A Publication of WTVP

Last month, Col. William P. Robertson invited me to attend “Business and Industry Days” at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center in Wisconsin with members of the Air National Guard. The two-day event provides employers and community leaders an inside look at the training and demands of the citizen-soldiers and airmen who also maintain careers outside of the military.

Flying in a KC-135 Stratotanker-those used to refuel aircraft mid-flight-and watching the response to a simulated attack on the base were quite memorable experiences, as you could imagine, but I was even more inspired by the presentations made by some of the Guardsmen.

What impressed me most was their passion and loyalty–to each other, to our country and to our future. They referred to the Guard as a “family,” and talked about how common it is for volunteers to span generations within a family. Not only are they committed to serving and defending America, they are committed to each other.

The closing ceremony and aircraft fly-over was a humbling experience for me. With the theme of family business on my mind, I couldn’t help but relate the passion and loyalty of our Guard members to the loyalty of the families featured in this issue.

None of this comes as a surprise, to be sure. It’s no revelation that the National Guard is a tight-knit organization–much like a family–nor is it remarkable to note the same of family-owned businesses. For Guardsmen, as for those involved in a family business, it’s more than a job or a paycheck–it’s a way of life.

I know this from firsthand experience. Running a small business is very hard work. When children, spouses and extended family members are involved, it is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse, as the balance of work and family is very nearly an impossible task. But it’s not a gap that can’t be bridged.

“Long-lasting successful business families see their challenge not as an intimidating problem, but as an opportunity,” notes John L. Ward, a leading authority on family business governance, in Perpetuating the Family Business. “It’s like having respect for the sea. You can drown in it or be swept away by its awesome power. Or, you can learn to swim and navigate so that you can enjoy the water and use it to your advantage.”

2Chez’ Todd Hohulin observes that in a small business, even the non-family members come to seem like part of the family. This summer, two interns–Karina Swank and Anna Gaynor–joined the CIBP family to help us put this issue together, working very hard on many of the articles you see here. And we couldn’t have done it without them!

The companies you will read about in this issue are just a tiny sampling of the many family-owned businesses in central Illinois, each with their own unique histories. But with so many more stories to tell, we are considering a follow-up issue. Send an email to [email protected] if you are interested in telling yours! iBi