"Whenever we have a big disagreement, we try to be very professional about it, but we're Italian," says Hank Datelle. "We get mad and yell and scream for 15 minutes, and then it's over and forgotten."
Datelle, 65, began his career at IBM and then started three successful Internet companies. In 2001 his daughter Lisa, 36, who had been working for a big pharmaceutical benefits-management company, decided to start her own firm, Cypress Care, to compete with her former employer.
At first Cypress Care operated out of the basement of Lisa's house in an Atlanta suburb. She persuaded her father to come aboard, along with her brother Marc, 38, an information-technology and finance whiz. Says Hank: "I researched the field and realized that Lisa was right about what was lacking in the industry. With my startup experience, I figured I could help." So he bankrolled the venture, now a $200 million company with 150 employees.
The Datelles hired a moderator, in the form of a chief operating officer who is no relation, to make sure that their arguments did not lead to bad decisions.
Says Lisa: "My dad knows more than I do about some things. And I know more than he does about other things. So we've made an effort to hire people who know more than either of us." In the event of an impasse, the COO casts the deciding vote.
Hank plans to stay with Cypress Care for two more years - it's part of the deal he and Lisa made with private-equity investors who bought 70% of the company last summer - and then go work on his golf game or (who knows?) maybe start another company.