Starting a business together can be an equally daunting and enriching experience for any family. Keeping that business successful from generation to generation often brings a whole new set of challenges and rewards.
More than thirty representatives of local family enterprises were eager to join a discussion that delved deeper into this very topic at the recent Family Business Forum held at Chispa Restaurant in Coral Gables on January 30, 2007.
Hosted by the college’s Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center, the event featured a live case study format that focused on MIC Food, a twenty-year-old, second-generation family enterprise owned and operated by the Lardizabal family.
Founded in 1987, MIC Food specializes in the production and importation of frozen plantain products as well as yucca, mango, papaya, and pineapple fruit products designed to bring a taste of the Caribbean to any kitchen. Corporate headquarters, along with sales and marketing operations, are based in Miami, and production plant facilities are located in Costa Rica and Honduras.
Three family members were on hand for the event to share their different experiences and insights about life inside and outside the family business: Alfredo Lardizabal (BBA ’94), vice president of sales, MIC Food; Maria Lardizabal-Krogh, vice president of marketing, MIC Food; and Cirabel Lardizabal Olson, director of diversity, multicultural, and governmental relations for Burger King Corporation.
“The intent of this forum was to explore the strategies and techniques used to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset among the next generation of family members within the family enterprise,” said Alan L. Carsrud, executive director of the Pino Center, and moderator of the panel. “The ability to identify new market trends and opportunities plays a key role in enabling family enterprises to thrive through multiple generations of leadership.”
Discussions ring true for anyone who has worked in a family business.
“I’ve attended the Pino Center’s Family Business Forum events before,” Lardizabal said. “I always found the topics relevant to my family’s own experiences, so I thought it would be equally worthwhile to be on the other side of the table and talk about where our family’s business has been—and where we hope to go.”
Lardizabal was joined on the panel by one sister who works for MIC Food and one who does not.
“While my one sister, Cirabel, does not work in the family business, she still has a vested interest in the successful future of the company,” he said. “Her strategy has been to go out into corporate America and share what she learns along the way. Her insights are very valuable. Her opinion is one we trust.”
During the panel discussion, the Lardizabal siblings talked about the importance of keeping the lines of communication open between parents and children who are working together.
“My father travels often, overseeing the production side of the business,” Lardizabal said. “But we still try to meet regularly to make sure we are all on the same page.”
At one point, the discussion turned to what Lardizabal describes as one of the more difficult challenges they have had to face together as a family in business: succession planning.
“We’re in the middle of that right now—and it’s not an easy process,” he said. “But it’s key to have a plan in place to guide you as you move the business forward from one generation to another.”
As the panel discussion drew to a close, audience members were invited to participate in a question and answer session.
According to Lardizabal, one of the questions really hit home.
“We were asked how we handle the hierarchy of decision making—who has the final say and why,” he said. “The best answer comes around again to communication—and staying committed to working together to achieve consensus.”
Forum fosters growing sense of community among area’s family-owned businesses.
The recent Family Business Forum is the first of a series of three planned for this year. The ongoing series is clearly making a positive impact within the local business community.
“We are delighted to see many familiar faces coming again and again to the Family Business Forums,” said Colleen Post (MBA ’03, BFA ’00), the Pino Center’s associate director and adjunct professor in entrepreneurship, management, and international business. “Right now, there really is no other vehicle in South Florida that offers such an open, relevant forum for sharing the experiences that are unique to family businesses.”
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation sponsored the event. The Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce and the College of Business Administration’s Business Alumni Chapter were partners for the event, with many members from both organizations in attendance.