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CSB Business Symposium: Family Businesses

By Erin Vallagomesa–I had the privilege of attending the annual Cameron School of Business Symposium on November 18, 2016, at the University of St. Thomas.  The keynote speaker and the speakers in the Family Business Breakout Session both shared excellent advice and wisdom about how to make a family business succeed.

Keynote Presentation

The opening keynote of the CBS Business Symposium 2016 was given by Mishal Kanoo who is the Chairman of The Kanoo Group. He began his keynote with an expression of gratitude for the liberal arts education he received at the University of St. Thomas. He especially emphasized the role his philosophy and theology classes played in broadening his world view. The rest of Kanoo’s keynote focused on family business. The three main issues Kanoo spotlighted were: the philosophy behind family business, the pressures family businesses face, and the need for continued education for generational family businesses.

Kanoo shared with the audience two philosophies that most family businesses hold. The first philosophy observes that there are businesses that just happen to be run by a family. This business’ main goal is profit generation, and they tend to focus on the business rather than the family. The second philosophy observes that there are families that run a business. This business’ main goal is the preservation of the family name, and they focus on maintaining integrity as they run the business. Kanoo commented that those businesses who operate by the first philosophy will not last past the third generation, while businesses who operate by the second philosophy will set themselves up for success.

Kanoo also commented on the pressures and difficulties many family businesses face. Most 2nd, 3rd, (etc.) generation family members feel pressured to enter in the family business because they feel like they owe it to them. The family business is the reason they receive their education have the ability to pursue their interests, so newly graduated family members feel pressured to enter the business even if they are not passionate about the industry. Additionally, family businesses must find a balance between the treatment of family members and the treatment of non-family members in the professional setting. Senior management needs to create a positive work environment for all employees. Lastly, family businesses need continue learning about their industries. Founders typically start out as self-made “experts” in their fields; however, as industries evolve, business owners and employees need to stay educated and up-to-date with new information. Owners need guidance and safe spaces where they can share experiences and learn from other entrepreneurs. Kanoo encouraged those in attendance to gather with link-minded people and bring new concepts to one another in order to add value to the university or to their businesses.

I really enjoyed Kanoo’s keynote because he was incredibly genuine and shared a lot of practical knowledge about running a family business. I am a first generation American and the second generation heir to my family business, so I found this keynote inspirational and will use this new wisdom to stay motivated in my studies.

Family Breakout Session

After the keynote presentation, I chose to attend the Family Business Breakout Session.  The first family business breakout session was conducted by Ron and Joshua Daniels, a father-son pair and creators of the Ultimate Lock. Ron was a police captain who sought a way to create safer homes for people, and Joshua is an alum of the University of St. Thomas class of 2013. Together they have expanded multiple businesses and increased sales by almost $3,000,000 since Joshua joined his father.

For the majority of their session, the pair talked about their backgrounds and about how the Ultimate Lock works. In all honesty, it seemed more like a sales pitch than a seminar. When asked how they were able to combine the Ron’s already established vision for the company and Joshua’s vision for the future, Joshua commented that they have to listen to one another and to the market in order to come up with the best synthesis with which to move forward. Nonetheless, the pair were extremely passionate about their business, and they proved to be very knowledgeable about their industry.

The aspect I appreciated the most about their session was the encouragement they offered to those starting their own businesses. Joshua spoke about how it is not necessary to have experience to get started in your business. Daniels frequently said, “If you believe in yourself and operate with resilience, then you will be successful. There will always be a way. Do not let self-doubt sink in because you have to stay motivated and believe in your own ability.”


Erin Vallagomesa

Univ. of St. Thomas, CSB

BBA – Marketing candidate

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