Carla Terry Osborne
As the head of Osborne Group’s institutional relations, Carla Terry Osborne leads initiatives to foster pride of belonging among the company’s 330-plus shareholders, including Osborne’s broad calendar of events to commemorate its 250th anniversary in 2022. Here she shares what motivated her to join the family business and how separating management and ownership need not be an obstacle to shareholder engagement.
I joined Grupo Osborne in 2016 as head of corporate public relations and communication for the Osborne Foundation. Before that, I studied architecture and design, following in the footsteps of my mother and other family members, many of whom are renowned architects and artists.
I worked in several architectural firms after earning my degree. In one, I had the chance to collaborate with a company that managed privately owned historical sites (palaces and castles, etc.). For five years, I worked as a consultant to locate history patrimony and organize unique experiences in them. It was an unforgettable experience in which I learned a lot.
Around that time, I learned my family was looking for a candidate among the shareholders to join the family business. I decided the time was right to contribute and apply everything I had learned over the years.
Of course, I knew it was going to be a challenge for me for a couple of reasons. First, I wasn’t overly versed in the world of wine, except for the few tips gathered here and there from conversations. Second, I was aware of the competition I would face to get the job. The position would also entail a change of residence, which I had to give a lot of thought: I really enjoyed my life in Madrid and the freedom it offered, and knew it wouldn’t be easy to move away from my friends and move from the capital to a small city.
“I am excited to be able to help enhance and expand our heritage and legacy, as well as make the shareholders feel more involved in the company.”
Today, I am thrilled with my life in El Puerto de Santa María (Cadiz) and convinced that I made the right decision. I realize how lucky I am and the responsibility that comes with it.
I currently lead Institutional Relations in the Osborne Group and Communications for the Osborne Foundation. One of our major projects at the moment is organizing and designing the calendar of commemorative events to celebrate our 250th anniversary in 2022. Without a doubt, it represents an extremely historic milestone in our company’s history.
I’m excited to be in a position where I can help enhance and expand our more-than-200-year legacy and heritage and legacy, as well as to make shareholders feel more involved in the company. This is especially challenging since our shareholder base only continues to grow! The company is now in its 8th generation, with more and more family members around the world.
Fostering pride of ownership among shareholders
For us, creating pride of belonging among shareholders is very important. We want them to feel like true brand ambassadors, even if they aren’t involved in the company’s day-to-day operations. To achieve this, they have to first identify with the company’s principles and values, and also be up to date on the firm’s activities and objectives.
We have a shareholder service department that oversees a project called “Shareholders in Action” to cultivate this sense of belonging. We offer product training sessions to turn shareholders into authentic “brand ambassadors”, encourage them to actively take part in the various projects underway at the Osborne Foundation, and organize family meetings to foster inter-generational connections.
“At Osborne, creating pride of belonging among shareholders is very important. We aim to convert turn them into true brand ambassadors even if they’re not involved in the company’s day-to-day operations.”
We also want to foster ties with younger generations. With this in mind, we created a very practical app to publish company news and relevant events, which also serves as a social network platform among family members. This is a challenge, since we have shareholders with very different profiles and age groups and the application has to be attractive to everyone.
The Osborne Foundation also plays a key role in fostering pride of belonging among shareholders. As part of its objectives, it aims to preserve and share the family’s heritage, so we always try to involve shareholders in the Foundation’s activities, including volunteer work.
Separating ownership and management
At present, there are only four shareholders working in the family business, and two of them are the president and the CEO. We have a very professionalized system that bars shareholders from working in the business unless stipulated by the management committee.
In the early 1980s, the company decided to fully professionalize its management. At the time, there were still shareholders working for the family business who eventually left.
Separating ownership and management entailed hiring talent from outside the family, always under the guidance of the board of directors, made up of 10 shareholders. This decision had its pros and cons, but as time went on, we realized it was the right one.
“We have a very professionalized system that bars shareholders from working in the business unless stipulated by the management committee.”
Today, the framework for incorporating shareholders or family members in management roles is as follows:
The Management Committee must make a formal request to general management on the need and benefit of incorporating a shareholder. This request is subject to the approval of the Board, which will base its decision on a report written by the Appointments and Remuneration Committee [….] Likewise, the CEO, in collaboration with an external headhunter, will lead an open competition among all shareholders to determine the most suitable candidate for the position.
This corporate governance policy allows us to be as transparent and as objective as possible.
Looking to the future
In 2022, we will celebrate our 250th anniversary: Osborne’s history dates back to the end of the 18th century and today in its eighth generation. Although only a few of us work in the company, we are all extremely proud to form part of this project, grounded on four values – authenticity, expertise, visionary spirit and commitment – that made Osborne what it is today.