Sunday, June 17, 2007

They're following in dads' footsteps

In an increasingly mobile society, fewer people have the chance to follow their fathers into the family business. And when it happens, it isn't easy. Dad can have high expectations and be harder on the offspring than the other hired help.

But the rewards are many for those who work together, based on a sampling of several local people who have followed in their fathers' footsteps.

Perry Mader and daughter Kim Mader Bagley

Perry Mader founded his own insurance business four decades ago and built it into the nation's third-largest State Farm agency. Kim Mader worked at her dad's office after school but became a schoolteacher. That career lasted only one year.

"There was a terrible storm," Kim Mader said. "Dad had lots of claims, over 2,000. I worked through the summer of '89 for him. I loved it."

She never returned to teaching.

"When I started in this business, it was important to me that my customers knew all about the policies," she said. "I soon realized they cared more how much I cared about their problems."

After three years, she said, "Dad kicked me out, made me start my own agency."

She built a successful agency in Cleburne and married Craig Bagley, a State Farm regional manager.

When Perry Mader considered retiring, Kim and Craig offered to take over the agency.

He loved the idea.

"I wouldn't have trusted my friends to anyone else," Perry said. "I'd have stayed until they carried me out. But Kim took the new technology and used it to make the business better in ways I couldn't. I'm very pleased. She's taken what we did and did it better."

Dr. William Jordan and son Dr. Chris Jordan

Bill Jordan is an oncologist and president of The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, where Chris is also an oncologist.

"Suddenly, I looked up one day and he was a board member, a medical oncologist," William said. "Having him as a son, a friend and a colleague all rolled into one is quite special."

"We're partners, getting to share in the experience," Chris said. "It's nice to have someone with his experience to talk to about patients."

What's the biggest challenge? "For me it's making sure my father hat isn't on," William said. "I try to maintain a relationship as a colleague and not a parent."

"Creating my own footprints," Chris said. "This is a community that he's been extensively involved with and had a lot of success. I'm trying to create my own successes. My training and my philosophies are different from my dad's. Getting out of that shadow isn't easy."

They share goals.

"As oncologists, we're both working to give the patients not only greater quantity of life but quality of life," Chris said. "We're trying to do it in the most comfortable environment."

William gave his son early advice especially valuable to an oncologist. "He told me to never give a patient a false sense of hope," Chris said. "But at the same time treat them as if you're shooting for the best."

Lately, Chris returned the favor.

"He tells me not to work so hard," William said, "and to enjoy myself and my accomplishments more. He just took me on a trip to Argentina with five of his friends. It was a gift from Chris and Missy, his wife. I know he cares about me."

Stephen Coslik and son Erik Coslik

Stephen Coslik founded The Woodmont Co. 25 years ago as a one-person commercial real estate firm and built it into a 100-broker firm. When he was 14, Erik accompanied his dad to an International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas.

"It was fantastic," Erik said. "My first year, I took out the garbage for the booth. The second year, my parents bought me a suit."

It was the mid-1980s. Decisions were made by executive teams.

"People would walk around making deals. The president of Service Merchandise walks into a meeting we were having and said, 'Where are we?' His chief lieutenant said, 'We're about $1 million away.' Then he poured popcorn on our site plan, proceeded to wow everyone with his personality, entertaining the whole conference room. We were trying to get them all back on track. Then as he was leaving, he said, 'You've got your $1 million. Let's do it.'"

After he left, I turned to my dad and asked, 'Is that the way deals are done?' He said, 'I have no idea, but I'll take it.'"

Erik has been fascinated with commercial real estate ever since that day.

"I would have supported him in whatever he decided to do," Stephen said. The best part about working with his son is "seeing his growth."

Working together has its challenges.

"Keeping a healthy balance," Erik said. "It would be all too easy to make everything about work. ... One of my prime motivations is to work with Dad, not just pass him in the hallway."

Dee Kelly Sr. and son Dee Kelly Jr.

Fort Worth attorney Dee Kelly Sr. formed Kelly Hart & Hallman L.L.P. in 1979 with Mark Hart Jr. and William Hallman Jr. The law firm grew into one of the most influential in North Texas, with 107 attorneys. Dee Kelly Jr., now managing partner, joined the firm in 1985.

One advantage of working with his son eclipses the rest. "I get to see him with a reasonable degree of frequency," Dee Sr. said.

Dee Jr. views his father as an important source for advice. "He's a great resource," Dee Jr. said. "He's got a wealth of information and experience."

There's at least one downside to working together.

"Keeping your personal life separate from the business side isn't easy. You manage as best you can," Dee Jr. said. "We don't have ground rules about it."

His professional style is a combination, Dee Jr. said. "There are things I'd like to duplicate. He's treated the lawyers in the firm with great respect over the years."

Their fondest recollection of working together is the same.

"The first time Dee won a case," Dee Sr. said. "That's always a big thrill for a lawyer. It's more fun if you're in the same profession as your son."

Mike Kwedar and daughter Lauren Kwedar

Mike Kwedar is chief executive of an investment adviso- ry firm with many doctors as clients. Lauren is vice president of Paige Hendricks Public Relations and handles PR for the firm.

"I started in the insurance business," Mike said. "It was pretty much life, health insurance and disability. We got a lot of doctors.

"Doctors spend years learning to be a surgeon. If something happens to their hands, they can still be a primary-care doctor, but not a surgeon."

A group of doctors in Weatherford asked Mike to review a real estate deal.

"Frankly they were getting screwed," Mike said. "I researched surgical centers and found it's really about ta- king care of the money." Mike and his investors decided to develop an ambulatory surgical center in the city. They retained Lauren to handle public relations.

"The best part is that I can contribute to the success of something he's so passionate about," Lauren said. "And he is passionate about patient care."

Mike is outspoken and candid about providing quality healthcare for a better price.

"Lauren labors endlessly to teach me that I seldom get in trouble for what I don't say," Mike said. "People don't seem to have much doubt about what I think. I now have five other guys depending on me. ... They happen to appreciate candor."

A downside for Lauren is the added pressure she places on herself in connection with the project.

"It's the increase in emotional investment," she said. "It's hard to say how it's different from any other client. There's a little bit more pressure."

Mike wasn't able to come up with a downside. "There's really no challenge," he said. "Everything Lauren and her firm has done has been well thought out. Her work ethic, I've never seen its like. You put that together with obvious talent, there's not much to complain about.

"I'm relentlessly proud of her."

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