Landing in your family business, Family Business Day at IESE

Earlier in March, the IESE Family Business Club, together with Professor Heinrich Liechtenstein and two practitioners, Sebastian Ehrensberger and Ginka Christenson, organised the annual Family Business Day at IESE in conjunction with the LAND* elective course offered to 2nd years in the Winter Term. The event was organised specifically to bring together a diverse group of participants to discuss their experiences in their family businesses where there are not only just businesses to be led but also ownership groups as well as families.

*LAND is short for “Landing in your family business — setting priorities and aligning with your family”.

The day witnessed more than 80 participants made up of first and second-year Family Business Club members, LAND students, mentors and Family Business Club alumni. Professor Heinrich opened the session with the agenda of the event, and Chin-Hao Chang (MBA Class of 2022) gave an overview of the LAND course and his LAND experience.

It was a successful conference with lots of sharing, insights and learnings for all the participants.

A panel, facilitated by Ginka Christenson, took over and we listened to testimonials from 3 MBA Class of 2022 LAND students – Maram AlDukhayyil, Ravi Alencar de Macêdo and Stephanie Chioh about their experience in the LAND course. This course is designed to help a small group of students develop a plan for landing in their family’s business and more importantly to guide and support the first steps of aligning with their family. It covers the most important topics that need to be orchestrated during a generational transition by a member of the incoming generation with a special focus on governance, family relationships and trust, and process handling. Class discussions cover the basic concepts while peer discussions during and in-between classes were structured and moderated to enhance students understanding of their situation, their options and to choose, reflect upon and calibrate their personal approach to preparing for the succession challenge.

Our key takeaways from the panel include:

  • The mentorship experience in this course was very useful to me. I was matched with the perfect mentor who was exactly in my shoes 5 years ago. It was scary how identical our situations were, even our parents had the same personalities. We wondered if Professor Heinrich was Dumbledore in real life… – Maram
  • Many of the concepts were already familiar to me but hearing different perspectives from other colleagues and exchanging my experiences with people who have gone through the same challenges as me is always valid as a learning experience. The course fulfilled my expectations. It was a highlight in my MBA journey. – Ravi 
  • The LAND class unexpectedly became a support group where there was quality time spent and shared listening to views and challenges, support given to everyone whenever needed and very customized and rare conversations that is very personal and focused among one another. – Stephanie

Our keynote speaker sharing his personal experience and expertise with the audience.

We then had the honour of inviting our first keynote speaker Alfonso Libano, Non-Executive Director of Coca Cola. His theme was “Family Dynamics: How to Cultivate Good Communication.” He spoke about his experiences of how his family business was founded back over 70 years and focused on the importance of communication. He emphasised that communication is something that must be continuously worked on, very much like the rest of the family and the company assets, and it is without a doubt that an essential pillar for the prosperity of the business. He further highlighted the importance of conflict management. In his speech, he mentioned,

“Conflict is necessary for generational development, and it is unhealthy to cover it up. We must know how to handle it and understand why it does not arise and keeps hidden, even when its presence is felt shared”.

Alfonso’s speech artfully led to the next topic on the agenda – “Why Landing in The Family Business Can Be Difficult,” a panel made up of 3 ex-LAND students from MBA Class of 2021—Nicolas Roemmers, Riya Singla, and Khelen Lala. The panellists talked about their decision-making processes before, during and after the LAND course and which led them to where they are today in their careers.

Solving real-life business challenges is a signature style of the IESE teaching methodology. Acknowledging the diversity and expertise in the participants, we saw the opportunity to use the conference as a platform to bring participants together to work on a family business challenge of an IESE Family Business Alumni. Participants were divided into groups of 10. In each room, the session would be moderated with a family business alumnus first presenting a real-life family business challenge, participants would be asking clarifying questions, and then given time to provide silent feedback and then the group would openly share and discuss the feedback they have written. The presenter would then share his key learnings with the group to conclude the session.

After a networking lunch between LAND students and their mentors and the IESE Family Business Club members and alumni, another family business challenge took place followed by the last panel session of the day – “Why Does a Mentor make a Difference?” In this session, we invited 3 LAND mentors and IESE Alumni (Ali Achammer, Caroline Luengo and Henrique Morgatto) to share their experiences about working with mentors to navigate themselves within or around their family businesses and matters.

The panel discussed how a mentor can make a difference in the family business community.

The event ended with our second and final keynote speaker, Patricia Francis, Director of Jamaica Producers Group and Portland JSX, who spoke about “Maximizing Value: A journey from Ownership to Stewardship.” She gave the audience an overview of her family business, which was founded in 1919 and later expanded across industries and geographies. Patricia then pointed out that legal succession, proper process and management structure, consensus establishment, gender diversity, and transparency were the critical challenges that a family business would be faced when becoming more sizable in both family and business over time.

Our second keynote speaker explaining the transformation of her family business from ownership to stewardship.

She continued to shed more light on how her family was dealing with the issues, including sharing a story of her and other female family members being appointed as board directors to show how this 100-year-old family conglomerate transitioned from male domination to gender diversity. Patricia closed her speech with stewardship enablement, which contains financial management, annual audits, performance, and communication. The final key takeaway was “neutrality”— while trust and confidence are important, the impartial mindset in decision making is equally pivotal, if not more, in the stewardship of family businesses.

We hope that every attendee had learned something that they could apply back home and that this event had served as a great networking platform to make the family business community tighter. This year’s IESE Family Business Day would not have been successful without all of those involved. We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the distinguished guest speakers, panellists, mentors, alumni, and current first-year and second-year students who participated and volunteered in the event. Finally, our special thanks go to all co-organizers who made the whole day frictionless—Professor Heinrich Liechtenstein, Sebastian Ehrensberger, and Ginka Christenson for their comprehensive planning and professional moderation, Gabriela Blanco for her unwavering support for the coordination of logistics and operations before and during the conference, and last but not least, IESE IT Team for the technical support.

Written by Chin-Hao Chang & Stephanie Chioh, MBA Class of 2022 and co-organizers of Family Business Day 2022

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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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