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Franz M Haniel on leading his family's business

The company was founded in Ruhrort 1756 by Jan Willem Noot and began as a small storage business. His daughter and her husband, Jacob Haniel, took on the business after his death and began transporting goods around the country. Their youngest son, Franz Haniel, joined the business, renamed it and became the main driving force. Alongside his brother, Gerhard, Franz made the company active in twice as many businesses, including merchant shipping. Franz Haniel expanded the family enterprise on many levels. By the time of his death in 1868, business activities had been established in industry, mining, trade and shipping. His family took up where he left off and grew the business, always adhering to the social values of Franz.

Today, Haniel is an international Group with turnovers of ?29 billion and some 58,000 employees. Named after the man whose entrepreneurial spirit got the company where it is today, chairman Franz M Haniel (pictured) comments on leading one of Europe's largest privately owned family businesses.

"There have been many phases of change in Haniel's history, out of which we have always emerged stronger and even more successful," he says. "We underwent the transformation from a Duisburg grocery trader to an industrial enterprise that has achieved nationwide success at an early stage. And most recently it took us less than 30 years to establish ourselves on the basis of modern business models at the European level. Now we will again break new ground."

Commenting on the extent that Haniel, as a family-owned corporate group, can act in a more sustainable manner than listed companies in terms of acquisitions, Haniel says: "For us as a family, the long-term wellbeing of the company is the top priority. Corporate interests come before individual interests. This reliability makes Haniel a good partner, also as a potential investor. This is certainly an advantage that should not be underestimated with regard to portfolio management.

"In addition, Haniel's homogeneous ownership structure makes it easier to form opinions internally. As a rule, the family makes decisions quickly and also unanimously after the necessary discussions. This enables management to take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities in an appropriately rapid manner."

When faced with how the Group can position itself as an attractive employer, he comments: "The increasing shortage of qualified management potentials is a problem for society as a whole for which we want to help find a solution. And we can only accomplish this if we point out the prospects for young people and pave the way for them. The family and the company are dedicated to this mission with their combined efforts.

"A symbol of this joint commitment is the Haniel Stiftung, which supports education and training for young people by means of numerous projects. In this way not only all companies, employees and shareholders profit from the current and future economic success of the Group. Haniel's profitability also gives us the opportunity to make a contribution to social development."

To read about Haniel's new strategy focusing on trading and services, click here.