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Thinking outside of the box at Shurtape

Stephen Shuford (MBA '97)

Stephen Shuford (MBA ’97)

Stephen Shuford (MBA ’97) knows the unique advantages and challenges of leading a family enterprise. Shuford is a fifth generation leader at Shurtape Technologies, a company born from his family’s Shuford Mills enterprise.

When Shuford entered his family business in 1997, he faced the challenge of getting out of the box. Shurtape Technologies, a designer and producer of tapes like the popular Duck Tape brand, grew out of a North Carolina mill company but faced competition from large multi-national companies. As he worked to lessen both operational and investor risk at Shurtape, Shuford learned several lessons about successfully operating and growing a family enterprise.

Leveraging family reputation is important. A company’s focus must be on its most promising opportunity. In family enterprises, where emotional ties to certain projects or strategies run deep, leaders must remain objective. Opportunity costs can be substantial and sound business decisions must not be sacrificed for legacy businesses that no longer make sense.

Diversify capital sources. Non-bank capital, though it comes at a cost, can be a foundation for long-term growth. Because banks can fail, Shurtape has relationships with several, and with other sources of long-term capital.

Manage and cultivate family relationships in the enterprise. Shuford believes in the importance of third-party resources and their ability to advise when familial variations are causing strife and recommends using consulting services to work through differences in vision and management styles. He also sees the importance of  family management sharing a long-term vision. Family leaders must put long-term goals on the table and work from there.

What you are today does not define what you will be tomorrow, says Shuford, who has succeeded in diversifying Shurtape Technologies with regards to market share, investor risk and geography. This dynamic approach to family business has transformed Shurtape into the fast-growing company it is today.

By Chase Daughtridge (BSBA ’12)

The Family Enterprise Center prepares next generation family business students for leadership and ownership in family firms.