Opening the door to new possibilities

The start of the new academic year invites us to open our minds in the broadest sense – to new ideas, people, projects and ways of working that inspire us personally and motivate our teams and organizations.

In the realm of family business, several dualities reflect this sense of expansiveness: legacy and future, tradition and innovation, investment and expansion, community and internationality, responsibility and relevance, along with status quo and succession, to name a few.

While easy to conjugate on paper, striking the right balance between these word pairs in the real world is far more complex…

Merging tradition and innovation

The legacy of Queen Elizabeth II offers an interesting case study. In the days following her death, global headlines lauded her ability to provide continuity to the crown while adapting to the shifting social tides throughout her long life and reign.

In this article, the spotlight will be on another type of family initiative: two family-owned firms that have also successfully created value through innovation: Ferrer Internacional and BIC.

Ferrer, a roadmap guided by values

Ferrer Internacional is a pharmaceutical and chemical company established in Barcelona in 1959, which recently transformed its business by revamping its digital, data and artificial intelligence strategies.

This evolution started with redefining its corporate purpose around four primary pillars: efficiency, focus, people and sustainability.

What emerged from this initial phase was a new people- and sustainability-focused strategy – Ferrer for Good which served as a roadmap to redirect the firm’s activity toward pharma and roll out measures to optimize efficiencies in its value chain.

As a family-owned company, Ferrer recognized the importance of involving and aligning its main stakeholders in defining its new corporate strategy. With their support, the company successfully transformed its business by entrusting and empowering non-family managers.

BIC, a lesson in adaptation

Another success story in adaptation is the French multinational BIC. Headquartered in Clichy, France, the company was founded by Marcel Bich and Éduoard Buffard in 1944 with the mission of “democratizing writing” in a market still dominated by fountain pens.

Nearly eight decades later, its iconic disposable ballpoint pen is a global best-seller available in 60 models and 15 colors and sold in 160 countries.

Over the years, the company’s portfolio expanded to include disposable lighters, razor blades and other products, but their shared “use and throwaway” quality began to conflict with a consumer base progressively more concerned about the environment and long-term sustainability.

In response, BIC took action: it began incorporating recycled or alternative materials into its manufacturing process, reduced its usage of raw materials, and branched into the digital space, most recently with the acquisition of the start-up AMI (Advanced Magnetic Interaction).

In the words of David Cabero, general manager of BIC Europe, “In an increasingly digital world, we will see more and more hybrid solutions bridging the gap between traditional writing utensils and state-of-the-art digital solutions.”

As we begin this new year, let us reflect on new projects that inspire us personally and engage our teams with open-mindedness and flexibility to adapt to an environment in constant flux.

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