Connected Conversations

business family ownership

Open to all.

The Smith Family Business Initiative hosts Connected Conversations, an on-going and evolving webinar series highlighting current issues in family, business, and leadership. Allow yourself time to connect, learn, and engage— these conversations are free and open to all. Registration is required.



In an effort to make our Connected Conversations series widely accessible, we have converted our 2021 webinar recordings into podcasts available on Spotify, Google Podcast, and Anchor. If you missed a live webinar session, catch up on-the-go!


Is Family Business an Advantage in the MBA Application Process?

Eddie Asbie, Director of Admissions for the SC Johnson Graduate School of Management, and Heena Sadwhani MBA ’22, will share their perspectives on the MBA admissions process, how to best position your family business connections, and how family business can be an advantage as you enter graduate school.


Leadership Agility in a Complex, Chaotic, and Global World

Cornell Family Business Fellow Greg McCann shares how to grow self-awareness, hone the ability to insightfully understand others, identify the approach best suited for the circumstance, distill complex issues for multiple stakeholders, and create value from change.

Level-Setting Bitcoin, Blockchain and Digital Currencies

Susan Joseph, CALS, Managing Partner of SusanJosephLLC, and Barry Seeman ’83, MEng ’86 and MBA ’87, Managing Partner at Bear Run Partners, LLC, shared their perspectives on the operational and investment opportunities for family enterprises as it relates to blockchain technology and digital currencies.

Managing the Future of Uncertainty

Cornell Family Business Practitioner Fellow Holly Isdale ’86, shares strategies for balancing long-term perspective with immediate action steps each of us can take.

Taming Anxiety and Building Maturity

Cornell Family Business Practitioner Fellow and leadership coach John Engels explores the effects of anxiety on work and family relationships, and how parents and business leaders can bring greater maturity, clarity and poise to “twitchy situations.”

Revisiting the Responsible Company

In his landmark book, The Responsible Company, co-authored with Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, Vincent Stanley, draws on their 40 years’ experience – and knowledge of current efforts by other companies – to articulate the elements of responsible business for our time. Look towards the future with Vincent, explore the many levels of a “responsible company,” and examine why this approach matters with increasing importance.

Next Gen Now: Reactions and Reflections from Current Students and Young Alumni

Cornell Johnson MBA students and recent alumni participate in a discussion on “Next Gen Now: Reactions and Reflections from Current Students and Young Alumni.” They share their perspectives on the future of their family enterprises, where their businesses have pivoted, and the current realities from where their families live.

Leadership Lessons for a VUCA World

Today, more than ever, we live, work and compete in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. Leading during these uncertain times is challenging business and requires leaders with the vision to see opportunities in volatile and ambiguous situations, the courage to act in the face of uncertainty and complexity and the character and resilience to make hard decisions in order to rebound from unexpected setbacks. Discuss the bias VUCA leaders have towards action, even in the face of uncertainty, and how they leverage this as a strategy for success.

Why Family Governance Matters During Times of Crisis

Ann Dugan, Cornell Family Business Practitioner Fellow and veteran of her own family’s business, shares examples of sound governance practices, identifies where to start and how to carve a pathway forward to fit your family’s and business needs.

Leadership on the Frontline: Reflections and Lessons from an Italian Entrepreneur

As the news began trickling in during January, Michael was forced to deal with a contingency plan he did not want to execute on. Nearly six months later, and as the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, Michael will share his reflections on what has transpired in Italy thus far and critical lessons that business owners and advisors should take with them.

Minority Business Entrepreneurship and Ownership

Recent focus on black business ownership has highlighted the difficulties and opportunities that present both globally and locally during tumultuous times. In this Connected Conversations, owners and entrepreneurs will guide us as we delve deeper into these issues, explore areas of growth, and highlight the resourcefulness and innovation often required of minority owned businesses.

The Amazing Journey of the Maldonado Family

Veronica’s journey began in her family business in Venezuela and has taken her to each corner of the globe. Finally settling in Miami, Florida, her family’s business has experienced political turmoil, relocation, innovation, and most importantly, determination since its founding in 1911 as a cattle ranch.

The Four Types of Wealth

Based on her work with many families, Angela Mwanza MBA ’00, co-founder and manager of Evergreen Wealth Management, will share her perspectives on the Four Types of Wealth and how we might each gain our own understandings of the many facets of wealth.

The Power of Family Ownership

Rob Lachenauer ‘83 describes the five core rights of family owners and explain how owners can use them to position family businesses for lasting success.

The Power of Positive Leadership

In this Connected Conversations, Jon Gordon ’93 focuses on his own approach to remaining positive, often in the face of overwhelming and daunting news and headlines.