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Family Business Week Summary

The owners of the largest family businesses and family business experts from around the world met to talk about the Covid-19 crisis at Family Business Week.

The first international event for family businesses ON-LINE: Family Business Week – was a week of family entrepreneurship – full of unique inspirations, global practices, and answers to current topics. Every day a different topic was raised related to the systemic management of a family business, covered practically by international experts and owners of family businesses from Poland and from around the world.

The guiding idea of ​​this week was: (1) strengthening families running businesses in their dilemmas related to the crisis caused by the global pandemic (2) drawing attention in the public discourse to the essence of family business capital, which is crucial for rebuilding the economy in the post-coronavirus world.

The organizer of the event, the Family Business Institute from Poland, unites experts dealing with family businesses, professionals in their fields from many places in the world. That is why it is the International Entrepreneurship Week in which the search for solutions has no limits. The initiator of the event, Dr. Adrianna Lewandowska, says about the ON-LINE congress challenge: the economic situation has affected family businesses. The dream of longevity must now be confronted with important challenges here and now. Changing supply chains, increasing the level of efficiency, looking for savings. The power of decisions that must be made immediately. How do other owners do this, what can we consider as best practices in times of chaos and the ongoing crisis? Let’s share knowledge, exchange the experiences of those who now manage companies and people who support them in this.

The strategic partner of the event is BNP Paribas – Bank of a changing world. The event, which is completely on-line, was attended by about 1 200 guests, meetings were held in the form of live streaming, chats, themed rooms and consultations possible in the 1:1 formula. It was 5 days dedicated to finding the best anti-crisis scenarios for family businesses. Each day of the Family Entrepreneurship Week was dedicated to a different area of ​​functioning and dilemmas that business families now face. The first day was in the context of the Company, the second – Leadership, the third – Property, the fourth – Family and Individuals, and the fifth – the Global Environment of the Family Company.

In each of these perspectives there are different dilemmas that should be verified by the owner family in order to minimize the effects of the crisis in their family business and even look for new ways of development. Experts from around the world and owners of the largest companies in Europe joined the discussion.

Good family entrepreneurship should become a role model for the whole economy. Family businesses are geared to „resilience“. While corporations strive for dynamic growth and profitability, in family businesses, stability is the most important thing. Only later comes the focus on profitability and then on growth. Every 30 years, a family entrepreneur wants to transfer the company to the next generation, and this is its main goal. Stability. The situation we are in now, compels us to redefine the foundations of capitalism. There was too much of everything in it, profit and debt. Covid only made it clear. A global discussion awaits us about changing the model of thinking and I am convinced that we should follow the family businesses main idea, then we have a chance to build a more stable economy.– comments prof. Peter May, Family Business Consulting, which for years has been helping to build strategy and succession in the largest family businesses and business families in Germany.

A lot of inspiration also came from other parts of the world, including the United States; David Bork, founder of Family Business Matters, pioneer in the family business consulting industry, author of the famous book The Little Red Book, who spoke about the foundations and pillars of a united family business, Dennis T Jaffe, an international expert and consultant from San Francisco, a member of Wise Counsel Research, who emphasized the importance of the role that a business family fulfills on the path to the success of a family business, and Isabel C. Botero from the Family Business Center, who pointed to the growing role and importance of the young generation NextG in creating the business reality of many family businesses.

During the Family Entrepreneurship Week there was also many voices of experts from other parts of the world; from Great Britain Emma Rudge and Nicholas Smith from Family Business Consultancy, from Africa Nike Anani and Tsitsi Mutendi, co-founders of African Family Firms, associated for many years with family entrepreneurship, from Argentina Silvana Mariel Munoz, CEO of FamBiz BeyoneTheWorld, from Germany Dr. Walter Schmidt, Dr. Herwig Friedag and Doris Scheibenbogen, and a number of family entrepreneurs with international roots such as: Carl Elsner Jr, CEO Victorinox AG from Switzerland, who shared his experience in pandemic management, Antoine Mayoud, from the Association Familialie Mulliez (AFM), who held a discussion with business family members and pointed out key aspects of business family reunification.

Family businesses will play a significant role in overcoming the global crisis. They have a natural predisposition not to react quickly, too quickly. The prudence of family businesses in times of crisis results from their conservative financing, values and strong social ties. And that gives you the immunity you need to get out of the crisis defensively – says Dr. Marta Widz, IMD Business School expert, who was leading a discussion panel dedicated to the sustainable development of family businesses.

Sustainable development is natural for many family businesses. They see themselves as part of the whole, a part of the ecosystem in which they operate. And the time of crisis is the time when family businesses reach for the trust built among employees, suppliers, and customers. Susanne Bransgrove, an expert working with family businesses in Australia, also talked about Green Ocean Strategy and a sustainable approach to the future.

President of the European Family Business, Mr. Udo Vetter also spoke at the event, and mentioned that he is willing to listen to the voice of Polish family entrepreneurs, since he represents the idea of developing a fast Road Map to help restore the economic community in the European Union as soon as possible.

Ewald Raben, the owner and president of Raben Group, a European leader in the TSL industry, employing over 10,000 people is one of those entrepreneurs who has been affected by the coronavirus… – We have an average crisis like this once every 80-100 years. It is difficult to prepare for such a thing. – commented Ewald Raben. The head of Raben pointed to the topic of good communication as a key aspect of counteracting the crisis. Not only with the employees, many of whom are now working in the remote „home office“ mode, but also with their contractors, who are also in a difficult situation. – The customer must have full information about our activities, he/she must know that we are working all the time, that we transport all their shipments, that we will do it safely. – comments Raben.

During Family Business Week, topics related to their personal experience related to company management during the coronavirus were also raised by entrepreneurs: Artur Kazienko, President and owner of KAZAR, Rafał Zarzycki, President and co-owner of Citronex, Piotr Szczęsny, President of Polfood Group SA, Michał Łuczak, President of the Board Wróbel Group, Marek Roleski, founder of the Roleski Company, Robert Podleś, President of the Management Board of the COBI Capital Group, Bogusław Kowalski and Justyna Frankowska, Management Board of the GRAAL SA Capital Group, and Ryszard Wtorkowski, President of the Management Board of LUG.

Also, the owner of the family company SANPLAST S.A., a leading manufacturer of bathroom equipment in Europe, Wiesław Podraza took the chance to share hist thoughts.

The Internet, the Internet, the Internet. The longer the restrictions related to the reduction of work, movement and travel last, the greater and more permanent changes will take place in society. I think that this normality that we know will be slightly different from now on. People will realize that many jobs were unnecessary. Many purchases that we have done so far, such as textiles, are also not necessary, you can live without them. – comments Wiesław Podraza.

Family Business Week gathered a number of experts, owners of family businesses and members of business families – showing that joint discussion and exchange of experience is the foundation that gives hope for making good business decisions in this difficult and challenging time.