Marissa Weiss, BSBA ’13, reflects on the lessons learned from Ted Wentz, MBA ’08 and founder of Firecraft…
On Wednesday, January 23, 2013, the class was lucky enough to welcome speaker Ted Wentz, MBA 08’, who started his own business, Firecraft, in 2010 after partnering with his family’s firm, Quadratec. Not only did Ted utilize the knowledge that he gained from the family business class, but he also shared lessons he had learned once in his family’s business, including how to successfully fund and start his own business within his family’s business.
Ted Wentz grew up surrounded by Quadratec, his father’s business of selling Jeep parts online and via catalog. Throughout his schooling, he never wanted to go into the family business, but once he received his MBA, he felt that he had all the skills to really succeed in it and that he owed his fortunes in life to his parents. But he did often worry about how he would fit in being the “boss’s son” so he joined the company “his” way. He started at the bottom of the totem pole, packing boxes in the Quadratec warehouse. He knew if he was ever going to be successful, he needed to feel a struggle and gain the respect of the other employees. It was inspiring to hear about a man who could have worked half as hard for the same position and salary, but instead decided earning respect and maintaining fairness were essential in defining his success. I was humbled by Ted and the value he placed on working in every aspect of his company (not just token positions or executive, high-salaried positions). Ted worked to get his father’s employees to move from feeling threatened to feeling comfortable with him and it worked.
Another lesson I learned from Ted Wentz was how to maintain the balance of power with your family in the work environment. Ted and his father speak to each other as employee and boss, respectively, in the office. However, if they close the office door, they act like son and father again. They do this so other workers will see Ted as a young professional. It also helps keep the seriousness of the job between Ted and his father. Ted was never given more power than anyone else in his position would have been given.
Lastly, Ted exemplified the most important quality any person can have, “self-awareness.” Ted entered the business world knowing his strengths and where he could enhance his skillset. He assessed what his needs were from his career and defined what success meant to him. He scores high in emotional and social intelligence and this ultimately led him to start a company that may one day even outgrow his father’s.
I am grateful to the Family Business class at Kenan-Flagler and Ted Wentz for providing me with inspiration and guidance in my pursuit to join my family business.
Read about Ted Wentz’s visit to the FEC in 2012 here.