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Family firms account for about 90 percent of all businesses, but the failure rate is enormous.

To help with that, the University at Buffalo’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership is launching a program designed to help with the specific challenges that can befall a family business.

In addition to traditional services, like succession planning and creating advisory boards, the program starting in February will apply principles of positive psychology to help local family businesses thrive.

There will be a focus on creating healthy interpersonal relationships, peer-to-peer support groups, improving communication skills, dispute resolution, and identifying and aligning individuals’ strong suits with their jobs.

“It’s a unique set of support and services,” said Thomas Ulbrich, assistant dean and executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “Family businesses are complex systems, and we’ll provide an environment where family members can flourish individually while collaborating to run a business successfully.”

Scott E. Friedman, local attorney and family business consultant, is the co-founder of the program and will serve as its executive-in-residence, along with Ulbrich and Amy Habib-Rittling, a family business adviser. Friedman’s fifth and latest book, “Family Business and Positive Psychology: New Planning Strategies for the 21st Century,” is the foundation for the new program’s curriculum.

“This program is ground-breaking, there’s nothing like it anywhere,” said Friedman, who is a managing partner at Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP. “It’s like counseling for the family business, getting to the causes of family business dysfunction.”

While family businesses account for 90 percent of all businesses, “nine out of ten of them don’t make it to the grandchildren,” Friedman said.

Family businesses become stagnant due to issues like “convenience over fit,” where promotions are doled out to individuals because they were next in line, not based on ability or qualifications. Feelings of unfair compensation or lack of recognition for contributions are also eating away at the foundation of family-owned firms, Friedman said. Those issues, along with others, will be addressed in the program.

Its offerings will include workshops, round-table conversations, coaching and a 10-week course, “Growing a Healthy Family Business.”

The program’s cost ranges from $500 to $1,700 and includes special pricing for multiple family members and enrollment in the new Family Business Association.

Members of the association can attend four major networking and two major speaker events a year. Sylvia Lafair, author of “Don’t Bring It to Work,” and an expert on pattern awareness in families and generational differences, will be the program’s first speaker in March.

Ulbrich said because of the abundance of family businesses and their high failure rate, a new approach was necessary to help these ventures survive.

“We didn’t want to create another business center; we wanted it to be special,” he said. “We wanted it to fill a gap.”

To learn more or become a member, call 885-5715 or email mgt-cel@buffalo.edu.

email:esapong@buffnews.com