SJU IFBE Member Appreciation Dinner on June 4th, 2014


The Saint Joseph’s University Initiative for Family Business and Entrepreneurship (IFBE) hosted our 1st Annual Member Appreciation Dinner on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014, to celebrate our first year anniversary. Our host was the celebrated family-owned restaurant Positano Coast in Old Town Philadelphia.
Our guest speaker was Chris Lowney, award-winning author of the best-selling book, Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World. Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit, worked for J.P. Morgan for seventeen years, serving as a managing director in New York, Tokyo, Singapore, and London. Lowney currently lives in New York City, where he is a consultant for the Catholic Medical Mission Board. The main topic of his presentation was leadership.
Several points from his presentation:
  • What is your “great deal of confidence” in their political, business sectors, education, and religious leaders? Only 10 to 20% of North Americans had confidence in their leaders in 2007, which indicates leadership crisis.
  • “Who are one or two living people you consider to be leaders?”
  • “What qualities or behaviors do you associate with great leadership?”
  • Two times a day, take a five minute break: 1. Why are you grateful today? 2. What objective or personal issue do you want to focus on these days? 3. Review the last few hours and take away some lesson to help you in the next few hours.
  • The meaning of the word “company.” “Company” is derived from the Latin word ‘com’, meaning ‘together’, and ‘panis’– another Latin word, meaning ‘bread’. In the past, merchants arranged their business meetings over festive gatherings; a business discussion also meant something like a treat– having the bread together.
Our next webinar will be on July 22, 2014, and our next SJU IFBE breakfast will be on Wednesday, September 10, 2014. For complete schedule of upcoming events, please visit

SJU IFBE Breakfast Seminar: Is your “Familiness” a Competitive Advantage…or a Competitive Constraint? on 3/13/2013


Does your firm have a true competitive advantage? Many firms think they have a competitive advantage, when in fact, they do not. Others fail to recognize where they do indeed have an advantage.

This interactive workshop explored how your family business can use your “Familiness Advantage” to compete and win – whether your competition is local, national, or international. We used a case study discussion of a real-life home improvement business that is faced with sudden competition from Home Depot. In the midst of this struggle, the family learns how to identify and leverage their unique competitive advantage – and in doing so, learned to view itself not just a “home improvement” family, but also as an economic unit.

Participants  improved their strategic thinking capabilities with specific tools to:

  • Identify the unique resources and capabilities in your family firm
  • A planning process that builds strategies on these resources and capabilities
  • Strengthen your “Familiness” advantages and address your “Famliness” constraints.
  • Compete and win based on these unique competitive advantage



SJU IFBE Breakfast Seminar: “Succeeding in a Hyper-Competitive Global Economy” on March 19, 2014


The Saint Joseph’s University Initiative for Family Business and Entrepreneurship (IFBE) hosted the Breakfast Workshop, “Succeeding in a Hyper-Competitive Global Economy: Preparing for Competition from Down the Street and Across the World” on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. 

The reality for all businesses, large and small, manufactures and service providers, is that the impact of global trends will present great risks and potential rewards for family firms of all sizes. Ignoring this risk will not make it go away.

Local business leaders who are competing internationally discussed using their “Familiness Advantage” to do so. Our panelists were Michael Cardone III of Cardone Industries, Inc., Robert Healey Jr., Executive Co-Chairman at the Viking Group, and Robert Santiago III of Para-Plus

Key points of discussion included:

  • Why you need to focus on global issues… now!
  • How key trends in globalization can impact the supply side and demand side of your business.
  • How to analyze the impact of globalization on your supply chain and customer value proposition.
  • How local business leaders are using their “Familiness” as an advantage as they compete across the globe.
  • Assessing your business model and your exposure the globalization risks.

Click here to read the article Robert Santiago III  mentioned in his presentation,  “When Conducting Business in Global Markets…Work With a Professional.” This article was published in March 3rd issue of Fortune Magazine and was retrieved from there

SJU IFBE Breakfast Seminar: “Acquisition or Organic Driven Growth” on 1/29/2014


Is your family in “Growth Mode” or in “Harvest Mode“?   This is a critical ownership-level strategy question for all family businesses. If your goal is to grow your business, then this workshop is a must.

Key questions for discussion included:

  • Is your family in Growth Mode or Harvest Mode?
  • What are the keys to an effective acquisition strategy?
  • How do I fincance acquisition driven growth?
  • How do I integrate a newly acquired company?
  • What are the keys to effective due dillengence?

According to Business Week, acquisition strategies destroy shareholder wealth more than 60% of the time…so why would anyone want to grow through acquisition?

The featured speaker, John Ratliff, former President and CEO of Appletree Answering Services, Inc. shared his secrets on how to make acquisition-driven growth work for your family business.

These critical questions were examined:

  • What is best for my company – organic or acquisition-driven growth?
  • What infrastructure do I need to prepare for an acquisition?
  • How do I finance acquisition-driven growth?
  • What are the keys to effective due diligence?
  • How do I get out of a deal that is going south?
  • How do I manage the integration of a company I have purchased?
  • How do I maintain my family-based culture while I grow?


On Jan. 29, Creative Financial Group joined forces with the Saint Joseph’s University Initiative for Family Business and Entrepreneurship to host an informative seminar featuring John Ratliff, president and founder of Appletree Answers. Ratliff enlightened participants with his energetic, informative presentation, titled “What is Best for Our Family Business: Organic- or Acquisition-driven Growth?”

Ratliff founded Appletree Answers in 1995, implementing an acquisition growth strategy that resulted in an astounding 30 percent growth rate for eight consecutive years. The company was inducted into the Philadelphia 100 Hall of Fame, earning the award as one of the fastest-growing businesses for five straight years, from 2004-’08.

Ratliff’s presentation detailed how to determine if organic- or acquisition-driven growth is right for your business, how to finance that growth while maintaining your family culture, and how to avoid common mistakes when acquiring a competitor. A main takeaway from his talk was that no matter how your company grows, its success is dependent on the happiness of your employees. When employees feel involved and appreciated, they will become your best asset and business builder. So make sure the everyday employee experience is a good one, and provide opportunities for employees to ask questions and get real answers from the company’s leaders.

Ratliff also left the audience with some valuable bits of business advice:

  1. Treat your bank like a business partner, not a vendor. Share both good and bad news with your financial institution.
  2. Build good karma and a solid reputation. Take a long-term approach when making difficult decisions regarding employees, suppliers and others.
  3. Focus on treating the people in the acquired company well. Demonstrate your commitment to them; the success of an acquisition is dependent upon the employees of the acquired business.
  4. Continually work on your own professional growth. Never be afraid to be challenged or to be told you’re wrong.

It was another enlightening seminar in our ongoing series. We hope you’ll join us for the next one!

SJU FBE Student Competition: “Shark Tank” on February 25, 2014


The Saint Joseph’s University Family Business and Entrepreneurship Program hosted “Shark Tank”, a student competition on Tuesday, February 25, 2014. Twenty undergraduates competed in an elevator pitch competition in front of an expert panel of “sharks.”  There were 2 sets of 10 students (10 from each section) that presented.  Each student was limited to 2 minutes and no more than 2 slides. The winner received a $250 cash prize. Everyone was welcome to attend.

When: Tuesday February 25, 2014 from 6:15 PM to 9:00 PM EST
Where: Saint Joseph’s University, 5600 City Avenue, Mandeville Hall-Wolfington Teletorium, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Contact: Michael McGrann, St. Joseph’s University, 610-660-2248

Students were encouraged to bring their parents. Registration link from event:

Our judges were: Jim Lockwood from The Lockwood Group, Robert Healey, and Chad Williams from Saul Ewing among others.




Day Section

1. Megan Kavanagh – Ice Eater (cleaning device for the car)

2. Megan McCawley – Ready to Juice (pre-packaged juice ingredients)

3. Thayer Smith -Gluten Free Gourmet

4. Nick Sindoni – Sizzle & Slurp (on-campus dorm take out)

5. Jose Sierra – Campus Grocery (on-campus grocery delivery service)

6. Alexa Ragozzino – Safe Driver (no texting app)

7. Glen Pantalone – The Light Alarm Clock

8. Matthew Modica – HawkBikes (bike share on SJU campus)

9. Rachel Haney – Painless Peanut Butter (dual sided jar)

10. Irene Darby – Our Kitchen (fresh healthy dinners)


Night Section

1. Michael Steen – Pizza Sleeves

2. Kim McMullen – Savvy Chic

3. Alex Martin – Automated Escalators

4. Jake Hall – Spring’s that Save

5. Gregory Haines – Special Smiles Dentistry

6. Henry George – Chickie’s Homemade Soups

7. James Davock – +Bar

8. Brendan Courtney – Fan Watch

9. Megan Connelly – Fit Transit

10. Andrew Bohri – Brand Me

SJU IFBE Breakfast Seminar: Leadership Transitions Seminar on 9/25/2013


Participants Learned:

• Critical processes and best practices of successful leadership transitions

• Tools for developing the successor generation of leaders• Accountability structures that can guide a difficult succession decision

• The important distinctions between a management transition plan and an ownership transition plan


Our panelists :

Carolyn Greenspon is a fifth generation member of the family that owns and operates the New York Times. She serves on the Times Board of Directors and is member of their Voting Trust. Carolyn has a private therapy practice and brings extensive experience as a consultant to multigenerational family businesses working to navigate the complexities of the succession process.

Tom Clemens is a fourth generation member of the family that owns and operates Hatfield Quality Meats. Tom is Senior Vice President a key member of the team that drove the Hatfield’s transition to diversified family enterprise (Clemens Food Group.)

Christen McClave is a third generation member of the family that owns and operates Cardone Industries. The firm is now the largest privately held auto parts remanufacturer in the world. Christen is an active member of Cardone’s Board of Directors, their family foundation and their family council. After a career in marketing with Johnson & Johnson, she now focuses on coaching next generation family business leaders.



Leadership Transitions: 

Continuing a Legacy of Entrepreneurship


I. Clarify the difference between ownership succession and management succession. The process of ownership succession should be driven by a family-level discussion about who we want to be the future owners of this company? Can in-laws own stock? Can non-active family members own stock? Will we gift or sell stock to our children? These are but a few of the questions that should be addressed as part of the ownership-level succession discussion. The management-level succession process is about deciding who the next president of the company should be. Some key principles guiding this decision follow:


    1. Leadership succession is a strategy issue! Succession is not about getting Mom or Dad “out” of the business. Rather, succession should be viewed as a strategy for deliberately transitioning to the successor generation the unique resources and capabilities currently embodied in the senior generation.
    2. Invest time in the process. A leadership transition should be viewed as a marathon, not a sprint. It takes years of deliberately preparing potential successors by helping them develop the skills, knowledge base, and relationships necessary to lead the organization.
    3. Clarify the rules of the game. Does the next president have to be a family member? Would you consider hiring a non-family member as president? What are the guidelines by which a decision will be made, and who will make the decision? One of the best options is to empower a Board of Directors or Board of Advisors to choose among a group of qualified candidates.