William Gray Stream

Rice MBA for Executives Class of 2013

My father asked if I would be interested in coming to work for our family firm. Our companies own and manage large land holdings--primarily oil and gas properties, timber, and agricultural land. We also develop real estate projects and make various private equity investments. I had never considered working for my family, and it had never been discussed as an option, but I accepted. It has been an extremely fulfilling experience, but not without its unique challenges. There can be particularly complicated power dynamics in a family firm, and of course there can be stereotypes to overcome. For a family member in a family firm it is important to be patient, be eager to learn, arrive early, stay late, work hard, be humble, and credit employees and the older generation for successes. This may be true at all firms, but I feel like I have developed a heightened sensitivity.

In my early years I was only expected to learn. I honestly cannot exactly pinpoint when a shift occurred, but I now have considerable responsibility for all major strategy, hiring, and asset allocation decisions. Finally, I am given generous opportunity to participate in civic, philanthropic, and political work, which I essentially do on behalf of the family more than just myself.

Pursuing the MBA was partially about getting the tools to feel better prepared for handling major changes in our organization. It was even more about developing a better mental framework to use those tools. I also felt a bit set in my ways, and I thought that exposing my brain to the rigorous MBA environment would re-energize the synapses--which it has! I use my Rice MBA experience every day. I believe that the experience of this program has, on a daily basis, made me more decisive, confident, and efficient.

As I enter my final semester in this Rice MBA for Executives program, I am seeing that my professional and personal goals are bigger and the certainty that I will achieve them is greater.