Want to start a family business? Take this new MTS...

Want to start a family business? Take this new MTSU course

MTSU business professor Jerry Kudlats is in his second year at MTSU following almost four decades in the private sector, including working for his family’s wholesale auto parts distribution business.

The Toronto, Canada-native spent the first 18 years of his working career in a workplace that included his dad, mom, sister, brother-in-law, and even his wife for a short period.

He hopes to give MTSU students his first-hand insights into what it takes to run and work in a family business through a new course being offered by the Jennings A. Jones College of Business beginning in the spring.Family Business logo

“The statistics basically say that roughly 80 percent of all small business ventures out there are family-owned businesses,” he said. “I’m very familiar with how a family business is operated. And they are run differently than regular businesses. … It’s a whole different mindset.”

Kudlats, an assistant professor in the Business Communication and Entrepreneurship Department, will be teaching BCEN 4100 — Family Business starting in the January.

“There are a lot of schools out there that have family business courses,” he said. “What I’m wanting to do at MTSU is to give students insights into how family businesses may differ from corporate America.”

Kudlats said he and his brother took over the family’s distribution business once their dad retired, but eventually the grind of chasing customers for payment took its toll on him and “it stopped being fun.”

“When it stops being fun, it’s time to get out,” he said. “There’s no job out there that’s worth your health, and if you don’t enjoy doing what you’re doing, you might as well find something else to do.”

After Kudlats and his brother sold the family business in the late 80s, he worked as a business consultant for 20 years or so. When he returned to school four years ago to earn his doctorate degree, his dissertation focused on family businesses. He proposed the new Family Business course last year and received approval this year.

“My whole idea of getting my doctorate and coming back to teaching was, if I can get these kids to make a left hand turn where I made a right hand turn, maybe save them some time, some money, what have you, then I’ve made a little bit of an impact.

WordmarkJonesCollege“In these family firms, family members significantly influence the business, including its creation, continuity, mode and extent of growth, and exit,” Kudlats said. “This course will prepare students to work effectively and professionally in and with family firms, and to launch and create cross-generational wealth in family firms.”

Local family business owners will enhance the classroom experience by sharing their experiences on issues such as conflict resolution, finances, succession plans and more, Kudlats added.

Students will also be required to work on a live family business case throughout the semester in which they identify an area family business, interview family members and work with these businesses to analyze their problems and offer potential solutions.

“I’m trying to make this a lot more interactive,” he said. “Those are the types of things we want to bring into the classroom and make it more hands-on.”

Family Business is an elective course, though it requires a Principles in Management prerequisite course and instructor approval in order to enroll. The course will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 2:25 p.m. in Room S338 of the Business and Aerospace Building.

For more information, call the Business Communication and Entrepreneurship Department at 615-898-2902.

— Jimmy Hart (

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