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Insider Tips from Family Businesses that Last

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Meet Mitzi

Mitzi Perdue is the daughter of one family business titan (her father founded the Sheraton Hotel Chain) and the widow of another, (her late husband was the family business poultry magnate, Frank Perdue), and she is also a businesswoman in her own right. She started the family wine grape business, now one of the larger suppliers of wine grapes in California. Mitzi likes nothing better than to share insider tips for successful family businesses. Her family of origin (the one that started the Sheraton Hotels) began with the family business, Henderson Estate Company, in 1890, and her Perdue family started in 1920 in the poultry business. These two families have a combined tradition of 224 years of staying together as a family. Mitzi is happy to share actionable advice on how they created and maintained their family businesses.

Mitzi speaks on how to make your family business last across the generations.

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Talk Excerpts

Articles Written by Mitzi Perdue

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Mitzi Perdue’s strategies to preserve your company as a family business

The widow of Frank Perdue, longtime president and CEO of Perdue Farms, offers nine suggestions gleaned from observing her husband’s leadership in the January/February 2016 issue of Family Business Magazine.

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Leadership Insights: What made the Sheraton Hotels Grow

My father, Ernest Henderson, built the Sheraton hotels from one hotel to more than 400 during his lifetime.

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Mitzi wearing a blue dress with arms crossed and smiling.

Family Practitioner: Embedding the Family’s values by creating an ethical will

Much as I admired Frank Perdue for his success with his family poultry business, I admired him even more for his success as a family man.

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Mitzi Perdue’s presentations were the highlights of our 2017 annual conference. She brought an unbeatable combination of personal grace, her experiences as the daughter of Sheraton Hotels founder Ernest Henderson and wife of Frank Perdue, and unique story-telling ability. Connection with the audience was virtually instantaneous and personal due to Mitzi’s warmth and genuineness. She masterfully used stories about her father and husband to make powerful business points. Mitzi also shared with us personal stories about her commitment to family cohesiveness over generations and some of the things she does to create and nurture that cohesiveness in her own extended family.  It is not easy for a speaker to captivate an audience of attorneys and other professional advisors, but Mitzi did that, and so much more.

- Andrew N. Karlen and Peter P. Dougherty, Co-chairs, AFHE 2017 Annual Conference -

Wow, Mitzi’s keynote was a hit with our conference attendees. She provided practical, thoughtful ideas for complex family business challenges. Her warm, engaging approach radiates a genuine passion for all things family and business. Mitzi was diligent and detailed in her preparation, making it fun and effortless to work with her.

- Peter Begalla, Education Director, Family Business Magazine -

Mitzi Perdue was one of the most vibrant and interesting family business speakers that we have featured at a Transitions Conference. As a member of a successful family business and a married – in to another successful family business, Mitzi’s helpful tips for running a family company truly provided a wealth of knowledge. From her creative ideas on the family and childrens’ newsletter to suggestions on embedding the family culture, Mitzi’s passion for maintaining family harmony really resonated with our 280 family business CEOs and their families. We were lucky to have her presentation and hope she will return again to speak.

- Caro U. Rock, Family Business Magazine -

After hearing Mitzi speak at a conference, I was convinced that my family business client would benefit from her hopeful message about proactively creating a positive culture in a large and complex family system.   I asked the family office director to trust me. Mitzi enhanced my relationship with my client by delivering a powerful experience that exceeded expectations. Watching Mitzi light up the room at a family retreat for 28 family members ranging in age from toddler to 87, was a wonder to behold.   Her special touches with the children will live on in family stories for years to come. As a collaborative advisor, working with her was a dream come true!  

- Don Opatrny, LMFT, Owner-Lovins Group, LLC -

Mitzi Perdue’s keynote speech on culture and values, and her working roundtable on ethical wills at our forum of NYC area families  were both outstanding! Everyone said her keynote speech and her energy were the highlight of the day.

All family businesses can benefit from Mitzi’s inspirational family business experience, practical tips and rich stories.

- Warner King Babcock, CEO, New York City Family Enterprise Center Inc. -

What a wonderful presentation Mitzi gave!! She has a tremendous stage presence and is truly a stage natural. Her advice, with clear and actionable steps, was awesome. And, I absolutely loved that she asked each person in the room to say “YES”!! Joyful. She was the talk of the night!

- Wanda Ortwine, Chief Family Officer,  Luck Companies -

Mitzi Perdue’s pure charm, business acumen and captivating communication skills are just a few of the reasons she is the most sought after keynote & motivational speaker on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. For decades she has inspired United Way Leadership donors as well as hundreds of CEO’s at our annual CEO Breakfast. Her grace, style and over the top energy combined with a down to earth approach touch audiences hearts and minds like none other! Kathleen Momme, Executive  Director, United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore

- Kathleen Momme, Executive Director, United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore -

Mitzi is a wonderful storyteller who provided our audience with valuable insight and perspective on the importance of employee engagement.

- Sherry Herwig, Director, Family Business Center, Wisconsin School of Business -

I learned so much from Mitzi. Her talk was filled with wisdom, heart and generosity. I really felt like she was speaking directly to me – that she genuinely cared. I rarely find that in a speaker. The tools she presented were extremely useful for growing a business, and for life!

- Laura Zam, President & CEO, Zam International -

Mitzi, being the true professional that she is, arrived early and started chatting with as many people in the audience as she could, to get a feel for what they wanted out of her presentation. She quickly decided to incorporate the audience’s goals into her plans and arranged her talk accordingly to be on target. The audience LOVED her! Also, she came prepared with participation prizes and props for demonstrating her points, which quickly engaged everyone. At the end, the audience didn’t want to leave because they wanted more time to talk to her and take pictures with her. In sum, it was a fantastic presentation that everyone enjoyed, Mitzi’s stories are truly relatable, and she has a gift for connecting with people and getting them involved and engaged!   

- Helena Escalante, Business Outreach, Science, Industry and Business Library, NYPL -

Want Those Who Come After You to Be Happy?Write an Ethical Will!

Lack of values can make children vulnerable to destructive behaviors, can turn heirs into playboys and can accelerate the arc of “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” An ethical will can play a role in helping your children and those who come after them to have happy, productive lives.

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