Leadership Lessons from a Family Business CEO

Submitted by Ujjval Shah, MBA 18

Imagine being a part of the fourth oldest family-owned brewery in the United States, having brewed beer since 1888. That’s what Nick Matt (MBA 73) came to when he was called upon to lead the then-struggling Matt Brewing Company in 1989. Having been on track to be the CEO of a much larger company – Richardson Vicks (now purchased by P&G) he made the call to leave that job to steward the family business out of troubled waters. Ask him now how he made that decision and he says with a smile “it’s about family, there’s a 100-year-old family run business that might go under and so you’ve got to step up.”

Things weren’t easy for him though. Notwithstanding the multi-million dollars the company was losing year over year, there was also the situation of Nick becoming the chairman by replacing his older brother, who would technically work under him now. Nick describes this shift in power as “awkward”. This is something many family businesses have to go through. Balancing work and family is delicate and Nick says the key is to be sensitive to people and their needs. Moreover, having worked in a major multinational before coming to the family business, Nick came in with a lot of confidence and that he says helped rally his employees and family behind him. Says Nick “I had a lot of sleepless nights but no one knew that. I had this never give up attitude which I think percolated to everyone else.” He also mentioned that to succeed as a leader it’s important that people see you as authentic which is his secret to being comfortable with leadership.

As we got to talking more, the beer flowed and so did time. Nick has this playful, almost childlike, demeanor which immediately makes his audience comfortable. Being the modest individual he is, he accepts the role of serendipity in his success at the brewery. “We decided to put all our resources behind Saranac – a product only responsible for 2% of our sales at the time. It is pure chance it worked out. No one could have predicted how the craft beer market exploded” he says.

Soon it was time to make our 2-hour journey back to Ithaca and we asked him for a parting word of advice for newly minted MBAs like us. He said “Never take business decisions without proper research. Knowing your limitations as an individual as well as a leader is imperative so that you can consult more knowledgeable experts and take the right decisions.” Being eager to learn Johnson MBA’s we did just that and asked for his expert advice on the best freshly brewed beers to take back with us along with our memories.

From left to right: Virginia Dellizzotti (AMBA ’18), Ujjval Shah (AMBA ’18), Nick Matt (MBA ’73), Chris Massari (AMBA ’18)

Flocks, families, and organizations

One of the greatest contributions of Bowen Theory to the understanding of groups (families, organizations, or societies), is the following: the functioning of the individual is governed by the group. Theory also points out that if an individual can raise his functioning in relationship to other group members, others predictably raise their functioning as well, bringing the whole group to a different level. This reciprocal influence represents an aspect of the emotional system at work.

If this postulate is true, this mutual influence between the individual and the group should be observable not only in humans, but in other groups in the natural world. Not surprisingly, scientists that study group behaviors (in humans and non-human groups) have described this phenomena. Among them, Ian Cousin (1) in his account of animal migration says: “If one individual is confused, it can follow others. When its own magnetic sensing or memory is stronger, it in turn becomes influential. So you have ever changing leadership according to the quality of information each individual possesses.”

The dialogue between Bowen Theory and natural science can result in an increased understanding of groups and how to navigate the challenges of being an individual while being part of the group. Discussing differentiation of self and anxiety as two main variables influencing this process contributes to comprehending the mechanism by which this unfolds. The conversation brings new light to important concepts such as leadership.

Michel Kerr (2) nicely summarizes the link between Bowen Theory and learning about groups in the natural world: “Striking parallels exists in the interactions of cells, ants, mammals, families, organizations and communities. Relationships systems at all levels respond to anxiety in predictable ways. Chronic anxiety can transform orderly cooperation into disruptive conflict. The keys to applying this knowledge are fathoming how a system works and one´s part in it. Bowen theory is sufficiently accurate to provide a reliable blueprint for change.”


  1. Explorers. Bio. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/lain-couzin/
  1. Kerr, M. (2001). From the Editor. Family Systems 5(2), 98-100.


Dr. Mariana Martinez is faculty at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family in Washington, DC.


Developing the Next Gen


The Family Business Consulting Group has compiled a helpful list of recent articles aimed at development of the next generation. Shared here are their 10 top articles written by their team:

  1. Introducing Teens and Young Adults to the Family Enterprise
  2. Family Champions: Energy for Success
  3. Vaccinating with Values: Family Business Antidotes to “Affluenza”
  4. Developing Next-Generation Leaders in Family Business
  5. Empowering the Next Generation with the Future
  6. The 80/20 Rule: Balancing Ownership and Management Responsibilities
  7. Achieving Balance: Individual Rights and Family Interests
  8. Passing the Baby: The 8 Must Haves of Successful Continuity Planning
  9. Enabling Incompetence Among Family Employees: Good Intentions Gone Awry
  10. Next Generation Development with a Mentor Team

Leveraging the Power of Peers

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review lauded the positive influence that peers can play. Peers were cited as the “single most neglected level of change.” A true group of peers exerts an even greater force for change which is why these groups have been so successful for most. Many high performing organizations such as Southwest Airlines and Apple have turned to internal peer groups in recent years to help develop their leaders.

For those in family business, peer groups can be a highly effective means of vetting ideas, seeking confidentiality and bench-marking their business against others. A well-formed peer group is assembled with careful detail to insure that all have something to contribute as well as take away from each meeting. While the advice an owner or business leader receives in a peer group is non-binding, the power of the peer relationship eventually calls for some level of action.  Coming to the group month after month with the same persistent issue is rarely tolerated.

There are many other peer groups or quasi-advisory boards that vie for an individual’s time. These can be very local, regional or even virtual. Joining a group is a matter of your ability to invest the time and capacity to be sure you get the most out of your experience.   Beware of groups that may be too large or transient (members continually changing) as it will affect the level of confidentially you will experience in a group. In my experience, we have found that smaller groups (6-8 members) tend to yield a higher level of dialog, accountability and return on investment. Having a professional facilitator keeps the discussions and agenda on track from meeting to meeting.

What a peer group isn’t? What a peer group is?
Sales leads

Gripe session

Dirty laundry airing

A free-for-all


Peer pressuring










The number one trigger which causes an executive or business leader to join a peer group is the realization that it is lonely at the top, and even on the way to the top. For those aspiring to leadership in their firms, sharing that journey with others is fundamentally important. The individuals I have worked with have indicated that the most valuable aspects of being in their peer groups was an increased understanding of the management of the business, improved communication with other family members, and the associations of other interesting family businesses.

At the Smith Family Business Initiative, we have two such peer groups.

  1. Global Emerging Leaders in Family Enterprise – this two-week summer leadership program assembles global business peers to delve into family enterprise, entrepreneurship and global business.
  2. Cornell Family Business Network – forming in the summer or 2016, recent alumni will gather virtually to further their understanding of their role in the family enterprise, whether currently working in the business or not.

On Tuesday, May 10, from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EDT, we will offer a free webinar to explore this topic further. Registration is required.


Enduring lessons after 50 years of A Charlie Brown Christmas




The holidays abound with traditions. It’s the time of year that draws people together and we gather in the familiar. For many, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a part of those traditions, a simple story of a beloved awkward boy and his gang of friends that most of us can relate to. And while Charlie Brown celebrates his 50th Christmas this year, I’m glad to report he’s still a little bit older than I. Charlie also learns a few valuable lessons each year, both business and personal.

There is no script – Despite best intentions of trying to be the disciplined leader of the school Christmas pageant, Charlie’s best efforts do not get everyone on the same page. While Charlie is all business, the cast simply wants to improvise and have a good time. A little of both is needed, but the best laid plans always go awry. As Jay Walker shared recently, “the business plan becomes obsolete once the first customer shows up.” Be flexible, savor the moment, and always move forward.

Believe – Charlie sees something in his beleaguered tree that others do not. It was natural, simple and just in need of “a little love.” Charlie stands by his choice and others begin to believe as well. Belief is a transformative action; benefitting both the giver and receiver. Whether it’s believing in your product or service, believing in yourself or someone who needs a lift, it takes courage and patience.

Focus – Chaos abounds. In business, we are taught to seize opportunity at every chance. In life, friends and family can pull us in every direction. Yet, having the discipline to prioritize and create calm amidst the clutter is often what separates success from stress. Linus draws everyone back together to remind us all what the Christmas season is about. Regardless of your religion or beliefs throughout the year, find some time this season to give calm to yourself (and your friends and family) and reclaim what fuels your passion.

From Entrepreneurs to Enterprises to Extremophiles – Why not all family businesses are small, and why others last for more than one hundred years.


There is a common myth that family business equals small business. It’s natural. Family is the building block for most of what we know. Early memories of trips to the corner store, the local hardware shop or the town garage and getting to know those proprietors personally frequently fuel the notion that family businesses are small businesses and vice versa.

While many family businesses are small, they are also mid-size, large, and even huge. In most countries around the world, family businesses are between 70 and 95% of all business entities and often dominate their industry sectors. Regardless of size, these firms have retained what makes them distinctive, family. From start-up, where 77% of all new business ventures established in the United States are founded with significant involvement of family in the business, to the more mature and successful, family-controlled firms now make up 19% of the companies in the Fortune Global 500, up from 15% in 2005.

What makes family businesses unique? The alignment of family, ownership and business can create strategic advantages and the ability to make adjustments to the market quicker and seize fleeting opportunities. Furthermore, a shared history and social bond often pull families towards sustaining their legacy. These can be counter-productive as well. Knowing when it’s time for an owner to exit the business or even when the family must sell can be excruciatingly painful decisions.


Welch Allyn, one of the foremost medical products manufacturers, has been in family ownership for 100 years and four generations. A global leader in the innovation of diagnostic devices, they have also remained a family owned business, until recently. With significant changes in the industry and consolidation in the global marketplace, the Welch Allyn Board of Directors, together with the Allyn family, decided to sell its interest in Welch Allyn to Hill-Rom for $2.05 billion. “It was an agonizing decision,” states Eric Allyn, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and great-grandson of William Noah Allyn, who founded the company with Dr. Francis Welch in 1915. A decade ago, Welch Allyn transitioned from family-owned and family-managed, to family-owned with non-family management; since then, it has been led by a non-family CEO, and a majority independent Board of Directors.  Although the new governance structure worked well, major changes in the US and global healthcare markets changed substantially forced the company to consider a sale.  “The healthcare landscape shifted so substantially that we could no longer compete on a global scale. We needed to think about what was best for the company, and truly had to put the needs of the Welch Allyn ahead of the desires of our family,” said Allyn. “We loved owning Welch Allyn, and it was painful to realize that its future would be better as part of a much larger, multi-billion dollar company”.

Not all families are as honest with themselves. By the second generation, about 70% are no longer in family ownership, only 12% pass into the third generation and less than 3% endure into the fourth generation or beyond. Many of these businesses are successful and sell, much like Welch-Allyn, but many fail miserably, often bringing the family down with it (see Anheuser-Busch, Gucci, Market Basket, et. al.)

Creating lasting success is the goal of many, if not every business, regardless of size. Ernst and Young recently completed a survey of nearly 2400 of the largest family owned businesses in the world (figure 1). They key factors that often led to sustained success for many of these businesses; having a clearly identified successor, implementing numerous levels of governance, and communication within the family. Additionally, family businesses are creating opportunities for females, specifically daughters. Currently, 24 % of family businesses are led by a female CEO or President, and as many as 70% of family businesses indicate that the next successor is a female.

Figure 1.


Source: Staying power: how do family businesses create lasting success? EY Report 2015


While the challenges to business and maintaining harmony in the family are many both here in the U.S. and abroad, most do not face the challenges of starting or sustaining a business in emerging markets. Many see the opportunity of those emerging markets from afar; 58% of small to medium enterprises are looking to emerging markets to sell their goods. Yet for those that face the reality of operating amongst political strife, financial turmoil or environmental crisis on a constant business, their daily reality is much different.

Even still, these businesses find a way to survive and even thrive amidst the chaos. A new term has emerged for these businesses, extremophiles, a phrase coined by Devin DiCiantis of Lansberg Gersick.  Why do family businesses make natural extremophiles? According to Devin, their investments extend beyond the high risk episode, they are skilled at tactical triage AND strategic planning, they have strong ties to a city, country or region which often pre-date the current episode and they possess robust social networks. And, like most successful businesses everywhere, they have found necessity is the mother of invention.


On October 9, the Smith Family Business Initiative (SFBI) and Cornell University will celebrate “Families in Business across Cornell” day. The inaugural Families in Business across Cornell Day will be a full day celebration on the Cornell campus and will showcase the range and impact of family enterprise, from entrepreneurs to global enterprises and legacy families. Alumni, business owners and students are all invited to take part in this day-long series of keynotes, networking and workshops. Registration is open to all.

Founded in 2014 from a generous gift from John and Dyan Smith, the Smith Family Business Initiative provides education, networking and research for family business owners, successors and students from across the globe. Now entering its second year, the SFBI has established the Johnson Family Business Club, now with 90 members, and created numerous connections with campus supporters, Cornell alumni and educational partners. In July of 2015 the SFBI completed the first iLEAD program, a 20 immersion program with 20 next generation leaders from the US and China. For late 2015 and early 2016, a series of executive education programs will be delivered to a network of Latin American business owners as part of the Owners and Officers Institute in Miami.

John Smith, MBA ’74, and Chairman of CRST International, shared upon announcing the gift, “It is in the best interest of family businesses and the country for these businesses to be carried on for many generations. With a focus on family businesses at Johnson, good research will be conducted, educational seminars will address the unique needs of family businesses, and prospective students will be drawn to Johnson because of the family business expertise on campus.” Dyan Smith adds.

“One of the main reasons we are moving forward with CRST remaining within our family is because of education. The initiative is the next step to putting Johnson in the forefront of family business management.” (Cornell Chronicle, Jan. 21, 2014) The history of the Smith family business traces back to its entrepreneurial founder, Herald Smith. In 1955, Herald and Miriam Smith started Cedar Rapids Steel Transport out of a refurbished chicken coop they bought for $125. At the time, they had no trucks and no customers, but Herald, known as “Smitty,” convinced firms he could save them money. He contracted with owner/operators who were hauling livestock to Chicago to return to the Cedar Rapids area with loads of steel instead of empty trucks. Family owned to this day, CRST has evolved from a trucking firm to one of the nation’s leading providers of transportation solutions. (CRST website)

iLEAD’s US Module Sets Strong Pace for Preparing Next-Generation Global Business Leaders

Experiencing unparalleled international networking opportunities, world-class academic discussions, interactive panels with select executives, practical hands-on learning opportunities, and visits to leading American and Chinese companies with significant global impact, an exclusive group of next-generation global business leaders completed the inaugural 2015 iLEADprogram’s 10-day US Module on Wednesday, June 17.

A collaboration between Cornell University, CKGSB, US China Partners Inc. and Next Opportunity Group, the iLEAD executive education program is the only one of its kind that prepares both US and China legacy family leaders as well as other first-generation entrepreneurs for future global success through networking and collaborative learning, with modules in both the US and China.

iLEAD’s overall learning objectives are to help next-generation global business leaders:

  • Realize the critical importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in sustaining family business;
  • Understand how to globalize a family enterprise;
  • Learn to do business with China and the US;
  • Deepen relationship between wealth, values and family legacies;
  • Master strategies for sustaining wealth over generations;
  • Develop skills to lead and manage in cross-cultural settings; and,
  • Form lasting friendships, build a preeminent global business network, and leverage real business opportunities.

The US Module featured four days in the Philadelphia region before moving on to New York City. Participants will travel to Beijing and Shanghai during the upcoming China Module in July 2015. Among the highlights of this multi-faceted deep dive in the US:

Panel Discussions with Select Executives and Academics

Participants were privileged to engage in high-level discussions with top-level American CEOs and senior executives. Among the many standouts:

Panel: Continuing a Familys Legacy

CAPTION: Dennis Jaffe, left, Andrew Pitcairn and E. Paul du Pont III led an iLEAD panel discussion on “Continuing a Family’s Legacy” at CKGSB’s New York office.

Objective: To learn best practices for legacy families to sustain and grow through the generations. What defines a legacy family versus a non-legacy family? What core principals can be learned from studying successful, long-running family businesses? What missteps should be avoided? What is a family council and what are the best practices for operating one?


  • E. Paul du Pont III, an 8th-generation member of the Du Pont family, whose 3,400 descendants trace back to founding entrepreneur Pierre du Pont. Family members no longer run the company started in 1802 by Pierre, but they still hold a substantial chunk of its shares. The Du Pont family is one of America’s richest with a net worth of $15 billion USD in 2014.
  • Andrew Pitcairn, Pitcairn Family Council Chair and member of Pitcairn’s Board of Directors. Pitcairn’s legacy descends from John A. Pitcairn, who co-founded Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. in 1883 (known today as PPG Industries though the Pitcairns sold their last stake in the company in 1986). The Pitcairn family has more than 650 members today and invests the Pitcairn family fortune in Pitcairn. The Pitcairn family is also one of America’s richest with a net worth of $1.6 billion USD in 2014.
  • Moderated by Dennis Jaffe, who works with multi-generational families to develop governance practices and the capability of next-generation leadership, and to develop the capability of financial organizations and family offices to serve their family clients. As both an organizational consultant and clinical psychologist in a career spanning 40 years, he is one of the architects of the field of family enterprise consulting.

Jaffe began by sharing insights from his research interviewing more than 70 100-year-old legacy families on the reasons behind their longevity. He offered best practices for multigenerational family enterprises and shared the seven qualities he sees most frequently among this uniquely successful group.

du Pont and Pitcairn both shared their family histories and reflected on their respective paths through the generations. du Pont stressed the importance of adaptability, sharing how the family business started out making gunpowder but evolved over time to become the chemical company we know today. He also shared his thoughts on the Du Pont family’s missteps, stating, “We have the appearance of a legacy family, but we’re really a bunch of legacy individuals.”

Pitcairn discussed the essential role of a family office that began in 1923. He also reflected on the success of the Pitcairn Family Council, stressing the importance of communication across the generations.

The panel fielded questions from the iLEAD group, including how they define who is considered a family member and what first-generation families must do to build a legacy culture.

Panel: Entrepreneurship View of Legacy Family

CAPTION: Peter Cuneo, left, Colin Cuneo and Al Berg with moderator Jeremiah Schnee partake in an iLEAD panel discussion on “Entrepreneurship View of Family Legacy” at CKGSB’s New York office.

Objective: To learn the key factors first-generation entrepreneurs must consider as they prepare to pass the baton to the next generation. Is the next generation capable and willing to lead? If so, what steps should I take to start a family office and begin sharing the business with my children? If not, what does selling a company look like? In either case, how do I structure my estate to take care of my children and future generations of my family?


  • Peter Cuneo, the mastermind of seven corporate turnarounds, including Marvel, Clairol, Black & Decker and Remington. Today Cuneo is the CEO of Cuneo & Co., which he runs with his two sons, Colin and Gavin. A frequent traveler to China (he just returned from trip #54), Cuneo recently brokered a 9-figure deal between comic book company Valiant Entertainment and DMG, a Chinese and US film production group.
  • Colin Cuneo, one of three founding partners of Cuneo & Co. Colin is also enrolled in iLEAD.
  • Al Berg, who in 1983 co-founded Marchon Eyewear, one of the world’s largest manufacturers, designers and distributors of quality fashion and technologically-advanced eyewear and sunwear, and ultimately sold it to VSP in 2008 for $735 million.

Reflecting on the influences that shaped him as a businessman, Peter Cuneo spoke candidly about the values his parents instilled in him and his experiences in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. He shared his thoughts on the unique skills required to turn companies around. He discussed why he is now focused on his family office. “I work for my sons and my six grandchildren now.”

Colin talked about the working relationships he has established with his father and brother, sharing how each of their unique strengths allows them to tackle different pieces of the business.

Berg talked about the considerations he made when deciding to sell his business rather than pass it on to his two children. He also shared the details of how he has structured his family’s estate to provide for his two children, his wife and future generations.

The panel fielded many questions on estate planning, startups, and targeting companies in need of turnarounds.

Panel: The Value of Giving

Objective: To explore the role of philanthropy in a family business. Why is philanthropy important? What are the key cultural differences between the US and China as related to charitable giving? What should next-generation leaders consider when deciding how to involve their families in giving? What are the different forms of philanthropy and how can one decide which path is best?


  • Andrew Ho, a philanthropic advisor with an extensive background in research, global programs, and family philanthropy strategy and best practices at Kordant Philanthropy Advisors.
  • Amy Houston, Managing Director of Management Assistance and Administration for The Robin Hood Foundation, New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization, dubbed a “hedge fund for humanity” by CBS’ “60 Minutes.” Over its 25 year history, Robin Hood has distributed more than $1.25 billion USD to hundreds of New York City-based soup kitchens, homeless shelters, schools, job training programs, and other vital services. The board of directors pays all administrative, fundraising and evaluation costs, so 100% of donations supports organizations directly.
  • Richard Marker, a philanthropy advisor and New York University professor with extensive experience working with families, foundations and philanthropists around the US and other countries. He’s the author of “Saying ‘Yes’ Wisely: Insights for the Thoughtful Philanthropist” and the blog “Wise Philanthropy.”
  • Moderated by Jordan Goodman, a finance journalist who formerly worked for Money magazine as a Wall Street correspondent. He appears frequently on The View, Fox News Network, Fox Business Network, CNN, CNBC and CBS evening news.

Ho shared an overview of philanthropy in the US, home to 86,000 foundations as of 2012, and China, where giving is less institutionally established and only 4,400 foundations are in operation. For leaders inheriting family businesses, he addressed the importance that giving can play in keeping families connected across generations.

Houston spoke to Robin Hood’s limited mission of fighting poverty in New York City as being absolutely critical to the foundation’s success. She also described the metrics they’ve developed to evaluate the social impact of their various efforts. “Data in combination with your heart is how you can make the best possible investment” of your philanthropic dollars,” Houston said.

Marker detailed the three levels of philanthropy: 1.“feel-good” or compassionate; 2. strategic; 3. systemic. There is a current trend to fund systemic efforts over the other two. However, Marker cautioned, “there’s a place for all three levels of philanthropy.”

Visits to Leading American and Chinese Companies

The iLEAD group took many visits to American and Chinese companies and start-ups with significant global impact, interacting with top executives along the way. An overview of some key visits:

CAPTION: Haier America President and CEO Adrian Micu speaks to the iLEAD group during a company visit to Haier America’s Wayne, NJ, headquarters.

Haier America

  • Where: Wayne, NJ, headquarters.
  • Company at a glance: Haier America is a wholly owned subsidiary of Haier Group, the world’s #1 major appliance brand as ranked by Euromonitor International 2014, and a global leader in consumer electronics. Haier began humbly when founder and long-serving CEO Zhang Ruimin took over a small, failing refrigerator company in Qingdao China in 1984. Today, Haier employs more than 70,000 people around the world and distributes products in more than 100 countries and regions with global revenues reaching $32.1 billion in 2014. The company’s rapid growth and Zhang’s unorthodox management strategies have made it the subject of case studies at business schools worldwide.
  • Met with: Haier America President and CEO Adrian Micu, who joined Haier America in February 2014 and is responsible for overseeing the company’s businesses in North and South America. Micu has more than 25 years of experience with executive-level engineering, technology and product development within the appliance industry, particularly with the Whirlpool Corporation.

Micu spent more than 90 minutes offering key insights into Haier America’s strategic plans for growing their share of the American marketplace, from establishing a unified vision to preparing a complete marketing campaign and revamped product line ready to roll out later this year. He fielded many questions from the group regarding niche markets, recruiting competitive talent, cultural differences between Chinese and American consumers, and Haier’s approach to acquiring other companies.

Bloomberg, L.P.

  • Where: New York City headquarters.
  • Company at a glance: Bloomberg, L.P. is a privately held company providing economic, financial and computerized information, and legal regulatory and compliance news and research. Divisions include Bloomberg Professional, Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Radio and Bloomberg Businessweek. Founder Michael Bloomberg returned to lead the company in January 2015. With $8.3 billion in revenue as of 2014, the company employs more than 15,500 people around the world.
  • Tour given by: Nicholas Zeleniuch, Sales & Analytics, Bloomberg.

Going behind the scenes at Bloomberg’s impressive headquarters, Zeleniuch took the group through the company’s carefully designed interior. “Spaces are open and transparent to mirror the openness and transparency of data,” Zeleniuch said. The group toured the company’s news and media floor, which employs 2,300 journalists. The floor also houses Bloomberg’s TV and Radio operations, and Charlie Rose films onsite. An exhibit showcases the evolution of the Bloomberg Terminal, which currently has 320,000 unique licenses in operation worldwide.

CAPTION: iLEAD participants had the thrill of witnessing the day’s closing bell ceremony at Nasdaq during an exclusive tour of the company’s headquarters in the heart of New York City’s Times Square.


  • Where: New York City headquarters.
  • Company at a glance: Launched primarily as a US-based equities exchange in 1971, today Nasdaq is recognized around the globe as a diversified worldwide financial technology, trading and information services provider to the capital markets, with more than 3,500 colleagues serving businesses and investors from over 50 offices in 26 countries across six continents – and in every capital market. Nasdaq’s market cap as of May 2015 was $8.6 billion USD.

This exclusive tour took the group onto the floor of Nasdaq’s television broadcasting studio. Our tour guides offered insights on competition between Nasdaq and NYSE for IPOs as well as the process for Chinese companies going public. The tour concluded with the thrill of witnessing the day’s closing bell ceremony.

CAPTION: The iLEAD group on a stage lit with Google’s iconic colors during an exclusive tour inside the company’s New York City office.


Where: New York City office.

Company at a glance: Google is an American multinational technology company specializing in Internet-related services and products. Based in Mountain View, Calif., Google states that its mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Employing more than 55,000 people worldwide, Google’s revenues in 2014 were $66 billion USD.

iLEAD participants had the exclusive opportunity to tour Google’s New York City office, though the company asks the contents of the tour not be shared with the public.

Experiential Learning

CAPTION: iLEAD participants take part in a hands-on Pit Crew Challenge.

Capping off 10 days of rigorous study as a team, the iLEAD participants took part in a unique Pit Crew Challenge experiential activity. They assumed the roles of a team charged with prepping a race-car for victory. Through this metaphorical task, the iLEAD crew sharpened their communication skills and experienced the advantages and challenges of collaboration in an interdependent team.

The iLEAD group also bonded and created their own network as a peer group of next-generation leaders during cultural activities ranging from seeing “Something Rotten” on Broadway, to touring the Pitcairn family’s impressive Glencairn estate, to attending a Yankees baseball game.

CAPTION: iLEAD participants and staff unwind and celebrate the end of the US Module while attending a Yankees game on June 17, 2015.

Rounded out with daily engaging lectures on core topics by academics from Cornell, MIT, Wharton and more, the US Module was a powerful tool for growth and preparation for future success. The China Module awaits with its own range of visceral, memorable learning situations.

Select spots remain for the China Module. To learn more about iLEAD, visit the iLEAD website, or contact Daniel G. Van Der Vliet at 607-255-2881 or Daniel.VDV@cornell.edu.