A family business has to continually change itself as the family ages, new owners emerge and the global business environment shifts around them. Conventional wisdom has it that change begins at the top, initiated by leaders of the elder generation.
But new research by Joshua Nacht turns that maxim on its head. In his book Family Champions and Champion Families, Nacht describes how innovation often emerges from the young people who are becoming owners and leaders and take the initiative to infuse their company with new ideas, energy and skills.
They aren’t formally asked to do this; they just see a need for change, and they take it on, eventually earning the acceptance and embrace of their family. Here are some examples of how this has happened.
Timo Recker, 28, is a third-generation member of a German family that owns a meat production company. Although the business is successful and growing, Timo knows that meat production is costly and that more people can be fed if everyone eats fewer meat products. He wanted to leverage the resources within his family to help create a more sustainable future for the planet. With funding from his father, he used the family’s food-production expertise to develop his own company, Like Meat, which makes vegetable-based, meat-like products.
Timo got the idea for Like Meat when he and his father had a vegan “schnitzel” dinner at a London restaurant. They liked the food and got into an exchange about it. Timo discussed his reservations about the sustainability of meat production, since raising animals requires more land and water and produces more pollution than growing vegetables does. Timo felt that good-tasting vegan food could be a competitive product.
The family meat business offered resources in technology, manufacturing and marketing, and his father was persuaded to fund the new venture.