Leadership: Greater than the sum of its parts

By Patricia Olsen

A Q&A with Mariah Gratz, second generation, Weyland Venture, Louisville, Ky. 


About the company: Second generation, multi-disciplinary real estate development firm

Revenue: $2.5 million for our operating companies.

Number of employees: 20.

First job at this company: My sophomore summer of high school I worked as a receptionist. I never intended to join the company. I was working as a biomedical engineer for a medical device company in Boston doing product development when my younger sister fell ill and I needed to move closer to my family. There were no jobs in my field at home, but my dad had just signed a large development agreement and needed someone with my skills. I joined as director of real estate development in 2009 and became CEO in 2016.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: Make 1+1=3. Our projects need to create a dynamic mix that complement and build off each other so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Best thing about this job: I love the impact we make in the communities we work in, being able to revitalize communities that have been disinvested and see them come back to life.

Our greatest success: We have three large buildings in downtown Louisville over 100,000 square feet that were vacant and abandoned, and we rehabbed them. Today, if I say their names, people know them and are proud of them.

Best advice I ever got: My dad always told me I could do whatever I wanted, I just had to decide what that was and figure out how to get it done. For a woman growing up when there were not a lot of female role models in business, especially in engineering, having a dad that supported me like that was really important.

On my wall: A certificate from the governor’s office. I was designated a “40 Under 40 Young Leader” honoree by the Louisville Business First newspaper, and as part of that I was made a Kentucky Colonel.

One of my greatest accomplishments:  Successfully transitioning to CEO. With my father as founder and former CEO, it was interesting. It took a while to figure it all out, but I’m really proud of how we did it.

Advice for other family business leaders: Find a group of peers with whom you can work out problems ­— your roundtable — especially after something like COVID-19. It’s invaluable. I joined the Women President’s Organization. We meet once a month.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: Family Scholar House (affordable housing) in Louisville, Louisville Catholic schools and the Volunteers of America are a few. I’m on the board of the Louisville Orchestra, and one of my brothers is on the board of The Healing Place, an addiction recovery center.

I realized I had emerged from the previous generation’s shadow… when newspaper reporters started calling me instead of my father for quotes about our projects.

Words I live by: “If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” — Mary Engelbreit, artist

—As told to Patricia Olsen


Audio Sound Duration: 
May/June 2022

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