Securing the Future of Business

Rapid changes in markets are forcing companies to accelerate their cycles of customizing their products and their production – right through to retooling their business models. This applies to owner-managed and well-positioned, small- and medium-sized companies alike. Owner-managed companies face another major challenge as well, however: business succession. If there is no successor generation, or if there is no interest in joining management, other steps must be taken to secure and maintain the company. Preparing for this contingency calls for patience and careful planning.

Before such far-reaching decisions are made, clear thought should be given to challenges and opportunities, the role of owner families, managers and employees, along with successors and external supporters. The second “SME Forum” of 2017, held November 22, was a success, offering attendees helpful advice, testimonials and practical examples around the topic: “How do I secure the future of my company?” Once again, the high attendance at the event at Campus Vallendar of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, spoke clearly for the major practical relevance of the chosen topic.

Following welcoming remarks by the organizers, Professor Dr. Christina Günther, Chairholder of the IHK-Chair of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises at WHU, and Ralf Lawaczek, Managing Director of IHK Koblenz, attendees heard a presentation by Dr. Werner Boysen, Interim Manager and Management Consultant at Dr. Boysen Management + Consulting GmbH, on the subject of “Initiating and systematically preparing for changes.” As an experienced restructuring specialist in predominantly small- and medium-sized industrial companies, he presented key basic knowledge and necessary options for action.

Martin Bartolovic, Managing Director at Proline Systems GmbH in Boppard, enthused the roughly 54 SME representatives, experts from chambers of industry and commerce in the region, and WHU graduates with his lecture, “Family and external management,” devoted to a frequently occurring special case of change in corporate structure. He also reported on his own experiences as external managing director of two companies and raised participants’ awareness of possible conflicts between owner families and successors. He addressed potentially problematic issues, such as “How do I search for potential external successors?” or “How do I determine whether the successor to the company is a good fit?”, with practical advice and rules of thumb for strategic planning of non-family succession and the effective inclusion of all relevant stakeholders.

Dr. Dirk Sojka, co-owner of WWB-Tiefbaugesellschaft mbH in Krunkel, a banker by training and a former management consultant at McKinsey, addressed a further aspect of this special case of the succession process within an enterprise in his lecture: “The point of view of an external successor.” He reported from the perspective of the external successor, particularly in terms of hidden risks and ways to manage these successfully.

Karl-Heinz Weber, Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board and Head of Corporate Banking and Private Banking at Sparkasse Koblenz, offered a third perspective on the matter of succession. In his lecture, “A bank’s perspective,” he explained the position of banks in processes of change and transition in businesses. Following the presentations, the speakers discussed considerations of succession in participants’ own companies and were available for further questions.

The SME Forum [Forum Mittelstand] has set itself the goal of regularly providing small- and medium-sized enterprises with practical and competent information on the latest scientific findings, thus making a concrete contribution to bolstering the economic and innovative strength of local firms. The next SME Forum will be held in spring 2018.