Organization Focus: Prairie Family Business Association

When it comes to running a business, every owner faces a unique set of challenges.

For family-run businesses, those challenges can hit closer to home. Working with loved ones and creating a family-oriented culture is rewarding, but it can also cause unexpected tensions and communication issues.

Prairie Family Business Association (PFBA) exists to mitigate these challenges and set family-run businesses up for long-term success.

In 1993, PFBA was created as part of the South Dakota Family Business Initiative through the University of South Dakota’s Beacom School of Business. It began as a network of business owners’ children coming together to collaborate and talk about business. Similar groups exist across the country, and PFBA is a member of the Family Business Alliance, a national organization for the promotion of best practices in family business.

Today, PFBA provides its members with innovative programming, support, and education for any stage of their business journey. Based in Sioux Falls, the organization offers support throughout the region, covering businesses in South Dakota, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa.

PFBA’s executive director, Stephanie Larscheid, heads up programming and determines members’ needs.

“We have, in our membership, anywhere from first-generation startups to fifth-generation businesses, and we serve them as they reinvent themselves and become a profitable business for the long term for their families,” Larscheid said. “As they go on through generations, it’s really important for them to be innovative to keep their business viable.”

Compared to its counterparts across the nation, PFBA places a distinct emphasis on family businesses with ten or fewer employees.

“Our board really wants us to serve those mom and pop shops,” Larscheid said. “Especially in smaller communities, we know how important these businesses are to their local economies, workforce, and philanthropy.”

Still, PFBA’s services are developed to support businesses of all sizes, whether they employ ten people or over one thousand. Membership is designed to be affordable for any business, with annual pricing ranging from $385.00 to $925.00, dependent on the amount of employees.

What services does PFBA offer?

Programming includes everything from educational webinars to peer group collaboration.

Peer groups are held throughout the region and provide an opportunity for business leaders to come together and discuss the opportunities and challenges facing their families.

“Those are very highly rated groups for our members,” Larscheid said. “A lot of good business and family decisions are made in those groups.”

PFBA also hosts six webinars throughout the year, designed to educate family business leaders on a variety of topics from healthcare to succession and estate planning. Upcoming webinars include, “Does Your Healthcare Plan Need a Shot in the Arm?” hosted by Stephanie VerHey of Howalt+McDowell on October 30, and ”It’s About Your Life, Not Just Your Money,” hosted by Thompson Law on December 4.

However, PFBA’s programming isn’t only for business owners. The organization offers Professional Advisor Study Groups to coach professionals such as accountants, attorneys, or financial advisers on how to be a better resource to family businesses.

Additionally, PFBA hosts an annual conference featuring national and local presenters on educational topics related to running a family business. The upcoming 2020 conference will be held from April 28-29 in Sioux Falls.

Prairie Family Business sponsors and advisors conversing at the annual family business conference. From left to right: Gayle Ver Hey of Volt Strategy, Kurt Whitesel of B2B CFO, and Tim Schut of First PREMIER Bank.

Family retreats are also held every other year, with the next one coming up in August 2020.

“We take families to a location where they’re able to have their own facilitator and talk through the challenges and opportunities, where the business has been and where it can go,” Larscheid said. “The families that attend the retreat accomplish more in three days than many families get done in a year. It’s transformational.”

On the retreat’s off-years, PFBA offers Next Generation Leadership Training to help prepare the up-and-coming leaders for their transition to ownership or leadership roles.

Beyond programming, businesses can also consult with PFBA staff when it comes to choosing service providers or resources. PFBA has developed close relationships with its sponsors over the years and offers many of them as referrals.

Why get involved?

According to Larscheid, family businesses have the power to make a significant impact on a community when they operate successfully.

Partnering with PFBA helps business leaders develop the skills necessary to succeed and avoid some of the key mistakes that cause many family businesses to fail.

“Communication is a big thing for family businesses, particularly when they’re at the startup stage, so it’s important to be intentional about family meetings and talking about your values,” Larscheid said. “A lot of it boils down to planning, stepping away from the day-to-day, and being intentional about growth and strategy.”

Planning and communication are key to running a successful family business. Larscheid says the best family-run businesses build positive, caring cultures for their employees.

“The culture that you can create as a family business is huge,” Larscheid said. “We often hear that the employees really feel that culture, and they’re taken care of like a family member if it’s done right.”

Visit the PFBA website for more information on how you can become a member, as a business owner or a sponsor.

Two Things You Can Do This Week:

  • Submit your membership application here.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest PFBA news by checking out their blog.
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