THU 20TH FEB 2020


Bringing the family business community together

Growing Central Florida's Family Firms

Cari Coats and Rex V. McPherson II

Sector: Professional Services


Business Address: 1000 Holt Avenue., Winter Park 32789, Florida


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A look at the latest programme on entrepreneurship and education and how it can help to grow Central Florida’s family businesses

Question & Answers with Cari Coats and Rex V. McPherson II

Ensuring the continued success of future Central Florida businesses is what the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business is all about.


Earlier this year, Crummer hosted a day-long workshop designed for family businesses. The participants’ unanimous desire for a program specifically designed to meet the needs unique to family businesses resulted in the creation of the Family Enterprise Leadership Series.


Here, Cari Coats, executive director of Rollins’ center, and Rex V. McPherson II, president of the RD Keene Trust and one of the donors for the leadership series, talk about the program and the future growth of Central Florida family businesses:


Describe the Family Enterprise Leadership Series:

Coats: It is two workshops dedicated to helping family-owned businesses grow, communicate and successfully transition to the next generation. The new series, which will be led with Banyan Global Family Business Advisors, aims to bring together owners and members of the next generation of family-owned enterprises with substantial revenue to share and learn from real-life challenges and solutions in an open, interactive and intimate setting.

How did the leadership series get started?

Coats: Earlier in 2015, Crummer hosted a day-long workshop specifically for those in family enterprises, and the response was unanimous: Leaders of Central Florida family enterprises need more professional development, especially when we take into consideration that 70 percent of businesses are sold or fail before the second generation has a chance to take the reins, and only 10 percent remain active in the third generation. Through the support of our founding families, we have been able to offer this new leadership series to Central Florida’s business leaders.

Why is the leadership series important?

Coats: At Crummer, we’ve seen growing demand from business owners in Central Florida and beyond for training tailored specifically to the unique demands and challenges that come with running a family business. Our leadership series will help these businesses — a vital segment of the local and national economy — reach their goals, whether it’s to shape their vision for the future, define their legacy or to create a sustainable, competitive advantage.

McPherson: Continuing education is a lifelong journey. In addition to earning my MBA from Crummer, I’ve taken advantage of professional development workshops the school previously offered. They proved invaluable, and I immediately knew family enterprise business leaders could benefit from additional programming like the leadership series geared toward the unique challenges we face, whether it’s dealing with family/business dynamics or best preparing new leadership for the transition to the next generation.

How did the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship get started?

Coats: It began as a result of student demand to learn and better understand entrepreneurship combined with market dynamics and the proliferation of entrepreneurial ventures.

What key accomplishments has the program made in the past 12 months?

Coats: We continue to expand upon how we support the acceleration of successful entrepreneurship through the challenges beyond startup and into the growth stage (when many ventures fail), through our focus on peer-to-peer programming, including the Rollins Business Accelerator, Athena PowerLink, Venture Plan Competition, CEO Forums and CEO Roundtables.

We continue to see success and portfolio expansion of venVelo, Central Florida’s most successful early stage venture fund, which we incubated and participate with as an investor.

What have been some of the most difficult challenges and what did you learn from them?

Coats: Getting ventures to understand how to become investable and then finding sources of capital. The entrepreneurial ecosystem is working on this and making progress.

What’s the last book you read?

Coats: Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. It’s so important for all business, especially family businesses and entrepreneurial ventures.

Why is it important to become involved in programs like the leadership series?

Coats: Family businesses have a layer of complexity that other businesses do not have due to the emotional attachment of a family. That’s why many fail in the third generation. The Family Enterprise Leadership Series hopes to improve the generational sustainability of the family business.

What is your advice to professionals and family business leaders when it comes to professional development?

McPherson: Never stop learning. Continue to re-invent yourself.


About the Centre - The Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business Description: Educates and connects students and alumni with advanced entrepreneurs so they can learn from and collaborate with them. All of the center’s faculty have started, bought or run a successful business.  

This article first appeared on The Orlando Business Journal and has been reproduced with their permission.

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