By Tonya McMurray
Whitney Warren never planned to join the family business.
“It might have been my mom and my grandpa’s plan, but it wasn’t my plan,” she said. “Going into the family business seemed too simple to me. It’s what everybody thought I was supposed to do. I wanted to explore and learn other things.”
Warren’s grandfather, Lucious Williams, founded Dikita Enterprises Inc., an award-winning engineering and consulting firm, in Wisconsin in 1979. He moved the company to Dallas in 1983 and his daughter, Eve Williams, joined him the next year.
As a high school student, Warren worked at Dikita and then returned briefly in 2017 after graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in fashion merchandising. In 2018, she joined Neiman Marcus as an assistant buyer, believing that she would pursue a career outside of Dikita.
She found, however, that her job did not align with her values or offer the kind of opportunity she wanted.
“I didn’t see people who looked like me in the roles I wanted to be in or in those higher positions that could implement change,” she said. “There was no lane for inclusion, diversity and belonging. My ideas were heard and acknowledged, but they weren’t shown throughout the company.”
In April, she returned to Dikita as its marketing specialist, ready to become the third generation of her family to help guide the company’s growth.
“I’m the marketing specialist, but since I own a stake in the company, I’m working on the business as well,” she said. “I can look at other ventures we can take on.”
Bringing on the second generation
Like Warren, Eve Williams didn’t plan to join Dikita. She earned a bachelor’s degree in information systems and a master’s degree in accounting with a goal of designing accounting systems for small businesses. She had a job offer from Arthur Andersen, but her father had just moved Dikita to Dallas, Texas, and she knew he needed help.
“I told him I would do two years and help him with the accounting system,” she said. “And then, time ticked on, and he drew me in and gave me more responsibility. Over time, this just became what I was going to do, and I liked it.”
Lucious jokes, “And I paid off her student loans.”
Just as she has given Warren freedom to explore ways to expand the company business to incorporate Warren’s interest, Lucious offered Eve the chance to expand the business with a new division, Dikita Management Systems, focused on data collection and management.
Eve became the company’s CEO and president in 2010. While that may not have been her initial plan, it was part of the plan Lucious had for the company.
Lucious advises MBEs to think about management transitions and to begin grooming potential successors early.
“Look at the family first in terms of expanding the management of the firm,” he said. “Get family involved in the business early on so they know what it is involved. Then talk that up. I told Eve ‘Arthur Andersen will be a company that you work for. Dikita will be the company that you will own.’”
But Lucious believes it’s also important to prepare family members for the role they will take on, so they have the skills and experience needed. Before he turned the reins of the company over to Eve, he gave her a list of requirements to prepare her for eventual leadership of Dikita. He asked her to join a community organization and assume a leadership role in that organization, to become a leader in her church and to engage in continuing education activities.
Eve said while it’s important to give potential successors exposure to the business, it can also be valuable to allow them other experiences outside the family business as well.
“Even at a young age, kids can help by collating or stapling papers,” she said. “That can make a big difference as to whether our kids feel comfortable coming into the business. But having the benefit of working somewhere else can be good, too. I wanted Whitney to go out and see what others do and to see how things really work. And I think that gave her an appreciation of what we do.”
Warren jokes that she now understands how her mother and grandfather drew her into the business, but agrees she is more ready to take on the role.
“I now have a better understanding of what legacy means,” she said. “Legacy is ownership. Legacy means creating equal opportunities for African Americans to succeed in spaces where we’re qualified but have been historically overlooked and underrepresented. It’s about not only paving the way for ourselves, but also keeping the door open for other Black and Brown people and businesses to join us.”
To learn more about Dikita Enterprises, please visit dikita.com.
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