Dueling Perspectives: Jeremy Kanter and Lisa Wojcik Kiser
Thoughts on joining the family business.
Jeremy Kanter joined his family business, Cincinnati-based Rookwood Properties, soon after graduating from the University of Cincinnati. Lisa Wojcik Kiser worked elsewhere before joining her family firm, Beacon Adhesives, based in Mount Vernon, N.Y.
Kanter is the director of acquisitions and multifamily at Rookwood Properties, a diversified developer and manager of residential and commercial properties. He represents the third generation in the business. Kiser, a fourth-generation family business member, is the director of marketing at Beacon Adhesives, which manufactures specialty adhesives for consumer and industrial markets. Both are in their 30s.
We asked the two NextGens, What were your early years in the family business like?
Jeremy Kanter, Rookwood Properties:
“I went to business school in Rhode Island, and I studied finance. In my sophomore year, I went abroad to Tel Aviv University, and I met a girl who’s now my wife. We got married, and I finished up school in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. We were living at one of our properties.
“My wife went to school to become a nurse, and she got a job doing leasing at our property where we were living. There were times when she had too much schoolwork and needed help, so my dad and uncle let me work for her. And I enjoyed that.
“The economy was very bad in ’07. I was networking and applying for jobs at banks and such, and no one was hiring. And as I got interested in the leasing aspect of the business, I started to think, ‘Well, I might want to get into property management.’ And at first, my family said, ‘You need to get some outside experience first.’ As I said, it was very hard to find work at that time. So they eventually let me do some part-time work for them. One of my first jobs was to paint speed bumps in 90-degree weather in the summer.
“On the weekends I would have conversations with my dad about the business, and he could tell I really enjoyed it. I had a hard time finding other work, and then we had some personnel challenges. He talked to his dad and brother and said, ‘Do you think we can give Jeremy a try?’ As they say, the rest is history.
“I was very nervous doing the office work and managing the property at first. Since I didn’t have a whole lot of work experience prior to that, I probably was unsure of myself and lacked confidence. At the end of the day, it was a good quality to have, because I didn’t think I was better than everyone else just because I was the owner’s child. And I think all my subcontractors, coworkers — even bosses — probably realized that and appreciated that quality in me.”
Lisa Wojcik Kiser, Beacon Adhesives:
“I went to Tulane, and I really liked the concepts and psychology and advertising. I had done a couple internships in New Orleans, and when I came back up to [New York] City, I ended up going to Deutsch Advertising, and I loved it there.
“I was about five years in, and my grandpa was talking at the time about what we’re going to do with the business. He was just trying to get a sense of, is anyone from the next generation going to come in? So I decided to give it a shot.
“Having outside experience really helped me understand how a much larger company functions, how to set up different procedures and protocols. And, you know, I wasn’t treated differently than anyone else. It’s good to help learn what proper procedures are, and really how to communicate well with others and how to work well with others on a level playing field. I think it also helped me bring a level of professionalism to the business that wasn’t here before, and also just build my skillset.
“When I first got here, I was very eager and anxious in trying to change a lot of things at once. When you come from an outside business into your family business, you kind of have to learn the way they function first, and not just ram change down their throats. You have to kind of learn and adapt.”
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