Family Business Wisdom: Graduation 2015

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June 2015
On the morning after graduation, newly minted Kellogg MBA graduates from business-owning families from a dozen different countries--and members representing three generations of their families--attended a Commencement Celebration Talk and Reception hosted by the Center for Family Enterprises.

Professor John Ward's talk covered thoughts on working for one's family enterprise directly after Kellogg or in the future.

He ended by asking the family elders in the audience for advice they would share with the graduates. Responses ranged from personal to corporate.

  • The father of an MBA graduate from El Salvador advised, "Believe in yourself, but listen to others - do not have the attitude "my way or the highway." He also cautioned, "Don't forget the human touch. Companies are made of people. Though you can send an employee an e-mail of congratulations for a job well-done, it is still much better to deliver it personally." His wife shared, "I cannot stress enough the importance for family businesses to create boards that are composed in part of independent directors".
  • The father of a JD/MBA graduate from the U.S. cautioned, "In a family business, recognize when circumstances are changing, and be prepared to make tough decisions," especially when the traditional business of the founder is involved.
  • The father of an MBA graduate from Nicaragua complimented the graduates on learning much during their time at Kellogg, but cautioned, "You now have the Kellogg MBA 'know-how', but remember that we [elders working in the business] have the 'know who' and the 'know why' ".
  • The mother of a U.S. MBA graduate whose family business has achieved its 5th generation and 100th year, shared the wisdom carried through the ages by the family leaders since the founding, "Have a passion for the business, but also have a passion for the community. As soon as you settle home, dive into in one or more community activities. If you make the communities in which you operate healthy, you will be enriching lives."
The group assembled for the photo are graduates from business-owning families and their grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, spouses, in-laws, offspring and professors.