As president of Grand Rapids Label and chair of the Family Business Alliance, Bill Muir understands what family-owned companies are going through right now. According to Muir, manufacturers remain optimistic heading into the new year, and they’re making more investments to support their customers.
Eventually, the economy will go into another cycle and we’ll have a downturn. How well are family-owned businesses prepared for it?
I think family-owned businesses have gotten smarter in terms of not getting too far ahead of ourselves. I think there is a conservative nature of a family-owned business compared to another business in terms of being able to hold cash. It is different because family-owned businesses are willing to put their own money back into the business to support it.
As you talk to other family-owned businesses, what are they saying about the current market?
When I sit and talk with people and find out what is going on, I think people are optimistic in terms of where it is right now. I still think there is caution from the recession of 10 years ago, but I think people are moving forward and making investments and they are doing the things they can to support their clients.
What legislative issues would you like Gov. Rick Snyder to address next year?
I think from the family-business perspective, there are things that are not necessarily friendly to the family business. I think there are opportunities … through legislation. It’s hard to understand specifically what we need, but the legislators need to understand that a family business is not a bad thing. There are a lot of good things that family businesses do, and I think there has to be an awareness of that.
How will the volatile political environment affect your businesses in 2018?
There has to be a spirit of cooperation. The aspect right now — where everybody is on one side or the other — they are not willing to work with other people. From the family business perspective, businesses do a great job of working with other people. There is a lot of animosity going on. If you look at the legislature, so many votes are down party lines as opposed to people looking out for what’s best. If a Republican says something, then a Democrat is going to disagree just because a Republican said it, not because it’s the wrong thing. And vice versa. The business world does a good job of working through this stuff.
Going forward, what keeps you up at night?
What keeps me up at night is talent. I think a lot of family businesses are experiencing that same thing. They are looking for good talent. It’s interesting: People are always talking about how you need to go to college and get a degree, and that they can’t go into manufacturing. From a manufacturer’s perspective, manufacturing can be a good environment. It can provide good wages and can be a good career for people. That’s where we struggle a lot, and where we struggle in the office as well — finding good talent.
Why is that the case?
A big part of that is where the marketplace is now with unemployment as low as it is. It’s really hard to find good talent. We’ve been fortunate enough at my company to find great talent this year, but when I talk to family businesses, the biggest thing they worry about is finding good talent. It’s more than manufacturers, too. It goes beyond that.