In February, EDHEC Business School in France launched its first global executive (GEMBA) programme in Europe aimed at improving the core skills of future family business leaders.
The 15-month modular programme, which will conclude in May 2017, is spread across six different locations, including sessions at EDHEC’s five fully integrated campuses (Paris, London, Lille, Singapore and Nice).
Those on the course have at least 10 years’ experience in a family firm and are considered next-generation leaders, whether they are part of the family or not.
Four of the participants in the GEMBA programme were recipients of an inaugural CampdenFB-EDHEC Scholarship (valued at €15,000).
CampdenFBspoke to two of the scholarship recipients, Tim Menting (Joval Group) and Antoine Le Garrec (Norfrigo), about their experience thus far.
Tim Menting,Joval Group
Can you tell me about your role at the family business?
I am the chief commercial officer of Joval Group, an Australian group of businesses operating in the food, wine, and logistics industries, owned by the Valmorbida family. The Joval Group’s story is similar to many successful Australian family businesses. It was founded in the late 1940s by four Italian brothers, who emigrated to Australia to introduce Italian food to the population. Today, the business is operated by the second and third generations. I am a non-family member, but I have worked with the family for nearly 10 years. I am responsible for most commercial aspects of the group.
What have you learnt from the course that will prove useful when returning to the family business?
To date, the most useful aspect has been the leadership element. We spent time looking at the styles of leadership that work well in a family business context, as opposed to a more “corporate” environment. In particular, family businesses require a more transformational style of leadership, taking the family and employees on a journey. This is different to a transactional style of leadership, which can be seen as cold and short-term. It resonated with me and has given me increased confidence in my personal leadership style. So many other aspects of the course have been valuable, including the module on organisational behaviour, strategy, and marketing.
What impact has the international aspect of the course had on your experience?
So far the course has been taught in Paris and Lille in France. Our next module is in Singapore, with a visit to London later this year. The international aspect has been valuable. Australia is a long way from Europe, so any international experience is valuable. Our culture is fairly diverse, but nothing beats actually being immersed in European culture. This has helped me to better understand their perspectives and ways of working. At Joval Group, we deal with a number of wine and food suppliers from Europe and Asia, but our interactions are often brief and long distance. Having increased international awareness will improve the quality of my relationships with our overseas suppliers and partners.
The course requires that students have significant work experience. Has this had an impact on your studies?
The experience and backgrounds of my classmates are diverse. Two-thirds of my classmates are family members, whereas the other third are non-family members working at a family business. We have developed very strong relationships through the course so far, and everyone has been very comfortable sharing their experiences in an open and trusting environment. Spending time with family members working in business has helped enhance my understanding of the issues they are facing. This will help me to guide the next generation of the family business back home.
The GEMBA programme includes a consulting project, which can be personalised to the needs of participants or their family business. Has that been your experience so far and has it proved useful?
We have not yet commenced the consulting project, but we have prepared some personalised implementation reports, which consider how topics covered in the course can be translated into action within the family business. These implementation reports have forced me to stop, consider, and take action in relation to new skills that I have learnt while on the course. They prevented me from going straight back into “business as usual” mode back in the office. My implementation reports so far have covered leadership and competitive strategy. The consulting project will allow me to take an even deeper dive into aspects of our group – and once again turn academic teachings into real action.
Antoine Le Garrec,Norfrigo
Can you tell me about your role at the family business?
I’m in the fourth generation of my family business. The company was founded in 1930 by my great-grandfather, as a deep water fishing company. Over the years, the company has evolved into a holding group, which has diversified across the fishing industry, but also has interests in cold storage, oil services, and indoor climbing. My father is the current CEO and chairman of the board.
On a day-to-day basis I’m in charge of our logistic activities. I am the CEO of Norfrigo, which is a large cold store facility based in Boulogne-sur-Mer and the largest chilled ice factory in France. Norfrigo is the parent company of two subsidiaries: Cap Gel, a cold store in Le Havre, and Packopale in Boulogne-sur-Mer, which offers complete solutions for packaging seafood products. As a Le Garrec & Cie board member I must also be attentive to all of our different activities.
What have you learnt from the course that will prove useful when returning to your family business?
After each module we revisit the course materials and consider how they might be applied to the family business. For example, in one module we discussed setting up an advisory council to discuss family business charters, rules of entry, succession, family member wages, and the internal stock market. Furthermore, we also decided to implement a range of tools and documents from the course, which we hope will allow us to work quickly on competitive new strategies.
Prior to signing up to the course, had you found it difficult to find a programme that adequately targets individuals from a family business?
I spent a long time looking for an MBA for family business members. My objective was to find a programme that deals with governance issues as well as one that could provide me with a different point of view from like-minded individuals. I have been particularly impressed by the variety of attendees and hearing about their backgrounds.
As a member of the next generation of family leaders, what innovations or unique perspectives do you think your generation can contribute?
This is a tough question. My generation spend more and more time arguing rather than acting. I find that they are more concerned with doing business in an environmentally friendly way than they are in moving the business forward.
Is there anything else about the course that you think is worth mentioning?
The most striking thing about the family business MBA is the atmosphere, the cohesion between participants, the professors, and EDHEC itself. I think the profitable and interesting discussions have been made possible thanks to the mutual trust brought about by our similar circumstances. Whether you are a family member or you are working for a family business, the benefits of such an MBA are undeniable.