4 Takeaways: Family Business and COVID-19

Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Dean's Leadership Series examines the impact COVID-19 is having on family businesses in Charlotte

The Dean’s Leadership Series, a new online series for UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business, focused on the impact COVID-19 is having on family business with a panel of Charlotte-based business leaders on Monday, Nov. 16. 

Here are four takeaways from the session.

1. Be present

Larry Griffin Jr. '84, principal at Griffin Brothers Companies (GBC), says being present helps to create a strong company culture. “I would never ask an employee to do something I would not do,” he says. 

2. Build a strong foundation 

Mike Griffin, also principal at GBC, says what sets family businesses apart, especially during uncertainty, is their patience. “It took 60 years of building a foundation, and we learned to be conservative and not aggressive,” Mike Griffin says. “Some aspect of patience is important.” 

GBC, founded in 1961 by Larry and Mike Griffin’s father, has grown into a $50 million enterprise that includes a diversified portfolio of businesses. New ventures include Royal Bliss Brewing, which opened in March, and ZoomUp Investments, which invests in next generation leaders, known as Zoomers.

3. Have safety plans in place

Chuck Howard ‘71, president and CEO of Autobell Carwash, says his company is fortunate to have an experienced safety director who developed plans that could be implemented to keep workers safe.  

“It’s been a challenge, but we’ve come through it, and we expect to continue to grow as we get into next year and beyond,” Howard says. 

Howard also outlined how his company pivoted in March to roll out
an interior disinfectant service for vehicles, which helps keep customers and workers safe. 

Autobell, founded in 1969 by Howard’s father, operates more than 85 locations. Howard is also CEO and founder of Howco Inc., a distributor of car wash equipment and supplies.

4. Embrace technology

Susan Jamison
'78, the owner of Wealth Matters, LLC, a consulting firm that advises family businesses, says she’s seen families bond virtually as they share their favorite vacation photos, review company history, or collaborate using online workspace tools. “I’ve seen people be more creative than they’ve been in years,” Jamison says.   

Torsten Pieper,
associate professor of management for the Belk College, was the moderator. Pieper is president of the International Family Enterprise Research Academy, the largest network association of family business researchers in the world, and is one of nine researchers on three continents working on a global project to evaluate how family businesses are adapting to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Dean’s Leadership Series aims to give back to the Charlotte business community and celebrate the college’s 50th anniversary. Fall sessions also focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, and on COVID-19's impact on commercial real estate. The schedule for spring 2021 will be announced soon.

A recording of the event is available on Belk College's YouTube page.