Lessons Learned from Working in the Family Business

August 2014
On July 23, 2014, a panel of four Chicago-area Kellogg alumni from business-owning families spoke on the Evanston Campus to a group of students from the India School of Business Master's in Family Business program in Evanston for a week-long exchange, and to a group of Kellogg students from business families who were in their first quarter of the 1Y MBA program.

Advice from the panelists included:

Brent Stern '12 (1Y) is a G4 member of Rogers Enterprises, Inc., a retail jewelry company, headed by his father, and works as its Director of Marketing and IT.
  • "Be ready for a rollercoaster ride. The highs are higher than any other job or role that I have had, but the lows are also much lower."
  • "Separating business from family is easier for some in the family than others. Figuring out who is good at this and who is not can be the key to your sanity."
  • "Sometimes, my voice carries more weight than my position merits due to being in the family. Being aware of this (both in the positive and negative aspects) has been very helpful for me."

Danielle Dy Buncio '12 (2Y) was a G2 member of her parents' construction business and is founder and CEO of VIATechnik, an outsourcing design and engineering firm.
  • "I felt pressure as the oldest to take over the family's engineering/construction business started and led by my parents. Instead I followed their footsteps of entrepreneurship by launching a related family business with my husband. At first this was difficult for all of us, but now my parents are happy at our success, and I am still involved in their business as a supportive resource when needed."

Brad Serlin '01 (EMP) is a G2 member of United Scrap Metal Buyers and Recyclers founded by his mother, and is currently its president.
  • "The blood, sweat and tears of joining the family business are so unique that the most valuable learning takes place in the 'School of Hard Knocks,' working through the various facets of the business."
  • "Good communications among the family leaders is essential so that no dissent or misalignment is shown to others.
  • "Have a visible and transparent succession plan."

Robert Pasin '97 (PTMBA) is G3 member of Radio Flyer, Inc, a toy company best known for its iconic Radio Flyer red wagon. He is the CEO whose title is Chief Wagon Officer (CWO).
  • "Great care must be taken to maintain the quality and integrity of an iconic brand, while at the same time, innovating to meet customer need and to attract the best talent."