Expelling the sisters and creating the son’s first LLC
As the son of a serial entrepreneur, Kelly Cuomo has been involved on and off in his family’s business since he was very young. From handwritten data entry at Preferred Data Systems LLC to business leadership, he shared his experiences and advice at the 2023 Detroit Smart Business Conference.
Cuomo moved from a data entry job to inventory, which meant he had to move boxes, and then to distribution, a department where he eventually became manager. This position put him in charge of his two sisters, and taught him an important lesson in management.
“The best part is that I have two younger sisters, both of whom work under me,” Cuomo says. “After about 30 days, I tried to fire them. (Then) I actually fired them. And an hour later, my dad rehired them. And I give my dad a lot of credit, because looking back, at that time, I wasn’t.” “I wasn’t happy. But looking back, I think he was teaching me how to manage the worst people I could possibly manage. Brothers and sisters fought and we didn’t get along, and they wasted any chance they got. The day I fired them was when they were getting their nails done when they were supposed to To work.”
Soon after he went to college. When he returned ready to work, his father refused to give him a job.
“It’s like you need to spend two years in the field working under someone else before you come back here,” he says. “That was a very educational experience.” “I went to work for Bear Stearns – could I have picked a better company to work for in the 1980s? They didn’t do well. Then I applied again to the company, and he hired me, put me in sales, made me vice president of all services, made me president of services, and then Eventually, after 10 years or something, I became president of the entire company.”
Since his father is a serial entrepreneur, there are seven companies owned by his father and Cuomo represents only one of them. So, when it comes to family, whether it’s his sons, his sisters, his father or his aunt, they all talk about work as if it were everyday life. Even though they all have different opinions, they all respect each other.
“We try to limit it more during vacation; the rule is one hour when we’re on vacation. This is mainly because other people around us don’t appreciate our work all the time,” Cuomo says. “So, it suits us. I can’t say it will suit everyone. But we all generally get along and talk about business every day.”
When one of his sons wanted to do some work outside the business, he said he immediately created a limited liability company, while his son’s mother prepared the chart of accounts.
“I enjoy it,” he says. “My father enjoys it. My sisters enjoy it. So, we’re just passing it along. I don’t know if this is good or bad. But that’s the way we think. My father made a mistake – and I’m going to call it a mistake because he’s not here – He has already purchased a koi farm. I don’t know anything about raising koi. But he said, “It’s a good deal. I had to do it.” So, I face challenges, like this is a family problem.”
Now, however, his father is getting older, so there are some tough decisions to be made regarding the businesses his father owns, not all of which, because of his father’s diverse interests, family members are keen to take over. As for the legacy Cuomo hopes to leave, he says that’s an easy question.
“The way I think about legacy may not be the same as most people think, but my legacy is actually in my family and my employees,” he says. “My company, I don’t associate it with my heritage. This may sound strange, but I actually think of it as everything I do for my employees and my family, and I think that’s the way it’s going to continue.”