Thrive Conference gives family businesses a boost
By Mark Heller
GCU News Bureau
Ears were perked and business cards were dealt out like cards as a few hundred entrepreneurs and family business owners gathered Wednesday at Grand Canyon University Arena for the Thrive Family Business Conference.
Hosted by Intentional Living Center president, author and radio personality Dr. Randy Carlson, Wednesday’s daylong presentation featured a half-dozen speakers, more than a dozen video presentations, guest panels and interactive Q-and-A sessions with successful family business entrepreneurs of faith.
The day’s focus revolved around helping the audience navigate the dozens of challenges (large and small) entrepreneurs and small businesses encounter. Both GCU President Brian Mueller and Colangelo College of Business namesake Jerry Colangelo shared their passions for entrepreneurship and how to navigate the realms of uncertainty in building an organization from the very beginning — whether in education, sports or otherwise.
“You learn much more from failure and losses than the wins,” Colangelo said. “Out of adversity comes opportunity.”
The day concluded with an entertaining and informative panel of four guests: Rick and Holly Betenbough, a husband-and-wife team who’ve built a successful housing development business in west Texas; Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist, author and creator of the Leman Academy of Excellence, tuition-free, K-7 charter schools throughout the Tucson area; and his son-in-law, Dennis O’Reilly, the head of school for the academy.
With five daughters — one of whom is in charge of more than 20 traditional schools around Tucson — dynamics between parents and children and business and family is a daily dynamic with the Leman family tree. And sometimes its success is easier said than done.
“It’s the school of ‘excellence,’ not perfection,” Leman said. “Your business needs to be a fun place where people and (employees) feel part of your mission.”
Many in attendance shared similar missions and goals. The information overload and thought-provoking concepts were too numerous to keep track of in an eight-hour time frame, but plenty in attendance found plenty of information worthy of reflection.
“I’m not a big sports person, but I knew the Colangelo name,” said Wendy Avant, who recently left the corporate world after 20 years to begin her own home business in Tucson. “He was fantastic.”
The 45-minute panel concluded the day’s events with discussions on everything from tithing, successor and estate planning, communication with family between business and personal, work-life priorities and “opportunity” vs. passion.
“Provisions is a terrible reason to do anything,” Rick Betenbough said. “Passion-less work is a disaster.”
For several in attendance, both Colangelo’s and Mueller’s speeches resonated with attendees. This was partially because of the “entrepreneurial spirit” they both emphasized as being part of GCU’s values, and partially because of the illustrious careers and leadership of both Mueller and Colangelo.
“I wanted to be in charge and decide things on my own terms through God,” said James Sizemore, who also left the corporate world after a decade to start his own business in Phoenix. “You learn so much from these speakers. Everyone’s journey is different, but there will always be a lot of similarities among us.”
Mark Heller can be reached at (602) 639-7516 or firstname.lastname@example.org