Susan Gravely

Vietri Co-Founders and sisters, Susan (left) and Frances Gravely

 

WOMEN TO WATCH

 

Susan Gravely

Co-Founder, Vietri

 

THE MOST EXCITING PART ABOUT BEING IN A FAMILY BUSINESS…

There is somebody who loves you unconditionally. There's a lot of value in having a family member you really trust when the going gets tough. Is working with family the hardest thing in the world? Absolutely, because it brings in that other dynamic: emotion. But would I do it again? Absolutely.

 

OUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE...

When we started it was, “OK, who's going to lead this endeavor?” Because there is a corporate structure in the world and there's a family structure. And our family structure was that Frances is the older sister. But I had the retail experience, I was single and I had lots of time; Frances was a mother of two with a newborn. So we decided I was going to be president. To grow up in that family dynamic and then be her boss, so to speak, that was a huge obstacle.

 

AND HOW WE OVERCAME IT...

You've got to communicate in an honest way and, up front, create a mission and a vision and write clear roles for everyone. Also, from the beginning, we had a board of directors. We consciously looked for someone who was in a family business; another who had been extremely successful, lost everything and gained it back; an entrepreneur, and a family member — people we could call at any time.

 

MY ADVICE TO RESOLVE FAMILY CONFLICTS...

From the inception of the business idea, you have to have really gut-wrenching, honest conversations about your dreams and hopes for the company and what you see your role being. Communication is key all the way through. The perfect scenario is that your hopes, dreams and visions are the same, but your strengths are different and recognized and embraced early on. That way, you always have respect for what you bring to the table.

 

AND DON'T FORGET…

I'm a big believer in the yearly physical checkup; you also need to have a family-business checkup. You should find a family-business professional with whom you could talk to together and separately throughout your career.

 

BEST ADVICE FROM MOM…

Don't make any major life decisions at night. Sleep on it and when the sun comes out, it's amazing how much you shake off. You'll make better decisions because suddenly things aren't quite as daunting. The other advice she gave me is to not be afraid of making decisions. You can always change your decisions — if you turn right, you can always go back and turn left — but you've got to make them.