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Sold-out conference provides big takeaways for family businesses

Posted in   |  May 7, 2024

The word definitely is out: This is a can’t-miss conference for family businesses.

“A successful conference is when a family leaves the conference and says, ‘We can do this; we can put in the work and communication to make this business last through the next generation,’” said Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of Prairie Family Business Association.

“When they leave the conference and are committed to one another and the future of their business, we have done our job. And it doesn’t stop there. Our team maintains the relationships with these families and ensures they have all they need to set them up for success in this generation and the next.”

Prairie Family Business Association’s Annual Conference filled to capacity once again this year, drawing more than 350 family business members from 16 states and an additional 150-plus attending virtually.

The takeaways are as individual as the family businesses themselves, but to give a sense of what was shared at the conference, the PFBA team shared their most powerful moments and insights.

Stephanie Larscheid, executive director

The conference theme of “People: Starting With You” was well achieved with each keynote and breakout touching on the theme. Communication phrases and tricks from keynote speaker AmyK — AmyK Hutchens — were among the most popular takeaways. Being in a room surrounded by like-minded people who are working alongside family is powerful! The audience has an attitude of we’re all in this together and let’s help each other create lasting family businesses. Family business ownership can be challenging. When you sit down in a room with others who are working with siblings, parents, children, there is an immediate sense of understanding regardless of the size of business or industry. The conference embodies all of our core values, but especially Building Connections and Professional.

It was especially moving to honor two long-standing family businesses who are putting in the work to make the family business thrive through generations: Montgomery’s as a fifth-generation family business and Edney Distributing as a fourth-generation family business.

What inspiring stories to tell and share.

Through Board Bootcamp prior to the conference, we learned that family businesses who operate with a board have a higher return on assets. A big takeaway from attendees is that the board works for you – you don’t work for the board. Accountability was a recurring theme throughout Board Bootcamp. Once families identify that a board is a strategic direction to pursue, Prairie Family Business can help set up the structure and form the board. We can also provide professionals who can identify prospective board members, present finalists for interviews and assist with preparing for and running board meetings. Forming a board does not need to add to the already full plates of family business owners and leaders. A well-functioning board will work for the owners and work for the management.

Callie Tuschen, office manager

One of the takeaways that I heard from a participant during the Farm Family Forum prior to the conference was “The younger generation wants to get out of ‘the pain of not knowing!'” This not only translates to farm and ranch families but to all our member industries. The next generation needs to be a part of the conversation. They need to be involved so they understand their role. They need to understand the timeline they are looking at to step into the leadership of the business. Secrecy doesn’t serve anyone; transparency facilitates clear expectations for everyone.

I also really appreciated the AI topic with Dr. Tom Epperson during the conference. He made it clear that AI is already being used in everyone’s businesses in subtle ways and will be more and more relevant as technology continues to advance. When asked about people’s jobs being replaced by AI, his point was that it’s our responsibility to lift up and educate our workforce so that they are not being replaced by AI, but rather you are utilizing their skills and talents in a different way to continue to grow your business. Innovation is such an interesting topic, and I look forward to more conversations about it, including an upcoming webinar we have planned later this year.

Mason Van Essen, business development manager

The message that has been rattling around in my head since the conference ended is from our Success Story speaker, Willie Robertson of Duck Commander. From his father selling individual duck calls to Walmart stores to Robertson’s meteoric rise in sales when he switched from the worm business on the dock to the candy business at school, Robertson told story after story of his family’s entrepreneurial spirit. His parents and uncle were in their 60s when “Duck Dynasty” aired. They spent most of their lives never considering their future could be this. It’s important to remember that you never know what the future holds; you just need be ready to respond to the opportunities life presents you.

Here’s another takeaway was from one of our pre-conference events, the Business Acceleration Workshop. With a room filled with members of family businesses from different industries, we went one by one bringing up the biggest challenge facing the family business currently, and the others in the room asked questions and provided insights. What impressed me was the palpable relief of having others who understand where you’re at hear your problem and say, “Oh, that happened to us too.” For example, two female-led, second- and third-generation family businesses both admitted their fathers were struggling to move into the next phase of their lives despite having already formally transitioned leadership to the next generation. I was grateful for their vulnerability because it made the session incredibly impactful as all these family business leaders rallied together to solve each other’s challenges.

Lastly, I appreciated how vibrant the Taste of Family Business event turned out. The room was buzzing. The food was phenomenal. The dozens and dozens of conversations that were happening in that room had amazing energy. Plus, having many of the families who were behind the products being served in the room made for a genuine appreciation of what it takes for a family business producer to create a top-notch product and build a network of connections that bring that product to those who will appreciate it. I’m grateful family businesses are key in building a community through food, and I want to give a huge thank you to Vanguard Hospitality for making it all possible!

Peter Hauck, assistant director

Being in the room at our 2024 Family Business Conference was nothing short of electric. There is a real, tangible energy that comes from family businesses connecting with one another that is difficult to describe. Our conference has long been called “the family reunion” for a reason. For many, it is the one place where they make in-person connections with other family businesses that they can continue to lean on for years to come. As you navigate the difficult chapters of being in business with family, having this network of peers to rely on is so critical. I was reminded by several of our families how thankful they are to have this unique opportunity to connect with other people who “get it.”

One of the testimonials we received said: “The conference rejuvenates my spirits that this was our best investment ever. One and a half days is worth it for every person that is in family businesses; the connections alone are worth it.” That is what we are striving for as an organization whose mission is to serve family businesses. We exist to facilitate connections between family businesses to help them take the next step to transition to the next generation. Hearing that the conference is one of the best ways to gain momentum is energizing for both our members and PFBA as an organization.

Attendee feedback

Here’s a look at some of the testimonials PFBA received from families who attended:

“Prairie isn’t the only conference available, but it is heads above the rest. Their speakers are top notch, and their engagement and care for attendees is noted. They run a wonderful and thoughtful event that is well timed and executed. We always learn a lot and look forward to our time at the conference each year.”

“Attending the Prairie Family Business Association conference in Sioux Falls was a transformative experience for our company. The insightful sessions and networking opportunities provided invaluable strategies for navigating family dynamics in business, leading to enhanced cohesion and productivity within our team. This conference truly exemplifies the power of community and knowledge-sharing in fostering sustainable family enterprises.”

“Prairie Family Business helped transform our family’s conversations about the business for the better. PFBA’s expertise helped us work together as a family to discover the best path forward for our family and our family business.”

Next programming

While the Annual Conference is a standout event, you’ll find that same level of quality and expertise throughout PFBA’s programs all year. For a look at upcoming events, click here. Save the date, and register for next year’s Annual Conference on April 30-May 1, 2025, at

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