations. The result was Oasis Car Wash and Drye.

Adcock, a serial entrepreneur, was orphaned at an early age. He joined the Air Force. After retirement, he assembled a commercial career by starting a series of local businesses, building on skills he developed in the military. “He’s just business savvy,” Drye said, with obvious admiration. Adcock saw some of himself in his grandson, and was willing to work with him on the new venture.

Oasis opened last April on a parcel of high-traffic real estate on Beebe-Capps Expressway, a stone’s throw from the Harding Campus. It’s hardly the small town single-bay self wash you might imagine. The new owners did their research. Adcock and Drye were impressed with the Oasis car wash technology they saw on a site visit to the manufacturing plant in Galena, Kansas. They ordered premier touchless equipment for their future location, which also features multiple self-wash stalls and vacuums, as well as a dog wash. Heated bays allow it to remain “open 24/7/365.” They arranged to use the Oasis name and logo for the new facility.

 Drye covers almost full-time hours at Oasis most weeks; combined with his classes, it’s not unusual for him to work 80 hours in a single week. Right now, the staff consists of Adcock; another manager, who has mechanical and maintenance expertise; and Drye, who performs general operations functions and is the technology guy. “If it has electronics, that’s me. The kiosks or the bays go down because of electrical issues and so forth — that’s mine to solve.” He takes all the after-hours calls when something goes wrong. Drye is building equity in the business with every hour he puts in, whether in classes or at Oasis. His current situation is demanding and challenging, but he’s learning important lessons.

Drye always has his eye open for future opportunity. He’s engaged to Kelly Gordon, a student in Harding’s graduate Professional Counseling program. “She wants to eventually have a private practice in mental health. We’ll eventually do that. We’ll have the car wash.  I might be interested in real estate. We’ll see.” He’s always considering  ventures that might someday create a revenue stream. 

How does he evaluate himself these days?  “Well, I can handle myself better in time crunches now, and I know I have to prioritize. I’m not a 4.0 student, but if you have been involved in a number of other valuable things, that gives balance to your GPA on a resume.” He believes his practical experience in problem-solving in a business environment is something that can’t easily be duplicated in a classroom, and we agree. One of his teachers remarked that it was apparent Drye sometimes processed classroom content in a way that would be impossible for a student who hadn’t worked so closely in a business.

He’s also learning some valuable things about himself. “I used be a little hot-tempered, maybe quick to pop off.” He smiles. “But when you own a business, you have to learn to control that. I think I’ve improved. My grandfather once told me, ‘That’s one of those things you are going to have to learn.’ The other day he said, ‘You’ve changed. You’ve handled some situations that I could not have handled as well.’ ” Drye is satisfied that his early experience in small business is shaping him in ways that will make him a better employee and manager in the future, regardless of the venue. “When customers show up, you have to be ready to put a smile on your face and be professional.” 

He can be a self-described stressmonger; he’s taken very few days off since the car wash opened. And he acknowledges that working nonstop can have unintended consequences, a common concern among entrepreneurs. He’s mulling over the realities of the entrepreneurial path and what will be required of him someday as a husband and father.

One thing he knows: He wants to pass along the most valuable part of what he is learning to his children someday. “I want my kids to be able to do cheer, football, whatever activities they want. But regardless of what I may have financially someday, I will want my kids to learn to have a good work ethic. They need to learn to work hard — even when it’s no longer fun — and not to quit when the going gets tough.” Good advice. 

For now, Drye’s working 24/7/365. We wish him luck. 

You can meet Dalton Drye and get a an excellent car wash at Oasis Car Wash and Drye, 700 E. Beebe Capps Expressway.  Follow them on Facebook @oasiscarwashanddrye and on Instagram @oasis_carwash_and_drye.

If you are a Harding student running a business, the Waldron Center would like to hear from you, too.  Email Patti Summers 

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Wildflower Bed and Breakfast, Christopher and Shelley Smith, owners


One recurring, idealistic vision of entrepreneurship we often hear from Waldron Center guests is the idea of escaping the 9-to-5 world to run a small inn in some idyllic location.

Chris and Shelley Smith’s version of the proverbial mid-life crisis was less driven by actual crisis than by a thoughtful lifestyle re-examination as they saw the empty nest on the horizon. Shelley, who entered Harding University in 1988, finished her degree in medical technology at UAMS. After working in health care for 16 years, she became a licensed massage therapist. Chris had worked for an oil company offshore as a safety and performance coach, so his life was often removed from Shelley. Their introspection resulted in the purchase of Wildflower Bed and Breakfast, a seven-room inn on the court square in Mountain View, Arkansas.

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Stone County Courthouse is the centerpiece for the musical activity that happens in Mountain View. Wildflower Bed and Breakfast is located on the courthouse square.

Mountain View bills itself as the “folk music capital of the world.” The 18th and 19th century Scots-Irish immigrants who settled these Ozark hills brought with them a wealth of traditional music. On any weekend night multi-generational clusters of pickers, pulling from a repertoire ranging from Ralph Stanley to Merle Haggard to gospel standards, jam late into the evenings around the court square and in the adjoining city park. Visiting musicians are invited to sit in. The Mountain View area is also home to Arkansas State Parks’ Ozark Folk Center, the mission of which is to preserve traditional music, crafts, art and culture through education and workshops. The town is convenient to nearby Blanchard Springs and Caverns, a popular destination property of the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture.

Built as the Commercial Hotel around 1918, the Wildflower now houses seven rooms and suites as well as the Smiths’ 900 square feet of personal living space. The structure’s crowning glory is its inviting wrap-around porch; its perennial border blooms profusely during the warm season, thanks to the ministrations of family friends the Sandlins, who originally arrived at the Wildflower as guests, but who now provide ongoing gardening consultation and labor in exchange for fellowship. From the porch, guests in rockers survey downtown and are tempted from their chairs by music carried on the breeze. They share reports about their day at the Folk Center or shows at such local music venues as Mellon’s Hole in the Wall, where the Pam Setser Band performed this weekend.


The wrap-around porch is the heartbeat of the inn. Guests bring their own instruments, or borrow from Chris. 

Shelley cautions potential owners that many bed and breakfast establishments do not make a profit, but are run essentially as a lifestyle choice. That was not the Smiths’ intent. She emphasizes that entrepreneurs interested in purchasing such a property should pursue due diligence.

“I’m not really a risk-taker. My best advice is to buy a property with a track record and a database of returning guests. And hire a solid hospitality industry consulting broker to go through the books with you before you make a decision. It was extra peace of mind for me to feel we were making a good decision.”


Once the deal is closed, a new owner must get creative to generate continued interest. The Wildflower embraces the local musical heritage. Instrument hangers are mounted on the porch pillars, an upright bass occupies a dining room corner, and the living room offers a mandolin and guitar for guests who play. Chris, who played electric bass before they bought the inn, has since added folk instruments to his skills. His gleaming hammered dulcimer stands inside the front door. Saturday morning he introduced a vintage 1920s ukulele banjo to porch sitters after breakfast. Local musicians often offer to play for guests on the porch. Award-winning mountain dulcimer player Dwayne Porterfield provided guests sweet accompaniment during Sunday’s breakfast.


After owning the Wildflower for two years, the Smiths added the Mountain View Meeting Place, a well-appointed meeting space where locals now gather on Tuesday evenings for Club Possum, a free weekly gathering for live music and contra dancing. Marketing strategist Chris leverages social media, streaming Club Possum shows on Facebook Live. It has proven to be an effective tool for increasing occupancy through midweek specials. Although there is no charge for Club Possum shows, Chris sells a limited number of sponsorships to local businesses, displaying their information on the big screen on Tuesday nights to help offset costs. The Meeting Place has not only become a defacto community center, but its location and technology provide meeting planners a unique offering for small executive conferences, retreats, or family reunions. One February booking is a ukulele conference hosted by “Ukulele Bill,” as Shelley called him. “Ukulele Bill” is Dr. William Higgs, an Arkansas musician who manages to run a successful dental practice in Conway during his spare time.


The Wildflower Bed and Breakfast is both a serious business venture and a work of love. Chris and Shelley have written a book of reflections, The Wildflower Bed and Breakfast: Our First Season, with insights from their experience.

  • Attend a professional conference, such as the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, before you purchase a property.
  • Have an experienced innkeeper and an industry consultant evaluate the books when considering a purchase of an existing business.
  • Develop a relationship with an experienced owner who can give ongoing counsel.
  • Negotiate a period in which the previous owners will stay and provide training for a week prior to closing the purchase, and for a week afterward. Longer would be better. Maintain that relationship after the purchase.
  • Expect infrastructure challenges with a historic property.
  • Find reasons to love people, even when they are cranky.
  • Tune into what your area has to offer. Be able to reliably recommend activities that might not be otherwise on the radar of your guests.
  • Become involved in the community through local government meetings and the local chamber of commerce.
  • Mark out “family time” days to recharge to avoid burnout. Be prepared to say no to callers for reservations. Shelley says, “Your life and your work in this business–there is no separation. The phone still rings and the doorbell still rings, no matter how you feel or what you have going on. It is important to have a relationship with someone who can “inn-sit” for you on occasion so you can recharge. For us, that has been our friends the Sandlins from Bryant.”

The Wildflower Bed and Breakfast is an easy hour and a half drive from Searcy, 60 miles via Hwy. 5. Check out their website and their blog for special events that might entice you to Mountain View. If you are interested in owning your own bed and breakfast, you might benefit from meeting the Smiths and spending a night in their inn. They are generous with their hospitality and wisdom from their personal journey.

Entrepreneur Magazine offers an industry-specific overview for potential bed and breakfast purchasers with some startup considerations here.


Social Entrepreneurism: Tacos 4 Life

Above: Harding student Alex Stroud takes orders during opening week in the Searcy location.

Here at the Waldron Center, we frequently encounter students with ideas for a business that integrates their talents and values for a higher purpose. In the past decade, the United States has seen an increase in the number of such startups, described by business academics as “social entrepreneurism.” This missional approach to business is designed to create a revenue stream to attack on a community problem.

Ashton and Austin Samuelson of Conway, Arkansas, are Searcy’s newest and most successful exposure to the business-as-mission concept. Inspired by the plight of the homeless while living in Los Angeles, they developed a vision for helping to solve what they see as the “most solvable problem in the world: hunger. With their slogan “Buy a meal. Give a meal. Meal for meal,” the first Tacos4Life Grill opened in Conway on June 9, 2014. The chain now serves Tex-Mex-inspired fast casual cuisine in colorful, funky surroundings in Conway, Little Rock, Benton, Fayetteville, and most recently Searcy at the location on East Race Street across from Unity Medical Center.

The concept is simple: For every every taco, quesadilla, salad, or rice bowl sold, the restaurant donates 22 cents to its partner Feed My Starving Children to purchase, pack and distribute MannaPacks to areas of high food insecurity. A MannaPack is a proprietary blend of rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients designed to meet the nutritional needs of malnourished children. Each vacuum-sealed MannaPack, on display at every Tacos4Life, provides six meals.


The concept has become so successful that there are locations opening this year in Jonesboro, Springdale, Rogers; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Frisco, Texas. Franchise opportunities are available to mission-minded investors.

Each year, Tacos4Life publishes dates on their website, and people sign up in droves to help assemble and pack the meals for shipping. The process is called a MobilePack, and it’s a joyous community happening. The system for mobilizing volunteer labor is highly refined for quality control and efficiency. At last year’s Conway MobilePack, 2,438 smiling school groups, families, homeschoolers and grandparents, wearing gloves and hairnets, packed 558,144 meals — enough to feed 1,529 children in Swaziland every day for a year. After brief training and sorting into teams, volunteers at processing stations, energized by music and goodwill, measure and weigh ingredients, vacuum seal plastic bags, and pack them into boxes. At the end of the two-hour shift, the crew watches a video offering a boots-on-the-ground perspective about the need in the Swaziland where these very meals will eventually be unloaded from a shipping container and served. When you leave a MobilePack, you feel like you’ve spent two hours doing something that matters.

So let me offer a couple of suggestions for you. First: Eat at Tacos4Life and get acquainted with their excellent food, mission and cool vibe. Second: Take part in a MobilePack. The next MobilePack will take place at the Little Rock Convention Center on Sept. 16. Check out this link, grab some friends, and volunteer. You’ll be glad you did.

*Feed My Starving Children has the highest (four-star) rating on Charity Navigator, spending 87.3 percent of its total expenses directly on the programs and services it delivers, rather than on overhead.



Younger generations in family business


Grant Goodvin, Guest writer

Families who run a business, a foundation or are in a transition stage hesitate sometimes to talk about the future. Non-family businesses struggle with the same dynamic. However, families will have multi-generational questions that impact each generation differently. For younger generations whose families own businesses, there are decisions to be made about pursuing careers.

The first question for this younger generation is: If the family business did not exist, how would you choose a career trajectory? This is a critical question because it forces each individual to think beyond the boundaries of a family business. One of the worst scenarios I’ve encountered is a family member imprisoned in a family business because he has severe doubts that he could succeed in the outside business world. Also the younger generation family member may feel she deserves a position in the family business simply by being a member of the family.

In exploring this question, we are not minimizing or dismissing the family business. We want to explore how the younger generation member strengthens his capabilities for two reasons: 1) In answering the question of capabilities and preparation, the younger generation may discover a passion outside the family business or a passion inside the family business, thereby introducing the context of what makes the family member marketable in the general business world and/or how the family member gains skills that strengthen the family business. 2) Problems arise for the younger generation if the family business is viewed as the sole source of making a living because the family member lacks the confidence to work outside the family business.

How does the younger generation decide whether his plan for the future aligns with the future of the family business? An optimized plan for younger generations is for the senior generations to outline specific skill sets and educational objectives for positions within the family business.

The second reason can be and often is the source of severe family conflicts because if the older generation fails to plan or doesn’t disclose succession plans, the younger member will fight intensely, demanding that the family business meets his/her needs. This approach serves neither the family member nor the business. The family business must be designed to strengthen the family members and the business in a variety of ways.

The other issue for families in business is how the senior generation is handling transition and succession. Many times the plan is either non-existent or hidden because of a reluctance to bring the discussion into full view of the entire family. This reluctance may result from the fact that not all family members are involved in the family business. It may be due to the senior generation’s struggle with how to treat family members fairly. Many times the senior generation does not want to start a discussion that can result in conflict in the family. The flaw in that thinking is that there is a high likelihood of conflict if the senior generation does not take the lead in proactively mentoring the younger generations through the transition process.

However, the issue is: How does the younger generation decide whether his plan for the future aligns with the future of the family business? An optimized plan for younger generations is for the senior generations to outline specific skill sets and educational objectives for positions within the family business. This could be the discussion that allows subsequent conversations about what the senior generation is thinking about succession.

The younger generation should always remember to honor parents, founders or senior generations. Younger generations do not always appreciate how deeply ingrained the family business is in the senior generation, especially if the senior generation is the founding generation. Christian teaching on honoring parents is not a frivolous statement; it is foundational in wholesome family testimony to the world. The Christian distinctive provides avenues to honor family and maintain a business that perpetuates values that are everlasting.

One of the ways the younger generation honors the senior generation is to remove demands about planning for the future, replacing them with an open discussion of what is in the best interest of each family member and the family business. As children become adults, honoring is not defined as absolute obedience to the senior generation in all matters, because if adult children marry they must also honor their spouses. Also, I tell families in business it is useless to prevent spouses from being involved in the family business discussion table. The spouses are involved by virtue of the definition of marriage, which is one flesh. Boundaries may be set on what is discussed based on age and successful operation of the business but as the younger generation matures, the discussions become more comprehensive.

To summarize, if you are a college student considering entering the family business, here are some suggestions:

  • Work for a summer somewhere other than at your family business.  Discover what it is like to work for someone outside your family.
  • Tell the senior generation your ideas about a career and ask to be mentored in your planning.  Ask if there are specific educational objectives which will strengthen the family business.
  • Talk to the Harding Waldron Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business about resources and advisors that can assist you and your family in this critical discussion.

One of the greatest things about working in a family business is working with family. One of the most challenging things about working in a family business is working with family.

Grant Goodvin is an attorney and friend of the Waldron Center in Wichita, Kansas, where he operates Family Legacy Consultant Group.

Senior generations in family businesses


Grant Goodvin,  Guest writer

Who will lead your family? The dynamics of a family in business and/or with a foundation or wealth transition take this question to a deeper level. On a family level, the senior generation occupies the natural position of leaders and mentors. However, add a business, foundation or wealth transition element to the equation and the relationships are subject to forces that seem insurmountable. While I’m focusing on families in business, the same advice may be employed for families with foundations and those considering wealth transition.

Are you as a senior family member hesitant to talk about the future of family and business for fear of conflict? You are not alone. You can benefit from knowing that other families have encountered the same fear and mentored younger generations with the result of a stronger family and business.

On a family level, the senior generation occupies a natural position of leaders and mentors. However, add a business, foundation, or wealth transition element to the equation and the relationships are subject to forces that seem insurmountable.

The culture today speaks to individual fulfillment. Such statements as “You can be anything you want to be,” or “Your individual happiness is the most important element in your life” ignore an obvious question that must be answered: What is your purpose in life? Failing to define purpose results in a discussion of individual success or happiness in a vacuum, producing little value.

Have you, as the senior generation, documented your purpose in life? Have you had family discussions about what really matters in life? A Christian approach deals with what values and purposes truly matter. Scriptures talk about glory. Glory is a term that defines what matters. Non-Christians talk about glory without understanding its true meaning. Everyone makes decisions every day about what matters, what purpose or value is applied in a variety of situations.

A family business that has a murky view of the purpose of wealth, business and family will struggle in planning for the future. My first advice to senior generations is to go through the challenging process of documenting what matters to them. This process can serve as a basis for a family mission statement.  Non-family businesses deal with this issue also. In my experience as an attorney helping establish new corporations, there was a line on every state corporation filing asking for the corporation’s purpose. I have never seen, in all of the filings I participated in or viewed, the purpose statement of “making as much money as possible.” Making money is part of what a corporation does, but that production flows from the corporation’s meeting some need — by producing products or providing services that customers view as valuable and needed. That is the corporate purpose.

Families in business weave into the business values the family desires to perpetuate. The values need to last forever to really matter. A belief in the God of Scripture inherently places values in the realm of lasting beyond death, especially death of the senior generation. It is not the value that is important; it is the source of the value.

Bringing a third party in to help with these family discussions is usually invaluable. I always challenge families in business that are reluctant to hire an adviser for family meetings to try it once. They will immediately see the dynamics of the meeting change. This mediation is often very positive if the family has had difficulty moving beyond the emotional baggage of family into concrete, substantive discussions about issues that can strengthen the family and business.

The senior generation can strengthen the family and family business by outlining for younger generations skill sets and educational objectives for specific positions in the business. This process prevents younger generations from thinking that, having made no preparations, they automatically have a job in the family business. Another benefit is that the process allows the senior generation to start meaningful conversations with the younger generations about the future. The goal is to direct the conversation toward specific educational needs and preparation. If the younger generation is not willing or able to meet the requirements of work in the family business, the situation should be addressed sooner rather than later. The worst scenario is for the younger generations to think they deserve positions in the family business by simply being family. The ramifications of such a scenario negatively impact all members of the family and the success of the business.

In summary, here are some important steps for you as the senior generation to take:

  • What is your purpose? What is the mission of the family? What is the purpose of wealth? What is the purpose of the family business?
  • Establish educational objectives for positions in the family business.
  • Begin thinking about transition, succession of the business and how it will be developed and communicated. A closed plan that is not communicated allowing time for you to mentor the younger generation has a high likelihood of causing irreparable fracturing of your family.

Grant Goodvin is a friend of the Waldron Center who founded Family Legacy Consultant Group in Wichita, KS.