Coincidences happen—in life and in magazines. You can spend months planning an issue and suddenly discover two unrelated articles contain Walt Whitman quotes. Or three writers spoke with the same professor. Or the photographs contain a disproportionate number of cats.
We encountered this sort of happenstance while assembling the latest issue of Report on Business. We’d asked Joe Castaldo to explore how Wealthsimple founder Michael Katchen plans to expand his young company. Meanwhile, Trevor Cole interviewed Jodi Kovitz, the founder of #movethedial. Only when the first drafts were filed did we realize that Katchen and Kovitz are siblings.
That the brother and sister are currently at the forefront of their respective fields, at the same moment, is intriguing. It happens—YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is the sister of 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki, for example—and when it does, one wonders what was discussed around the family dinner table.
So I decided to ask. Thanks to one additional lucky break, Katchen and Kovitz provided a unique opportunity to explore the common traits driving their successes. Their mother, Karen Katchen, is a psychologist and executive coach with 40 years of experience. “In our family, we deliberately encouraged setting specific goals and expectations for oneself, as well as for others,” she told me via email. “Clear boundaries do minimize distractions, retain focus, maintain priorities and help evaluate progress toward goals.”
The family also put an emphasis on building emotional intelligence, ensuring the kids were respectful of those around them and equipped to cope with life's setbacks. “We encouraged them to become more flexible and take on new risks and challenges. In the process, they discovered that lack of success and disappointment were potential outcomes,” Karen Katchen says. (A third sibling, Amy Baryshnik, is no slouch either. She's a Harvard Business School alumnus who has worked at Alignvest Investment Management.)
Esther Wojcicki, the mother of Susan and Anne, was a teacher for nearly four decades and wrote her own book about raising successful people. Like Karen Katchen, she stressed failure was a necessary part of life. “I never put them in danger, but I also never stood in the way of them experiencing life or taking calculated risks,” she wrote in a piece for Time. Intriguingly, neither parent focused on academic achievement or technical prowess in their recipe for success.
Now, this isn’t a parenting magazine. But many of the traits Katchen says mattered to her family (humility, a willingness to listen, concern for community) come through clearly in our reporting on her grown children. They’re valuable traits for business—regardless of where you learn them.