High Center launching Lehigh Valley program focusing on family-owned businesses

Stacy Wescoe//May 7, 2021

High Center launching Lehigh Valley program focusing on family-owned businesses

Stacy Wescoe//May 7, 2021

Author and motivator Simon Sinek will be speaking at a High Center event in September. PHOTO/SUBMITTED

Tom Garrity had been looking to partner with a local university for a program focusing on family-owned businesses for some time. His company, Compass Point Consulting, is a business consulting group that works a great deal with family-owned businesses on such issues as succession planning and developing governance systems.

However, money was needed and the difficulties involved in creating such a program from scratch meant the idea never quite came to fruition.

So he was thrilled when he met with people from the High Center, who said the Central Pennsylvania-based business organization was interested in expanding into the Lehigh Valley, with him as a founding partner.

The High Center is run through Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County. It was started in 1995 through funding by the High Companies and other investors to help boost family-owned and privately held businesses. It offers education, peer counseling and other business-boosting services.

“There are a lot of nuances that are unique components of a family business,” said Garrity. “There’s a need for ongoing education for owners.”

He said it is a resource he knows many of his clients need.

“When it’s your business and you don’t answer to anyone, that’s were mistakes are made,” Garrity said. Having access to the peer groups that the High Center offers helps hold leaders accountable and give them positive feedback to stay on track.

While the center is based in Central Pennsylvania, Scott Burky, managing director of new markets for the High Center, said the programming will be run through partners in the Lehigh Valley, such as Compass Point, and events and meetings will be held in Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties to be close to Lehigh Valley members.

Other corporate partners in the region include Concannon Miller, Legacy Planning, Embassy Bank for the Lehigh Valley, the Yurconic insurance agency, Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, Murphy McCormack Capital Advisors and myHR Partner.

“They all got involved because they saw the value of having a resource like the High Center in the Lehigh Valley,” Burky said.

Garrity agreed.

“It’s good for our brand and who we are,” Garrity said. He believes partnering with the High Center will boost the founding business’ image in the region as a leader.

The partner will host peer groups organized by High Center facilitators that will bring together owners, CEOs and other high-level executives of family-owned and privately held companies to meet every other month to discuss business ideas and mentor one another for growth.

The High Group will also work on awareness among its membership by using tools such as best-practices surveys. It will also educate members by bringing in national speakers to talk about issues important to their work.

With COVID-19 restrictions lifting, Burky said the center does plan to host in-person events in the Lehigh Valley starting in June.

One upcoming event is a talk by author Simon Sinek, who teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people.

Membership in the nonprofit High Center costs $2,200 per year. Membership in the organization’s peer groups is $700 per person per year.

“Criteria to apply for membership starts with being a privately held or family business with revenue between $5 million and $100 million,” said Burky. “Another critical factor for members is having a learning mindset and recognizing the value of education and peer support.”