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Next generation: Game, set and match to next gens

Entrepreneurialism is a quality often associated with the founding members of business families, but it generally becomes less so as successive generations take charge. This may be an unfair generalisation and it is one the third generation of Brazil-based Grupo RBS proves is definitely not the rule.

Roberto Sirotsky (pictured) is 22 and halfway through university, but he is not like most of his fellow students. He already owns his own business, 3YZ, that he founded with four colleagues in 2008, and for which he was awarded the Family Business Network's Family Business Young Entrepreneur Honours in October 2009. Prior to entering the world of business, Roberto spent two years touring the world playing professional tennis. He is definitely not your regular undergraduate. ­

3YZ is an internet agency that aims to maximise the online presence of its clients. "We started 14 months ago because we saw a great opportunity to bring the internet to businesses. It is such a fast-growing area but businesses were often not making the most of this resource so we decided to explore this niche," Roberto explains.

"The internet is the future but I noticed there were few agencies offering companies help with developing their online strategies.

"I decided to specialise in the subject, training myself and taking part in conferences.

"I visited the Google and Apple headquarters in the US and mastered various digital tools," he says.

3YZ now has 30 employees and more than 60 clients. One of those clients is Roberto's family business, Grupo RBS, a multimedia communication company founded by Roberto's grandfather in 1957.  "Part of the reason I started my business was to help the family business," he says.

"RBS is a multimedia company that was struggling to compete in the internet. I thought I might be able to help my family in the future."

But instead of relying on the family business to provide for him, Roberto believes it is important for next generation members to actively seek ways to help their family businesses expand, adapt and grow.

"I think it is important you get experience, experience, experience outside the family business so you can maybe help it in the future. Then you will be available to join the family business if and when it needs you."

You may be forgiven for thinking Roberto is a special case who would have been successful whatever he turned his hand too, and this may well be true. But when we also consider the success of his brother Mauricio, it is obvious there is a family influence in the brothers' entrepreneurial spirit and drive to succeed, something Mauricio confirms.

"Entrepreneurship is encouraged in our family," he says. "They have always encouraged us to have our own business and follow our own path, I think entrepreneurship is part of our family values."

This is reflected in 24-year-old Mauricio's attitude towards business and his career options. "From the time I graduated I was looking for an opportunity to purchase a business," he says.

But it was his sister who spotted just the opportunity he was looking for in 2007 when food delivery service Totosinho came up for sale.

"My sister was working for a marketing research company when the business was put up for sale. The company is very popular in our town. The founders wanted to sell because they knew the company had a great idea and a great opportunity to grow but they didn't have the energy or the resources to make it succeed," Mauricio explains.

"So I bought the business in July 2007 with my sister, brother and mother. We are all partners but they don't work in the business. I have been in charge since then."

Since Mauricio took over he has already expanded operations into supermarkets and the city's two main shopping malls. He plans to expand geographically next year, opening new shops in other cities.

Although Mauricio's business is not directly involved with Grupo RBS, he still believes he is gaining valuable experience that will help him if he does get the call-up to join the family business in the future.

"Because I sit on the board with my mother, brother and sister we are learning how to communicate and work together in a smaller environment than the family business. We are learning early how the family dynamic works, it is a trial run of sorts," he says.

Mauricio also appreciates encouraging the next generation to follow their own way is for practical as well as personal reasons.

"There is a famous saying that the family grows faster than business. A good professional business can't accommodate all the family members and the family needs to bear this in mind and understand they have to do their own thing. If they are going to work in the family business they need to prepare for it, but they can't expect it."

In terms of the future both brothers have a near-term plan; Mauricio wants to do his MBA in 2013 and Roberto wants to continue to grow his business geographically and financially. As far as joining the family business is concerned, Mauricio sums up their stance.

"Right now I really want to be prepared to work in the family business if they need me. If there is no place, I want to be happy and successful outside of Grupo RBS, I really don't want to depend on the family business," he concludes. 

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