Ellie Peters is a vice president at Cameron Holdings, which was founded by her grandfather, Vincent Gorguze, in 1978. She previously worked at a multi-family office helping to advise clients on creating new business ventures, private equity and other investment opportunities, wealth transfer and philanthropy. 

Prince: What is the focus of Cameron Holdings and what is your role at the firm?
Peters: Cameron is focused on acquiring and operating U.S.-based middle-market companies serving a diverse range of end markets within the manufacturing, industrial service and value-added distribution sectors. We are the single source of capital and do not have a fund or predetermined hold period, which allows us to execute a “buy and build” strategy. We employ the same strategy my grandfather successfully implemented while serving as president and COO of a Fortune 500 company. 

My role is to source platform acquisitions as well as “add on’s” to our portfolio companies. Along with a general counsel, I also manage and review the venture opportunities our office receives. 

Prince: What is the biggest advantage and biggest drawback of working in your family's single-family office?
Peters: As a family member, I am deeply committed to the success of our single-family office and the perpetuation of our family legacy. For me, there is just simply more at stake working at Cameron Holdings than there would be working for another company. It is not really accurate to call what I do a job. Cameron Holdings is a big part of my family and who I am.

A disadvantage is that there is no clear separation between work and family life since my mother is president and CEO of Cameron Holdings and my brother works in our single-family office as well. There is a lot of talk in the family office world about “setting boundaries” and even adhering to 9 to 5 work hours. We tried to implement these “rules,” but they have not worked for us. I believe this is partly because my grandfather always expected my mom to be ready to discuss business issues when he wanted to, and that expectation is the same for my brother and myself. 

Prince: How are you preparing to one day take the reins of your single-family office?
Peters: The forthcoming responsibility is not lost on me. Before joining our single-family office, I worked in a multi-family office as part of a cohesive team delivering a range of expertise to a diverse set of accomplished individuals and families. The experience of helping these clients obtain superior outcomes is proving to be invaluable. For example, while at the multi-family office I was able to build a network of some of the leading authorities in the private wealth industry as well as learn some family office best practices I can apply at our single-family office.

I readily recognize I still have a lot to learn and that I need to further refine my skills. Doing so is a high priority for me. I have taken it upon myself to develop the competencies needed to help to continue to make Cameron Holdings extremely successful. A simple example is when I studied financial modeling at a local business school. This initiative allowed me to sharpen my accounting and related skills without interfering with my daily responsibilities and the responsibilities of the rest of our team. 

At Cameron Holdings, we believe hands on experimental is crucial. Starting next year, I will spend time embedded at one of our portfolio companies, where I will be able to work within with various departments. This ties into me learning about the operations side of our single-family office. 

Additionally, I make a concerted effort to stay abreast of the how other single-family offices are achieving superior results. I am always looking for ways other single-family offices have effectively dealt with complex situations. 

Prince: What is your advice to someone considering or just starting to work at their family’s single-family office?
Peters: I have two pieces of advice for millennials considering working at their family’s single-family office that involve shifting the normal millennial perspective. It is of my generation to be trustworthy and always see the good in those around you. Unfortunately, I learned that such a perspective and mentality does not serve one well in business. For instance, it never hurt to have a lawyer review everything! Leave the trusting mentality to your personal life, if you dare!  

Second, millennials have a reputation, for better or worse, for wanting things to move very fast and very efficiently. Before you suggest sweeping changes to practices and policies at your single-family office, take the time to learn why things are done the way they are. Your single-family office is successful for a reason. Your ideas may be appreciated and warranted, but they will be met with appreciation rather than resentment if you acknowledge the efforts by the generations before you. 

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