Prioritizing education for the succeeding generation

The late Larry H. Miller, founder of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, was not a good student. Though he was intelligent, he was often thrown out of class and school. He barely graduated high school.

His eldest son, Greg, attended a couple of years of college, but says he learned more by working with his dad.

“My real formal and meaningful education was in the business,” Greg says. Sitting with Larry to work out deals and identify the best prospects set Greg on the path to lead the company when his father died.

Matriarch Gail Miller, however, has come to value education in a formalized setting. She’s served on the board of trustees for Salt Lake Community College and established the Larry H. Miller Campus there.

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The first step Gail took to start family education was to take G2 to Harvard University’s Families in Business intensive course for a week. She wanted to be sure the business was on the right track and to learn how to handle succession.

For the third and fourth generations, Gail put in place an education policy. It’s actually more than a policy — it’s a program.

To facilitate the program for the 63 members of G3 and G4 — a number that is expected to grow — Gail hired the dean of students away from the University of Utah.

The former dean is something of a personal development coach for G3. After they graduate from high school, he talks to them about their interests and offers advice on higher education and where to get tutoring if they need it. The development can also include financial literacy and parenting lessons.

“I think we’re making good strides in getting these kids educated and prepared to not just be plucked [into the business] because they’re a Miller,” Gail says.

Family funds will pay for all education as long as students keep up a certain grade point average and a certain number of course hours.There are 14 grandchildren in college or graduate/professional school right now.

In addition, the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies’ office hosts a Cambridge Institute family business course for the third generation.

“I don’t want to force anyone into anything they’re not suited for or not interested in,” Gail says. “But I’m trying to cover all my bases.”

— April Hall

September/October 2018

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