Finding Opportunity in Family-Owned Businesses

Finding Opportunity in Family-Owned Businesses

After completing my undergraduate studies, I pondered ways in which generated wealth could be transmitted to all actors in a system, from corporate stakeholders to broader society.

Motivated by this line of thinking, I began working in private equity, a midterm high-return field, with a focus on creating quantifiable gains for all participants. I led key initiatives as part of the roadmap for multiplying the value of the fund’s investment, but despite the amassed experience, my endeavors only impacted the shareholders’ focus on economic value. I wanted to find the means to foster an organization’s full potential, and not just for profitability’s sake. With that in mind, I moved on to management consulting to develop a more comprehensive approach to firms. In my new firm, I focused on mid-size to large family-owned businesses in Latin America.

Through this work I gained an understanding of family-controlled businesses in emerging markets, realizing they could be the perfect vehicles to shared value; these families have the economic and political power to engender the kind of change that truly encompasses all parties. I believe that entrepreneurial families can be moved by higher incentives than merely a strong return on investment. I’ve found this to be the case in my experience with my own family business. Family-owned companies can lead by their own beliefs, effectively mobilize change, learn from the past, and maintain a long-term financial horizon. Representing more than half of Latin America’s economy, a distorted conception of value has created a gap between these businesses and incumbents in developed countries. My long-term goal is to connect resources (talent, capital, expertise) between the U.S. and Latin American family-owned businesses to create lasting value for both shareholders and stakeholders.

I came to Booth to continue down this path of exploration. To this end, being a co-chair of the Private and Family Business Group has been vital. This club has acted as a platform to connect with fellow students who understand and have experienced first-hand the dynamics of this type of business and are willing to contribute to my thesis. Through long “family” dinners, happy hours, and countless learning events, we have embarked on a journey to explore the many pressing questions that we have had about family-owned businesses. Along the way, we have created a community that will act as a sounding board for our decisions for the rest of our lives.

This platform has also empowered me to go beyond my class and create bridges with other institutions. In my time at Booth, we have worked closely with the Polsky Center, its entrepreneurs, and investors. Through these interactions, I’ve created a network of experts and mentors with whom I have explored how the family-business model connects with other types of entrepreneurship and how investors approach these companies. These relationships will follow me beyond business school, and I’m sure they will be key to supporting my long-term goal.

At the end of the day, these clubs are student-led, and Booth takes that seriously. You can make them whatever you and your community want them to be. These groups are there to support your journey, and they shouldn’t be treated as another checkmark on your list. Time is your scarcest resource, and where you decide to pour yours is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in business school. I decided to use my time to explore this path, what would you do with yours?