This fall will mark the 30th anniversary of a program at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business that isn’t especially well known, but has been a great source of pride for family businesses throughout the state.
The Institute for Family Business each year honors outstanding Texas family businesses with the Texas Family Business of the Year Awards Program.
Dr. William J. Worthington is director of the Institute for Family Business at Baylor. He teaches classes on family business and explores the dynamics at work in their success and continuity.
“We have this amazingly successful program that’s not well-known or even tagged well with the Baylor brand,” Worthington said. “Right here in Waco are tons of family-owned businesses that haven’t heard of us, and we really need to change that.”
The Texas Family Business of the Year Awards Program recognizes multi-generational, family-owned firms whose families demonstrate a commitment to each other, to their employees, to the community and to business continuity.
The institute has a daylong spring symposium slated for May 3. The fall has a smaller two-hour symposium prior to the Nov. 8 banquet in the Paul and Jane Meyer Conference Center at Hankamer. Last year 275 attended the Texas Family Business of the Year Awards banquet, said Linda Ramirez, program manager.
“It’s really a way to celebrate these family businesses,” Worthington said. “We get so much out of it. It gives a lot of these businesses a chance to sit back and take in their own history. Filling out the application forces them to look back at their past and honor it.
“I think they don’t get the chance to do that often. They are so busy putting out fires day in and day out that there’s just no time to celebrate where they’ve come from and where they are today.”
Central Texas family businesses have been well represented at the awards banquet through the years. In 2018, Insurors Indemnity Companies in Waco was named the Medium Family Business of the Year, while Mattson Financial Services in Waco won the Fastest Growing Award and Barsh Fitness & Holistic Nutrition of Aquilla received the New Family Business Award.
Businesses are honored by size (small, 50 or fewer employees; medium, 5 1-150 employees; large, 151 or more employees), as well as in eight categories with five others honored as finalists.
The online nomination is simple, Worthington said, and a business doesn’t have to follow through with the application process. But if they do, they’ll deal with a lot of questions.
“It is a process,” Ramirez said. “We ask them a lot of questions and they have to pull together a lot of information.”
The program received 126 applications last year, Ramirez said. From there, a group of 16 judges went to work.
“We put them through the wringer,” Worthington said of the judges. “They have a lot of work to do to go through the judging process. They are all volunteers and they really lean in and do a lot of work for us. They are all seasoned professionals and it’s fun to get their input.”
The judges have guidelines and criteria to follow and score the nominees.
“The last few years, the top award winners and the finalists are separated by hundredths of a point,” Ramirez said. “Almost always. It’s really close.”
Worthington added, “If you make it into the (banquet) room, it’s a big deal.”
While businesses with Baylor connections would seem to have a leg up in this competition, that isn’t the case. But sometimes that Green and Gold works its way in.
“We’ve had a lot of winners that were not directly related to Baylor, but then you’re amazed to learn there’s a niece or a nephew who may have gone to Baylor,” Ramirez said.
She recalled a recent winner that didn’t appear to have a Baylor tie, only to find out during the acceptance speech that the founder’s wife graduated from Baylor in the 1800s.
Worthington enjoys that the program is great exposure for the business owners as well as Baylor business students.
“(Business owners) get to interact with our current students and I think that’s a blast,” he said. “Our students are sitting among them at the tables. Many of them are taking the family business class or related ones.”
When award recipients are decided, Ramirez contacts the winners and requests they provide 25 to 30 high-quality images that are used in a three-minute video presentation shown at the banquet.
“For a lot of them it is kind of a history of the business,” Ramirez said. “That presentation stirs up some emotions.”
One emotional moment from a couple of years ago, remains fresh in Worthington’s memory.
“We had this big guy, 6-(foot)-4, and he was up there in tears because it was his teenage daughter who forced him to fill out the application, got on his case to get it done, and was a big part in fulfilling all the steps,” he said.
“He was so proud of her, and what she forced him to do. Of course, she’s next-generation, potentially, and so the magnitude of all this was just settling in on him as he was talking on the stage.
“It’s real life. It’s real business. And it’s real family. And that’s kind of neat.”
Texas Family Business of the Year
The program is run by the Institute for Family Business at Baylor University. The application process for these awards is open until April 30. Information is available online at Baylor.edu/business/txfamily/