Agriculture News

December 19, 2016

Purdue initiative aims to help family businesses

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University agricultural economist Maria Marshall understands the significant financial and emotional investment required to run a successful family business.

“Research shows that one of the biggest reasons family businesses fail is family dynamics,” says Marshall, director of the Purdue Initiative for Family Firms, commonly known as PIFF. “A lot of families want to talk about these issues, but they might not know exactly how.”

A good first step, she said, is to visit PIFF’s new website.

The site, available at, provides a wealth of information in four critical subject areas: estate and personal financial planning, strategic business planning, leadership and succession planning and maintaining family bonds.

The content was developed through extensive research conducted by Marshall and her colleagues from Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics.

“We do a lot of education, helping people think through the process,” Marshall said. “It’s all about setting expectations before a crisis comes about.”

Interactive tools available on the website can help families in business make critical decisions about financial management, personnel issues, marketing and legal matters. There are also resources available for improving communication within both the business and family.

Family businesses are a critical part of the U.S. economy, especially so in rural areas, Marshall said.

“If you go to a restaurant or small retail shop, you’re probably dealing with a family business,” Marshall said. “About 77 percent of all U.S. businesses started as family-owned organizations. Family firms comprise about 80 to 90 percent of all business enterprises. About 35 percent of the Fortune 500 firms are family controlled. Moreover, the majority of farm and agricultural businesses are family controlled, from Cargill to the smallest family farm.”

The Purdue Initiative for Family Firms was created to conduct research and provide information to help families in businesses succeed, she said.

“We provide multi-generational family businesses in Indiana with research-based business management resources aimed at improving personal leadership performance and driving operational growth,” she said. “The goal is to prepare family business owners, shareholders and stakeholders, including non-owner spouses and future owners, for effective stewardship of their family enterprises.”

Educators, students, attorneys, accountants and others who work with family businesses can find vital information through the initiative, Marshall said.

“We hope to provide the research and resources to help a variety of people, both urban and rural,” she said.

For more information, go to the PIFF website at, or contact Marshall at 765-494-4268,

Writer: Darrin Pack, 765-494-8415,

Source: Maria Marshall, 765-494-4268,

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-8415;
Darrin Pack, 
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