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Thinking outside the box

Suzy Bibko is editor of Families in Business.

Building success on talent and attracting the best resources to business families was the theme of this year's 17th FBN Summit in Cannes. Suzy Bibko, reports back from another successful Summit where the Mayor of Cannes reminded us that dreaming big can pay off

"Because you are in the family business, you should dream more, dare more, do more." Bernard Brochand, Mayor of Cannes, got over 400 delegatesstirring with these words during his keynote speech at the 17th FBN Summit, held in September this year in Cannes, France. Brochand has been a member of the French Parliament for the last six years and was founder of DDB advertising agency. He has learned that dreaming big can pay off in many ways; and he reminded everyone that to fulfill your dream, it is important not only to make the most of your own talents, but also to work with the most talented people available.

These fitting remarks were echoed throughout the Summit by various speakers from the world of family business as delegates learned how to attract and retain the best resources to their family businesses through the many informative plenary sessions, interactive workshops and on-site family business visits. Speakers from Europe, South America, Canada and the US, including such well-known names as Thierry Peugeot (Chairman of the Supervisory Board, PSA Peugeot), Marco Drago (Chairman, DeAgostini Spa) and Giorgio Squinzi (CEO, Mapei), discussed finding the right people and developing their talents to manage the family assets; welcoming new talent into the business while letting go; how to build a talented team of family and non-family managers to grow your business; nurturing talent through philanthropic activities; accessing the talent required to navigate the finanical issues propogated by an IPO; how to prepare an appropriate shareholder development programme; and how to develop talent both within family and business for sustainable success.

Andrew Wates, Chairman of Wates Family Holdings (UK), reflected on issues surrounding attracting non-family executives to the business – something his family faced several years ago. Challenges surrounding incentives were a hurdle to overcome, because "poorly designed incentive plans reflect poor executives" – something they certainly weren't aiming for. As such, there are many things to consider in developing the right incentive package for outsiders: how to measure performance; whether to offer share ownership; determing an attractive salary figure; and the ability to work with a family culture.
 
Archduke Lorenz von Habsburg Lothringen, general partner of E. Gutzwiller & Cie (Switzerland) shared his views, as a non-family member who became a partner in a family firm. He believes that there must be "equality of treatment, equality in the decision process and equality in contribution" for non-family members to join the firm. If those conditions are met, becoming a partner in a family firm can be very rewarding, as he believes family firms offer many bonuses, including an environment where it is "easier to get things done; lines of communication are much shorter; and there is a satisfaction in being part owner".

Job satisfaction certainly comes in many forms, whether a family member or not. And for many family firms, there is an increasing trend in the participation in philathropic activities. Whether these activities are through the family's own foundation, outside charitable works or a dedication to corporate social resposibility, philanthropy is playing a larger role in family businesses. At this year's Summit, the FBN, with the support of Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch & Cie, honoured three family businesses who are firmly focussed on philanthropy: the Carulla Family; the Ivey Family; and the Lopez Family (to read more about these remarkable families and their work, see Professor John Ward's article on p.16). The Summit also saluted the collaboration of young Indians and Westerners who were 'Making a Difference' this summer in a village in India: "where they used their talent and care to find solutions to help the different generations in these villages".
 
It takes dedication and commitment to keep a family business thriving, but it also takes talent, especially when it comes to attracting the best resources to the firm. However, that shouldn't be a problem for the FBN members in attendance at the 2006 Summit. After all, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once said: "Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius".

Andrew Wates, Cannes, carulla, ivey, lopez, summit
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