An E&W MBA Leads Innovation in a 50-Year-Old Family Business
By Kevin Kosiewicz (E&W 2021)
While working in management consulting out of undergrad, I was able to land a dream job at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a family-run restaurant group based in Chicago with over 130 restaurants in nine states. I created a new role at the company, designing all analytics capabilities and implementing evidence-based strategies at both the restaurant and enterprise levels. After proving out the value of my work, the company promoted me into a role to lead corporate strategy to better care for guests, enable employees to expand their roles, and increase profitability. This promotion coincided with my start at Kellogg, which has not only allowed me to enhance my leadership and entrepreneurial capabilities, but more importantly, given me the knowledge on how to operate within a family enterprise.
Family enterprise at Kellogg
During my first year at Kellogg, I was out to dinner with a friend and it came up that we both worked in family businesses. He excitedly told me about an upcoming course called Family Enterprises: Issues and Solutions, which was dedicated to the nuances of family businesses and designed to help students excel when returning to family businesses after graduation. The class was taught for the first time by Professor Jennifer Pendergast, the executive director of the John L. Ward Center for Family Enterprises, and I reached out to her to see if the class would be a good fit for me. She thought it would be fascinating to have a non-family member director’s perspective in the course.
During the 10 weeks of the class, I learned why family businesses outperform non-family firms, the pitfalls of transitioning the company between generations, and the complex interactions between the family, ownership and management. Besides an engaging curriculum, leaders from a diverse group of large family run firms came to class to talk about their experiences and how they have been able to achieve decades of success. They explained the importance of having a strong, independent board, discussed the various roles of owners, highlighted the importance of documenting family policies and exhibited what an enterprising family can achieve. Most importantly, I created a global network of friends and colleagues operating in a similar environment that I can reach out to with questions or for support. To continue building those relationships, I became involved with Kellogg’s Family Enterprise Club, which hosts events and speakers focused on family businesses. Going into my final year at Kellogg, I will be serving as a club officer to continue to help build this community.
Applying Kellogg learnings to grow a family business
Everything that I have learned has helped me in my day to day work at Lettuce Entertain You. As the founder, Rich Melman, fully transitions the company to the second generation, I am aware of the pitfalls and strategies to ensure successful continuity. Prior to the pandemic, my primary focus was leading a digital transformation of our technology infrastructure and modernizing business processes. My education at Kellogg directly allowed me to understand balancing ownership, management, and family stakeholders while leading the largest change in the company’s history. Although the pandemic has thrown the hospitality industry into turmoil, I am able to lean on the network I have built for advice or insights into how other family firms are handling strategic decisions and business model pivots. It is uncertain what the future will be post-pandemic, but I am confident the family enterprise resources at Kellogg will continue to help me successfully lead change in a family firm.