DePaul Spotlight on Dr. Harold Welsch

Chicago Family Business Council: Tell us a little bit of about your Entrepreneurship department?

Dr. Harold Welsch: We’re housed within the Management department. We are one of several concentrations.  We have been nationally recognized for the last 12 years and have been ranked in the top 20 by Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

As I am learning, there are many different types of entrepreneurs that come in all sizes, shapes, and industries.  We are now, rather than lumping everyone into the same 30 million category, differentiating different types of entrepreneurs by industry, gender, geographic location, personality, approaches (single entity or serial entrepreneur). I recently finished a paper called the “12 tribes of Entrepreneurship” with this in mind.

CFBC: Tell us why you chose to come to DePaul.

H.W.: I chose to come here because of the spirit.  DePaul allowed me the flexibility for growth and development.  It wasn’t burdened by government restrictions.  I met with the priests who were running the institution and they impressed me as personable, warm, caring, and interested in professional development of both the students and the faculty.  I believe it has retained that character over the 40 years that I have been here.

The other unique feature DePaul offers is the friendly and supportive environment for faculty. We have a lot of assistance, support, and mentoring of younger faculty.  We often work together on joint publications.

In addition, we stress the experiential side of entrepreneurship which has carried over to other programs within the university.  We are big believers in “hands on” training.  I like to call it the medical model.  We put hands on to solve some of those problems for businesses like an intern/resident.  That is one reason why we started the Entrepreneurship Center to do outreach activities working with businesses in the community regardless of location, size, and ethnicity.  We work with alumni family businesses as well as businesses that are not affiliated with us, but just have a need. In fact, we have served over 2,000 clients with our community consulting since 1973.  We bring some of those experiences back into the classroom and it makes for a richer environment and more interesting lectures. We bring entrepreneurs to the classroom to tell their own stories, successes, and challenges they have encountered.

CFBC: What was your first impression of DePaul?

H.W.: It was professional and it offered a window of opportunity for students to jump, if we had a caste system, two or three ranks in the social strata.  Students usually had parents who were blue collar workers and children were given a chance to move beyond that.  DePaul was known as the university that took immigrant and first generation college students.  It also impressed me as having to fight harder because we were number two when we were compared with University of Chicago and Northwestern.  We had to fight to maintain legitimacy, credibility and prestige.  I like to be in the fighting competitive mode.  It is good because it improves everyone. DePaul administrators were open and innovative and principled at the same time.  They allowed me the flexibility to establish and found the entrepreneurship program.

CFBC: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with DePaul, and why?

H.W.: I think the freedom. There is something called academic freedom. It is really practiced here at DePaul.  It allows you to open any new vistas you believe in and are worthwhile so you have potential for growth. They stood behind their word encouraging that. It is exemplified in their permission or in their agreement to establish a brand new entrepreneurship program that didn’t exist before.  They were smart, receptive, and cognizant of developments in the field.

The small business sector reduces unemployment and is a vehicle for the greatest addition of new jobs. DePaul allowed me to carve out this niche and they put resources behind it.  It was a brave thing to do and they took a risk and made it pay off.  It was a calculated risk in supporting my efforts.  They could have put the resources into something else, but they had enough faith in me to grow the program.  And I was able to carve out a niche within the university.

CFBC: What has been your greatest lesson you’ve learned through your work at DePaul?

H.W.: Treat the whole person.  We are all composed of a mosaic of needs, wants, motives, desires, and motivations, and maximizing only one element of that doesn’t get you to the ultimate success level that you want. You have to address the technical, financial, spiritual, academic, and personal elements because together they make a whole person. In our first two years in the undergraduate program, we have core courses where you learn basic humanities and analytical skills and then you start specializing in your third and fourth year.

CFBC: What do you wish CFBC members knew about DePaul or your department, and why?

Coleman Foundation is a $300 million foundation that was borne out of Fannie May candies.  It supports entrepreneurship education across the country.  There are about a dozen Coleman professors existing currently that all have a unique twist on entrepreneurship.  But we do compare notes and share best practices.  And then there is a U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) and I think they have a family business division.  We exchange case studies, syllabi, lecture notes, etc.

Together with your members, I think we can do applied case studies or family business histories.  Together members could present these and the academics could create some theories or explanations, background, for some of the phenomenon going on in the family businesses.

We are overjoyed to have CFBC working with us.  We feel this is a new opportunity to strengthen and highlight each other jointly.

CFBC: How could you serve as a resource for the CFBC members, and how could they serve as a resource for you?

H.W.: I’d like to offer my 40 years of experience dealing with any small or family business issues.  I’m going to be offering a family business course in the fall called Management 798 Family Business Enterprises.  It should be on a Wednesday night, and I would ask the members to be a resource for that endeavor and get their insights and nuggets of experiences so they can share them with the next generation of students.  Any interested members can contact Judy or Leslie directly.

I think back to me being a resource.  I think I can open doors within the university to work with other departments and resources, (media relations, faculty members, administrators that might have specialized expertise and additional contacts that will be useful to the family business owners), externally with finance, venture capitalists, and bankers.  We have a large network of consultants, providers, and professionals.

We would like to know more about family business and their unique challenges.  Family businesses appear to be more complex than non-family businesses.  I was introduced to the family business arena by John Ward, Lloyd Shefsky, Andrew Kyet, Joe Astrachan, and Drew Mendoza.  Those folks are my friends and acquaintances, and we’ve shared panels and podiums. And John Ward invited me to help write an annual report for Ravenswood Bank where he was a board member. He thought about some family business issues and asked us to comment about those in the report.

I am looking forward to interacting with the diverse background of the CFBC members, learning about their businesses, talking about their strategies, helping them with their challenges, and gaining additional insights to what works and finding unique solutions.

CFBC: Tell me about someone who has influenced your decision to do the work you do?

H.W.: The person who hired me, his name was Nick Parisi.  He was the chairman of the management department back in 1972.  He allowed me the flexibility to establish a research program in entrepreneurship.  We did a significant number of interviews with small businesses in the Chicago community.  We asked them their problems and from these interviews we made a list of 26 problems.  And then we designed a questionnaire instrument where we asked them to rate the frequency of these problems in their businesses.

From that list we chose the three most frequent problems and we did seminars on each of them.  That was our first outreach beyond the classroom to the general public. And it was a big hit and they wanted more.  So we developed more and more seminars and brought in experts.  Financing was the #1 problem from the entrepreneurs and so we did an all-day seminar on financing.  We did the same with retailing and marketing.  And now switching to modern times, we now have Dean Whittington encouraging us to extend our community outreach through the Entrepreneurship Center and the Chicago Family Business Council. He is supported by Scott Young, Chairman of the Management Department, who strongly believes in the experiential approach to teaching.

CFBC: What would you tell our members who are thinking about working with DePaul?

H.W.: I think we should both try to be resourceful in trying to find out about each other’s strengths and expertise. In think it is a synergistic relationship where we can learn from each other.  We need more street knowledge and experiences that would enrich our theoretical models that we talk about in the classroom.  I think CFBC members are a tremendous resource that hasn’t been publically available.  We would appreciate members making themselves available to questions.  Inquiries about how family businesses function would make us very happy.

CFBC: What one book would you recommend to our members?

H.W.: Getting Along in Family Business: The Relationship Intelligence Handbook by Colette and Ed Hoover. These writers were so successful that a medium sized CPA firm asked them to partner and handle all their family business issues. They specialized in emotional intelligence and I wrote the book review in the Family Business Review.


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