In attending the award ceremony of MSU’s College of Business’ Family Business Day, one walks among true greatness, as affirmed by the stories these families tell about their history, their struggles and their achievements. Everyone involved with the program says much the same thing about how much they enjoy it. One always leaves the event, more so than any other, inspired and proud to know that there are such people in our midst.
In all the 23 years of the program no small family business owners ever walked up to accept their award with a swagger. They know, more than most, what a venerated and formidable group it is to which they belong. While they are proud to be a part of that group, they are also profoundly respectful of the achievements of so many others. So it is that Fred Stout of Mars Stout, said he was accepting his company’s award on behalf of all those who are never recognized. “We are sharing this award with many small businesses that could be here more appropriately,” he said.
Don Cowles of Wild West Shirt Company commented, too, upon the importance and yet largely unrecognized and unappreciated role that small family businesses make in the state’s economy.
But, they play a role not only in the economy, but in every community in which they work and serve. They are every community’s social and civic foundation. They provide jobs, yes, but more — it is mostly small family businesses that support and cultivate every aspect of public causes, civic events and philanthropic endeavors. They do so in treasure, but also in the volunteering of their personal time, skills, talent, and resources.
Most of them tell stories of never imagining themselves as being entrepreneurs, and their agriculture roots are often cited as the source of the entrepreneurial spirit. Such was the recognition of Rita Elliot, for whom both family branches were dry land wheat farmers. While farming is often credited as a source of entrepreneurial spirit, the many kinds of family businesses extend far beyond any agriculture roots. “The depth and breadth of Montana small businesses is amazing,” said Anya Peterson-Frey, director of the Small Business Development Center at MSU. And, indeed, it is. Most Montanans would be stunned to learn how innovative, creative and successful, so many of their neighbors are. It is a sad thing that they don’t know more about all the many kinds of businesses. Few things could be more inspiring.
So it is astounding, given how many family owned businesses there are all around us, and given their importance to us all, that there aren’t more nominations made for this award and other business awards, in the state. Anyone can make the nominations, so look around and identify those involved in family businesses, who you admire and believe can be an inspiration for others – and nominate them.
- Category: Editor
- Written by Evelyn Pyburn
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