Her Own Boss #BossesGiveBack Edition:
Natalie Kaddas is the CEO of Kaddas Enterprises which is a thermoform plastic manufacturer. Kaddas specializes in custom design products for the utility, transportation and airline industries. Kaddas has developed a product line specifically for the utility industry that prevents animals from causing power outages.
What are the challenges of running a family owned business?
Separating business from personal life – because when your business is your family, there is not a natural break from work to home. As a family we have had to set some rules around when it is appropriate to talk about work and when it is off limits. We have also had to set clear rules in the workplace, so our team does not feel like they are in the middle of our family. The workplace is a professional environment, where we focus on business, and sometimes our decisions are not popular amongst the family, but they are right for the business.
What are the challenges of transitioning from moving from a 1st to a 2nd generation family business?
Preserving the legacy of the 1st generation. In order to start a business you need to have laser focus on the company and its mission. This narrow focus does not always leave room for new ideas, concepts and growth opportunities. The 2nd generation has an advantage, because they do have a broader perspective, but they also have the springboard of the 1st generation’s hard work.
I try to not lose sight of “how we got here”, but leverage their perseverance and sacrifice of how we are going to grow and expand their legacy.
What is the greatest barrier you faced in launching your business and how did you overcome it?
Access to capital. As a small business you need capital to fund growth. Small Businesses do not always understand where to go for capital, and what banks or investors are looking for. Opening up capital will help grow small businesses, and create jobs.
Do you have a mentor? How did you find him/her?
Yes, I have many informal mentors. I have never asked someone to be my mentor. This seems a little awkward – like asking someone to be your friend. I am always looking for the weak link in our organization, whether it is staffing, training, legal advice, or financing. I then turn to my network, which is skilled in that area and take them to lunch. It feels more natural, and people are always willing to help and give advice or introduce you to someone who can.
If you could go back in time to when you were first starting, what would you tell yourself, with the intention of avoiding mistakes and heart ache?
Hire slowly and fire fast. Hire for fit and train the skill. Hire someone who will fit with the company culture and shares the passion for the vision. My experience is if you hire someone who has the passion, then the skill will come pretty easily, and there are always classes around computer programs. Letting someone go is never easy, but if they are not helping your organization they are hurting it.
What resources have been most helpful to you?
We have focused on our growth internationally. The U.S. Commercial Trade Services have helped us identify partners in different countries around the world. We have also participated in Trade Missions led by our Utah Governor, and the World Trade Center Utah. This has helped us open doors in different countries.
I am an alumnus of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. This program was transformational in our growth and focus on the international market place.
What does success look like for you?
It looks like a healthy balance of business growth and taking care of our employees. We are a Legacy Company. I want to preserve the legacy of my family, by taking care of the people who work hard for us, while growing in a sustainable way.
What do you do to recharge?
Disconnect. I turn off my cell phone and get off the “grid.” Once I have gotten off the grid, I like to take long hikes, cycling, or kayaking. I always come back feeling refreshed when I can get off the grid.
What’s your advice for a young woman that’s considering starting her own business?
Network. Network. Network. My Uncle who is also a trusted advisor has said “Go to the event, meet people, listen to their stories. You will always learn something from the experience.”
I could not agree more. Just attend, and learn from others. You will need your network many times through your journey, and they will become your mentors and trusted advisors.
To learn more about Kaddas Enterprises and the work of Natalie Kaddas, check out her website at: www.kaddas.com.