As the son of a serial entrepreneur, Kelly Comeaux has been involved on and off with his family's businesses since he was very young. From doing handwritten data entry at Preferred Data Systems LLC to leading the business, he shared his experiences and advice at the 2023 Detroit Smart Business Conference.

Comeaux went from the job of data entry into inventory, which meant he got to move boxes around, then into distribution, a division for which he eventually became the manager. That position put him in charge of his two sisters, and taught him an important lesson about management.

"And the best part was I have two younger sisters, they both reported to me," Comeaux says. "After about 30 days, I tried to fire them. (Then) I actually fired them. An hour later, my dad rehired them. And I give my dad a lot of credit, because looking back, at the time, 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 fight and we don't agree, and they slacked off any chance they got. The day I fired them was when they were doing their nails when they were supposed to be working."

Soon after that, he went away to college. When he came back ready to work, his dad refused to give him a position.

"He's like, you need to spend two years out in the field working under someone else before you come back here. That was a very educational experience," he says. "I went to work for Bear Stearns — could I have picked a better company to work for in the 80s? They didn't do so well. And I then applied back at the company, he hired me, put me into sales, then made me vice president of all services, made me president of services, and then eventually, 10 years later or something along those lines, I became president in the entire company."

Because his dad is a serial entrepreneur, there are seven corporations his dad has and Comeaux just represents one of them. So, when it comes to family, whether it's his sons, his sisters, his dad or his aunt, they all talk about business like it's everyday life. And though they all have different opinions, they all respect each other.

"We try to limit it more on vacation; the rule is one hour when we're on vacation. That's mainly for the other people around us don't appreciate us working all the time," Comeaux says. "So, it works for us. I wouldn't say would work for everyone. But we all generally get along and talk about business every day."

When one of his sons wanted to do some work outside of the business, he says he immediately created an LLC, while his son's mom set up the chart of accounts.

"I enjoy that," he says. "My dad enjoys that. My sisters enjoy that. So, we're just passing it along. I don't know if that's good or bad. But that's how we think. My dad did make the mistake — and I'm going to call it a mistake because he's not here — he actually bought 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 have challenges — like, that is a family problem."

Now, however, his dad is getting older, so there are some tough decisions to be made regarding the companies his dad owns, not all of which, because of his dad's diverse pursuits, the family members are eager to take over. As for the legacy Comeaux hopes to leave, he says it's an easy question.

"The way I think of legacy might not be the same as most, but my legacy is actually in my family and my employees," he says. "My company, I don't associate it with my legacy. That might sound odd, but I actually think of it as everything that I do for my employees and my family, and I believe that's how it's going to live on."