Juste Group, strategic renewal in the family business

Inés Juste presides the Juste Group, a chemical-pharmaceutical company founded by her great-grandfather more than a century ago.

In its fourth generation, the firm is a global reference thanks to its entrepreneurial spirit, innovative character and vocation for continuity between generations.

The Juste Group was established in 1922 by my great-grandfather Rafael Juste Castán. A doctor of medicine and pharmacy, as well as a specialist in ophthalmology, he created one of the first Spanish firms dedicated to the R&D and manufacture of pharmaceutical specialties and active ingredients.

Working to enhance people’s health and quality of life was my great-grandfather’s lifelong calling. Today, over 100 years later, the company is an international reference in the chemical-pharmaceutical space thanks to the innovative vision and frontline efforts of each subsequent generation.

Fourth-generation leadership

The integration of new generations offers family firms the unique opportunity to rethink and reimagine their strategic business model. In the case of the Juste Group, each generation has played a critical role in our success story.

My great-grandfather was the founder and entrepreneur, building the company with grit, drive and determination. The second generation, led by my grandfather Luis Juste and aunt Matilde Juste, consolidated the firm’s sales structure in Spain by forging a network of medical representatives and expanding the product portfolio with various therapeutic innovations.

The third generation, under my father’s leadership, guided the Group’s global expansion and laid the foundation for a national and international partnership philosophy. In this regard, the company sought partners to attain the financial and human resources it lacked through effective mutual synergies.

Each generational transition implies a shift in how the  family firm is envisaged and led.

The company is currently headed by the fourth generation, with my brothers and me at the helm. We have significantly strengthened the business model, transforming from a predominantly pharmaceutical company into a fine chemicals company with a global presence in more than 45 countries.

Each generational transition implies a shift in how the family firm is envisaged and led, not only to adapt to an ever-evolving business landscape but to allow space for the team to adapt to a new vision of the business.

Institutionalizing the company

The institutionalization of Grupo Juste began under the third generation. We created a board of directors over 10 years ago in alignment with the principles of good governance and reinforced the existing board to provide it greater content and rigor.

When the fourth generation took the helm, we notably improved our corporate governance and made major strides in professionalizing our operations. To this end, the family decided to take a step back from management and participate only in governance, leaving the firm’s leadership in the hands of a non-family general manager.

As the owners, this was an exercise in humility and honest self-reflection carried out with the support and encouragement of the management team to define where we could contribute the most value.

Joining the family business

Preparing next-generation family members to serve as upstanding shareholders and potential corporate leaders is paramount. We strive to instill the concept of responsible ownership to ensure it serves as the throughline of their education, personal competencies and values.

When onboarding new generations, we first design a plan detailing how the process will unfold and specific guidelines based on their future role, since holding a management role isn’t the same as a governance role.

Preparing next-generation family members to serve as upstanding shareholders and potential corporate leaders is paramount.

This plan is drawn up jointly by incoming and outgoing generations, with milestones and commitments established by both sides. It requires humility and appreciation of our senior talent on behalf of incoming family members, as well as the generosity of outgoing generations to allow space, convey trust and gradually delegate their responsibilities.

When I assumed the presidency of the family business in 2011, the support of external advisors was crucial. Their objective and external point of view ensures neutrality, which is critically important considering the emotional aspects and blurred lines between family and firm.

An external advisor helps professionalize the succession process by enhancing transparency and the lines of communication, and making sure all members of the family group are engaged.

This is essential since it avoids a sole focus on the predecessor by recognizing the role of other family members: they are also important and their voices must be heard to ensure alignment. The advisor promotes family unity, the linchpin to smoothly passing the baton from one generation to the next.