BY RAMON LO November 7, 2014
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is bonus material from “Legacy Carriers – Next Generation Takes Control, Assesses Present, Looks To the Future,” which ran in the October issue of ARN.
Joya Kizer Clarke, president and CEO of Casa Unlimited Enterprises; Anwar Daniels, president and COO of CMS Hospitality; Chris James, development director of LaTrelle’s Management Corp.; Ben Rababy, vice president and treasurer of United Concessions Group; and George Tinsley II, vice president of Tinsley Family Concessions, spoke with Ramon Lo in ARN’s October issue.
Lo: Was the company business always part of your career goals?
Clarke: It was not. My degree was in zoology. Although I worked for my dad’s law firm in high school, I didn’t start actively participating in the family business until my last month of college. I was looking for a part-time job while I was finishing my degree.
Daniels: It was part of my plan but not part of my father’s because the business is contract-based. At the end of a 10-year contract, there were no guarantees that you would win another contract. He wanted me to focus on my own career. Out of college studying finance at Morehouse [College], I worked for the Boeing Co. and was fast-tracked in the management program. After about five years, my father saw an opportunity to grow the business. He saw it was something I still wanted to do and he allowed me to come back.
James: Like Anwar, it wasn’t in my plan at all. I always wanted to make it on my own. Out of college, I worked for the [Houston] Astros and the [Houston] Rockets. I got a job with the [Dallas] Cowboys, opening the new stadium, and I thought I was set. I was looking for an opportunity to come back home when my parents called one day. My brother had joined the company three months before. Here we are today, three years later.
Rababy: Growing up, I always worked in the family business. I majored in finance and economics and I had ambitions of going to Wall Street. After 9/11, my father was diagnosed with cancer and it was one of those things where my mom needed to work at home and be with him. I call it the ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ syndrome, where at one time I believed it was better for me to leave. Every time I tried to leave, something happened. In hindsight it’s a blessing.
Tinsley: I always had a desire to be an entrepreneur because I always liked to do things my own way. As a 9-year-old, when asked at a community function in front of a large crowd what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered simply, ‘To take over my parents’ business.’ That kind of explains my life-long desires.
Lo: What was the moment that made you realize this was the business in which you wanted to be?
Daniels: I was in high school when CMS won their first contract. I got a chance to see the entrepreneurial lifestyle and to see the business that works for you around the clock. So at an early age, I saw the difference between what I viewed as corporate America and what I viewed as entrepreneurial lifestyle, and I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
James: It was always in the back of my mind. My very first day on the job was a Dallas Love Field (DAL) outreach. The excitement of the room was the moment that it felt bigger than just running the restaurant. The next week was my first airport conference. So the two back-to-back weeks was really eye-opening and exciting. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’
Rababy: I was getting my MBA in 2004 and started looking for other jobs is when I decided it was going to be my full-time career. At that time, it just seemed like it was an easy fit. There were a lot of opportunities going on in our airport and we had a chance to pick out another location. I think it was just more of me not really making the decision but having it made for me where we had all of these new opportunities. It was just the right time.
Clarke: I second the idea of the entrepreneurial lifestyle. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandparents and parents usually worked for themselves most of their life. What appealed to me with the airport industry was the idea that it’s so dynamic. Things are always in motion. You’re always working on new projects and new opportunities. That part of it was very appealing. Also, the mixture of the analytical, the business and the creative, the input and the design in the stores, the management with staff, and the interaction with customers, product, vendors, was all appealing for me. I got to use all sides of my brain.