3 questions to smart minds

Better secure company succession

For this 3 questions to P. Ulrich

O&R Corpo­rate Finance AG
Photo: P. Ulrich | O&R Corpo­rate Finance AG
29. May 2013

Even the Fede­ral Minis­try of Econo­mics and Tech­no­logy, KfW and repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of asso­cia­ti­ons, insti­tu­ti­ons and orga­niza­ti­ons in the busi­ness, credit and libe­ral profes­si­ons have foun­ded an initia­tive,, to create a favorable climate for entre­pre­neu­rial gene­ra­tio­nal change in Germany. What are the opti­ons, what is the right time, how can you best work towards the right succes­sor, what are the reti­re­ment strategies?

For this 3 ques­ti­ons to Member of the Execu­tive Board at O&R Corpo­rate Finance AG in Munich

1. The topic of company succes­sion raises major problems in many compa­nies. How can we better advise entre­pre­neurs who are one day looking for a successor?

From our point of view, it is not so much a ques­tion of an impro­ved consul­ting approach — the topic itself is simply sorted into the wrong cate­gory in many people’s minds. It should not be an “emer­gency issue”, but rather some­thing that should alre­ady be sett­led when you join the management.

In our under­stan­ding, succes­sion in a company is to be approa­ched just as “natu­rally” as, for exam­ple, occu­pa­tio­nal safety, envi­ron­men­tal protec­tion or marke­ting. As soon as entre­pre­neurs deal with this in a rela­xed manner as part of their routine corpo­rate respon­si­bi­lity, we have arri­ved where we think we need to be.

On this path — and it begins with the first entre­pre­neu­rial steps — there is and of course needs a lot of support and advice that we can imagine for the entre­pre­neurs. In making us M&A consul­tants aware of the need for regu­la­tion at an early stage, univer­si­ties and educa­tio­nal insti­tu­ti­ons, banks and, of course, asso­cia­ti­ons and indus­try repre­sen­ta­ti­ves can help. It should simply become the special quali­fi­ca­tion of an entre­pre­neur to be able and to want to regu­late his very own succes­sion issues in a supe­rior way.

2. What can repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the indi­vi­dual indus­tries do to commu­ni­cate value-added models as a design impulse for the future of a company?

Entre­pre­neu­rial tradi­ti­ons and their iner­tia are a curse and a bles­sing in equal measure. — Not leaving trea­ding entre­pre­neu­rial ground, but still being open to new horizontal/vertical combi­na­ti­ons of products and capa­bi­li­ties of compa­nies along the value chain:

For many entre­pre­neurs, this tension exceeds the level of perso­nal willing­ness to change when left to their own devices.

Here, the indus­try repre­sen­ta­ti­ves should become active, encou­rage the indi­vi­dual company leaders and open up entre­pre­neu­rial perspec­ti­ves. By actively commu­ni­ca­ting successful, new approa­ches and “case-studies”, up to the offer to accom­pany such deve­lo­p­ments within compa­nies with targe­ted support, one can help medium-sized compa­nies a lot to find new

Build busi­ness models. — Inno­va­tive company exch­an­ges, the playful commu­ni­ca­tion and deve­lo­p­ment of vari­ants of stra­te­gic success factors for one’s own company can help to take up these new approa­ches before others on the market attack you with them.

The famous formula: 1+1 = >2 applies as a bench­mark! And, despite all the prophe­cies of doom, it can help convince entre­pre­neurs to dare to ally them­sel­ves with the upstream and down­stream part­ners of their own “value chain” and to find new service profiles and formats. M&A consul­tants also have a very respon­si­ble, support­ing role to play here.

3. How can entre­pre­neurs be made aware of this when their indus­try is in a state of uphe­aval, for exam­ple when a boom phase breaks off and restruc­tu­ring beco­mes neces­sary? How can they create an indus­try stra­tegy out of it?

Not being able to see the forest for the trees is a common chall­enge for the manage­ment of compa­nies in dyna­mic indus­tries. It is true that M&A advi­sors are in high demand in such market situa­tions and often bankers and

PE compa­nies better infor­med than the entre­pre­neurs concer­ned them­sel­ves. Howe­ver, it should be part of the good service provi­ded by cham­bers and asso­cia­ti­ons to iden­tify these deve­lo­p­ments at an early stage and to deve­lop opti­ons for action toge­ther with those affected.

Act while there is still time — often more of a wish than a guiding prin­ci­ple for these company repre­sen­ta­ti­ves. In this way, early-warning networks could be instal­led in indi­vi­dual indus­try segments to gene­rate impe­tus and help gene­rate design guidance for all stake­hol­ders. Global bench­marks and quickly retrie­va­ble design ideas could help those affec­ted to move from being driven to being driven. The targe­ted inter­ac­tion of banks, indus­try repre­sen­ta­ti­ves and entre­pre­neurs in “new-game” work­shops would help to initiate often unavo­ida­ble chan­ges — up to and inclu­ding company mergers — quickly and in a way that conser­ves resources.

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