Anthony Manna represents the first generation of his family business, M7 Holdings. It has a focus on real estate development through M7 Signet Holdings, private equity through M7 Ventures, and venture capital through M7 Ace Neo.
"We took a lot of time to put together our family business to make sure that we can start the process and the culture to move on to the next generation," Manna, the company's chairman, says.
The company's purpose as it moves forward is to grow, get his children involved, which they are now, and develop long-term relationships with the people inside and outside the business.
"Many of the partners we have in our businesses have been with me for 25-plus years," he says. "It's very, very important. The most important relationship in these businesses — because we always talk about management and different things like that, which are incredibly important — but it is the family dynamic."
As an example, Manna shared a story at the Cleveland Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about a person at Dow Automotive who not only offered a contract to the Tier 3 manufacturing business that was among the first companies Manna bought, a contract he needed after a large client pulled its contract from the business, but the individual also agreed to give him an advance against it, which allowed Manna to pay make the company's payroll. He says of the event, "When you do these family businesses and you come across these opportunities, 95 percent of the people you deal with are great people. Don't ever forget it. They're the ones that, if you're honest with them, they'll be honest with you. And they're the ones that help families get ahead."
Working from the philosophy that a family that sticks together, remains strong, and that business should be conducted in the same way, he says a point of emphasis over the 10 years of the venture is to make sure that culture continues to move on inside his family. Right now, just one of his children has married, so they're just getting into how an in-law might fit inside that family business structure.
"We do not have them involved right at the moment in the board meetings and so forth," he says. "But as the education aspect of what we're teaching gets over time, they may or may not come in, depending on their interest level."
For one of Manna's children to be on the board, they have to graduate from college. And there is a two-prong method of how they could get compensated for being on the board. One half is for showing up. The other half is dependent on how the outside independent board members and consultants grade them on how well they read the material and their participation during the meetings.
"Because as I told them at the get go, if you think you're just going to sit by your mom and be quiet — that's not going to happen," Manna says. "When we started out, the only two that were qualified to be on the board were my oldest daughter and my oldest son. Now we have four of the five on. Over time, it's been a revelation for us, but a lot of fun, to watch the growth. At first, they could barely participate. Now each one of them are leading the discussions on buying a business, breaking down different markets. They're the ones running the show now. So that's what we go for over the course of time. And it's proven itself out."
The family business also has a foundation, the M7 Foundation, that focuses on two areas: education and entrepreneurship.
To give back to the community they give those that work with them opportunities in future business deals to become owners.
To do that, Manna says the M7 Foundation has acquired considerable real estate around League Park. They're going to put their family headquarters there and start employing some of the younger people in the neighborhood, eventually giving them scholarships for local universities and trade schools.
"Eventually, I hope, we're going to give them ownership opportunities, wealth opportunities," he says. "So, that's what we're doing as a family from that end."