1. Entrepreneurial culture
Entrepreneurial culture is what gives many family businesses an edge over their competitors. That’s certainly the opinion of Georges Bougaud, head of Colombian cosmetics firm Recamier. “Being a family gives us the ability to take fast decisions and innovate with more confidence,” he says.
And as Guido Vanherpe, the CEO of La Lorraine Bakery Group, says: “Entrepreneurship and innovation are synonymous. You don’t have one without the other.”
But while most businesses start from a flash of entrepreneurialism, sustaining an entrepreneurial culture in the long term can be a serious challenge.
It is an area where family businesses can have an advantage, because the second and subsequent generations are immersed in their family’s entrepreneurial culture from an early age.
This was certainly true of Vesa Mäenpää, now commercial director of Finnish retailer Tammer-Tukku. “From the age of seven, I started working in the business. Back then, I was cleaning the warehouse. And pretty much from then until I took a full-time job at the family business, I was working evening and weekends for the company.”
It was also the case with Trisha Lemery, third-generation family member and CEO of Winsert, a metal alloy specialist. She worked part-time on the shop floor when still at high school and later on at college.
Growing up close to the business gives many family business members a taste for entrepreneurialism, an emotional connection to the business and a personal commitment to the values of the founder.
Being immersed in the business can be an excellent preparation for spotting new ideas. And it also helps young family business members to develop the courage and commitment required to make these new ideas a reality.
As Peter Rejlers of Sweden’s Rejlers says: “You must never be afraid to do things you believe in, and you must put everything into it, all your effort.” In Rejlers’ case, their own innovations are in areas they are truly passionate about: energy efficiency and sustainability.