From the April 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

The Curtis family, like any other, has its ups and downs. Sibling rivalry rears its ugly head every now and then, and Mom and Dad don't always see eye to eye. The Curtises also run a small business, and this makes their interpersonal relationships all the more important . . . and complicated. And while the Curtises are fictional characters, their story--told in the interactive CD-ROM movie "A Matter of Time"--can help real-life family businesses contend with the unique issues they face.

Created by MassMutual: The Blue Chip Company, "A Matter of Time" doesn't profess to know all the answers, but it does offer several solutions to issues family businesses face, including estate and strategic planning, leadership development, and compensation and performance. (Plus, the movie contains some pretty engaging scenes, especially the harrowing episodes where nonfamily employees get caught in the middle of family disputes.) Users can choose from different scenarios, which are then played out, or click on characters to see what they're really thinking.

"Family businesses tend to be successful, but they have a heck of a time moving from one generation of management and ownership to the next," says Peter O'Neil with Springfield, Massachusetts-based MassMutual. With more than 12 million family-owned businesses in the United States, "A Matter of Time" is more than good drama--it's a valuable tool for family businesses. Contact your local MassMutual office for more information.

Hire Hopes

By Cynthia E. Griffin

Small business is bullish on hiring in '97.

Looking to hire? You're not alone. According to a quarterly survey of more than 400 small-business owners and opinion leaders (delegates to the White House Conference on Small Business) from a cross section of companies, entrepreneurs are optimistic when it comes to hiring. The National Small Business Attitudes Survey, conducted by Cicco and Associates Inc. in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, found that 38 percent of entrepreneurs questioned planned to hire employees during 1997.

"We had not expected entrepreneurs to be as optimistic as they are regarding hiring," says John Cicco, president of the marketing research firm, which has assessed small-business owners' attitudes in 46 such surveys since 1987. "But we've found it's very close to last year's number [40 percent of those surveyed in 1996 planned to hire], and we haven't gotten the indications we normally see for a recession."

The study, which received responses from businesses in 14 industries, found that larger firms (those with 21 or more employees), older firms (at least 10 years old), and those owned by opinion leaders tended to be more optimistic about hiring. Fifty-six percent of larger businesses were planning to hire this year, compared with 33 percent of smaller businesses. Companies in the service sector were also more willing to hire, as were companies owned by men.

Read All About It

What are business owners reading these days? The top 10 business books at press time (based on net sales) were:

1. Ernst & Young Tax Guide 1997, by Editors, $14.95 (John Wiley & Sons)

2. Wall Street Money Machine, by Wade Cook, $24.95 (Midpoint Books)

3. J.K. Lasser's Your Income Tax Guide 1997, by J.K. Lasser, $14.95 (Macmillan Publishing)

4. Milionaire Next Door: The Surprising Truth About Wealth in America, by Thomas J. Stanley and William Danko, $22 (Longstreet Press)

5. The Dilbert Principle, by Scott Adams, $20 (Harper Collins)

6. Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook, by Scott Adams, $16 (Harper Collins)

7. What Color Is Your Parachute 1996, by Richard Nelson Bolles, $14.95 (Ten Speed Press)

8. Personal Finance for Dummies, by Eric Tyson, $19.99 (IDG Books Worldwide)

9. Investing for Dummies, by Eric Tyson, $19.99 (IDG Books Worldwide)

10. Financial Peace, by David Ramsey, $21.95 (Penguin USA)

Contact Sources

MassMutual--The Blue Chip Co., (617) 527-0444;

Cicco and Associates Inc., Murrysville, PA 15668, (412) 325-4600;