Denise Tollefson and her brother, Richard Anderson, attended a conference in South Dakota a few years ago hosted by the Prairie Family Business Association, an outreach nonprofit based out of the University of South Dakota.
Tollefson, whose family owns and operates Serenity Assisted Living in Dilworth, said she and her brother weren’t sure they really needed to belong to yet another business association, especially one based in South Dakota.
But that conference convinced them they did.
“There are so many unique trials and triumphs with having a family business that you maybe don’t realize until you start going to some of these things that our association offers,” said Tollefson, who is now a member of the association’s advisory board.
Tollefson said membership in the association opened her eyes to the importance of planning ahead when it comes to succession in a family business.
Tollefson, her brother and their parents, Tim and Elaine Anderson, opened Serenity Assisted Living in early 2006.
And while Tollefson said her parents are still years from handing the business over to the next generation, education provided by the association helped her realize “how much planning can go into place now, even though it could be 10 years before my parents retire.”
Education, largely through things like workshops and conferences, is at the core of what the association does, said Mike Sojka, the group’s membership manager.
“From Dickinson (N.D.) to Minneapolis to Sioux City, Iowa, we take the education to our members,” Sojka said.
And although the bulk of the association’s 154 or so members are in South Dakota, the organization is also committed to serving family businesses in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, said Sojka and Stephanie Larscheid, who was recently named the association’s executive director.
Tollefson said the Fargo-Moorhead area is largely untapped as a potential source of new members, and she would like to see the numbers grow here.
One benefit would be the likelihood of more workshops being set up closer to Fargo, she said.
For example, she said, the association hosts workshops four times a year focusing specifically on challenges faced by women in family businesses.
“To be able to have some of those small groups here would just be outstanding,” Tollefson said.
Besides workshops, the association hosts events where outstanding businesses are recognized. The awards are named after sponsoring family businesses.
One such event is the Edward Shorma Excellence in Family Business Award, which is tentatively set to be handed out in mid-November at the Fargo Jet Center, a family-owned business and a member of the association.
The award is sponsored by the Shorma family, which operates a South Dakota manufacturing company called Rush-Co. Shorma family members also operate WCCO Belting in Wahpeton, N.D.
Robert Gibb and Sons of Fargo, a plumbing, heating and electrical contracting business, will receive the award. Gibb and Sons was established in 1915 and is celebrating 100 years in business.
The cost of the awards dinner is $60 per ticket. Attendees do not have to be association members.
To register for the awards dinner and for more information about the Prairie Family Business Association and its upcoming events, visit www.fambus.org.