Quick Links

Share Article:

Taking Ownership–Family Enterprise credo

Chris Marlow '12 plans to participate in the 2012 Transitions West Conference in California on Family Enterprise.

“Credibility cannot be given or bought. It must be earned.”

Those are the words Chris Marlow ’12 from Flagler Beach, Florida, wrote in a detailed 65-page, 15,000-word Life Plan in the first semester of his sophomore year as a Family Enterprise major. Now on his way to graduate school at the magnificent Glion Institute in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Marlow can proudly look back at his “living document” and his time at Stetson, and know that those steps to earning (internal and external) credibility have been made.

“My Life Plan provided me with a much better sense of a career direction,” said Marlow. “It didn’t do the job for me, but gave me another tool in the toolbox. It helped clarify my definition of success. It defined my favorite working environments and further reinforced my desire to work in a restaurant.”
Marlow’s parents, Tony and Carolyn Marlow, own one of Florida’s most successful beach bars, the Golden Lion Café in Flagler Beach. “I wasn’t sure this is what I really wanted to do at first,” said Marlow. “Even though I had worked in the restaurant since I was 14, my parents had built the business from nothing over the past 20 years, starting with only four tables, and made it an award-winning beachside hotspot.” With minors in Marketing and Business Law now under his belt, Marlow has since learned that he not only has a great deal to offer the family business, he has the potential to take Mom and Dad’s restaurant and bar to places they’ve only dreamed. Mom and Dad agree.

“Stetson’s Family Enterprise Program gave me a fresh perspective on the practical side of the restaurant business,” Marlow added. “My biggest fear was that I’d destroy the company my parents built, but now I have confidence. I have confidence to plan strategically for the future and to discuss openly with my parents about succession planning. My experience makes my opinion more credible now.”

“Part of what has made the center so unique and successful is the holistic approach we take in teaching, in research and in our outreach programs,” said Family Enterprise Professor Greg K. McCann, who is Director and Founder of the Center. “Students remain busy inside and outside of the classroom, participating in internships and national conferences. These things are vital to what we do and are what makes Stetson’s Family Enterprise Center (FEC) a leader in our field. ”

Transitioning into the Real World

With courses first offered in the fall of 1998, Stetson University was the nation’s first university to offer Family Enterprise as a major, and a minor, and was the first university to offer such a program at the undergraduate level.

Just as all Family Enterprise students must complete a personal life and business plan, Chris Marlow was forced to study his family business and himself. The self-assessment helps each student develop a sense of who they are, clarifies their values and definition of success as it relates to their passions and goals and assists in professionalizing their relationship with their parents and peers. Marlow was then exposed to different ways of doing business through mentorships with other professional business owners. He was the mentee of Brian Hill ’85, the longtime family-business owner of the popular DeLand landmark, Brian’s BBQ, which was followed by a 12-week internship with Columbia Restaurants in St. Augustine, a Florida-restaurant franchise founded in 1905.

There are numerous facets to Stetson’s Family Enterprise Center. One in particular was partnering with Family Business Magazine in 2010 to host twice-annually Transitions East (Florida) and West (California) Conferences, named aptly for the difficult challenge of transitioning a successful family business to the next generation. Created by family enterprise owners for family enterprise owners, the Transitions Conferences continue to attract entrepreneurs and top management personnel from Fortune 500 companies. They sell out to a capacity crowd and, most importantly, provide outstanding learning opportunities to Family Enterprise majors in a protected environment. “It has been a pleasure partnering with Stetson University for our Transitions Conferences,” said Family Business Magazine Publisher Caro U. Rock, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “and we look forward to continuing to provide valuable content with them in the coming years.”

“I’ve been to Transitions twice,” said Marlow. “I was very fortunate to be exposed to stories from first-generation to eighth-generation family firms. Meeting Richard Gonzmart, a fourth-generation family member and CEO of the Columbia Restaurant Group, led to my amazing internship.”

“The 2012 Transitions Conference that took place this past semester on April 25 to 27 at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando was incredible,” said Outreach Manager and School of Business Administration Adjunct Professor Peter Begalla. “The conference brought together close to 160 family-business members, speakers and sponsors to candidly discuss transitional issues associated with multi-generational family enterprises. Our goal was to create an innovative and intimate event that involved multiple receptions and speed networking through assigned seat rotations that would maximize the number of introductions and sharing among different family members.”

President Wendy B. Libby addressed the group in the opening session while Stetson students participated in the capacities of event panelists, support staff and attendees. In addition to providing opportunities for students to share their own family enterprises, it was evident to businesses large and small – many having a global presence – the caliber of students Stetson attracts.

Earning Your Place

“At the conference I met people from L.L. Bean and McKee Foods Corporation, the company that makes Little Debbie Snacks,” said Business freshman Daniela Cadavieco ’15 from Caracas, Venezuela, who helps operate Videointegrators Export Company (Vidiexco), a U.S. branch of her father’s company that exports audio and television equipment to Latin American countries and to select places in Europe. “I attended workshops that helped me see how other family businesses deal with issues that I hadn’t even begun to think about in my business. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to learning more.”

Torri Hawley ’13 from Sheboygan, Wis., served as a panelist at the 2012 Transitions Conference, alongside her mother Leslie Hawley, a Board member of Windway Capital, for a discussion on Next Generation Engagement. Hawley hopes to continue her family’s legacy and be innovative and dedicated like her grandfather, Terry Kohler, president and CEO of the Windway Capital Corporation and owner of North Sails. “Stetson’s FEC is a well-rounded curriculum that provides depth in its perspective of management, entrepreneurship and ownership,” said Hawley. “The professors are truly there every step of the way. When people ask me about what I love about Stetson, networking is absolutely the first thing that comes to mind.”

Olivia Stevens ’12 from DeLand is the marketing and media relations director and sales associate for her family business, Boulevard Tire Center, which operates over 15 commercial-sales and service facilities throughout Florida. “I was able to meet some really genuine people at the conference, who are a part of some pretty spectacular businesses,” said Stevens. “I had the pleasure of working with the Yoh family during a conference workshop exercise. They own the century-old business Day & Zimmerman, a leader in industrial, defense and workforce solutions for commercial and government customers. I also met Mr. Ross Born, one of the CEO’s from Just Born, the family owned confectionery company founded in 1923 Mr. Arne Boudewyne, the senior VP of Wells Fargo Wealth Management. They were all interested in what I had to say and were more than happy to give me insight when I had questions about business and about family. That is what really makes this conference a breed of its own.”

Fred A. Lane ’52, ’75 and Patricia Snowden Lane ’53, ’75, members of the Family Enterprise Center Board of Advisors, provided a gift to establish a scholarship for students to be able to attend the 2012 Transitions East Conference. This enabled Daniela Cadvieco to attend the conference. Stetson Trustee and an FEC Board of Advisors member Geoffrey A. Jollay ’75, together with his wife Kay Jollay, made a gift to the same scholarship fund that enabled Olivia Stevens to attend.

Marlow, Hawley, Stevens and Cadavieco join a long line of Stetson alumni who have benefited from the efforts of Stetson’s School of Business Administration faculty and those who have directed the FEC for more than 13 years. “Since graduating eight years ago, I’ve worked for my family’s business (The Complete Logistics Company, an asset-based third-party logistics provider with locations in California, Arizona and Nevada),” said Erica Boyle ’04, the vice president of administration at the family firm, who graduated with a major in Business and minors in Family Enterprise, Management and Sociology. “Stetson University’s Family Enterprise Center helped me understand the challenges that not only the family faces, but that the employees of a family business face.”

“Students sometimes complain that taking FEC courses are ‘too much like having a job,’” said Family Enterprise graduate Kaley Hollis ’09 who is a merchandising coordinator at Giorgio Armani. “However, that aspect of responsibility and accountability are what makes these courses so rewarding in the end. The psychologically introspective component taught by Professor Begalla helps balance that and create an atmosphere of trust, which is especially important early on in the major. It is essential to the program’s culmination. So many college programs focus on simply answering questions correctly and getting a good grade; in the consulting component of the Capstone session, professionalism and applied intelligence are fundamental to the coursework.”

“I learned how to objectively assess social situations, which improved the way I interact with people and handle group dynamics,” said Family Enterprise and Finance graduate Roman Ozimek ’11 who is a client partner with Gartner Inc., the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company for Fortune 100 Companies and government agencies. “Professors forced me to raise the bar higher than I ever thought I could. This keeps me hungry and my clients happy. I love coaching and guiding people and sharing the growth lessons I’ve learned with others.” For those who choose Stetson, Ozimek added that they’d better be prepared to self examine and to have their life changed.

Chris Marlow couldn’t agree more with Ozimek. To reiterate what he learned in FE 235, “Nothing can destroy the sustainability of a family business like owners who don’t take ownership,” said Marlow. “I’ve learned a great deal the last few years at Stetson. Taking over a family business is a balance between following the traditions that made the business successful to begin with and being confident to take the business to new levels. If you don’t venture to new areas, you risk breathing in your own exhaust.”

Marlow’s personal goals once he returns from graduate school in Switzerland are to have learned not only basic chef and general management duties as part of his MBA in International Hospitality and Service Industries Management, but to have earned the respect for a place in management at his family business, the Golden Lion Café. “I want to be able to earn my own money and to have a credible voice in management,” as he wrote in his 65-page living document his sophomore year. Chris Marlow plans to remain involved with organizations like Stetson’s FEC Florida Leader’s Association and the American Marketing Association and to keep in touch with his mentors and alma mater – all guaranteed to make for interesting new chapters in his ever-growing Life Plan.

Read more about the 2012 Transitions West Conference planned for the fall in Marina del Rey, Calif. and other Family Enterprise programs by going to Stetson.edu/family

By Lisa Habermehl

Published in the Spring/Summer 2012 edition

of SU Magazine