Events - 05.07.2013 - 00:00 

Transgenerational Entrepreneurship

From steering family corporations towards multigenerational success to keeping an eye on the future of a billion dollar family conglomerate, IFERA's Family Business Day speaks to family business success.
Source: HSG Newsroom


8 July 2013. The International Family Enterprise Research Academy (IFERA) concluded their three day conference with Family Business Day hosted at the Executive Campus. The event, organised by the Centre for Family Business, brings together the academic community and international family business-oriented entrepreneurs. Leading off the day’s events were two leading experts in their fields. Tim Habbershon from Fidelity Investments, USA and CEO Karl-Erivan Haub from the Tengelmann Group in Germany brought the day’s topics into perspective for conference attendees.

Tim Habbershon is a Managing Director at Fidelity Investments, the largest mutual fund company in the United States. In 2006, Habbershon was also the founding director of the Institute for Family Enterprising at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He currently works with family businesses, focusing on a concept he developed at Babson College called Transgenerational Entrepreneurship.

In his approach with these industry leading multinationals, he creates a conversational construct that aims to promote best practices within family businesses while avoiding the pitfalls that sometimes accompany family-run firms. Habbershon stated that, “I try to get families in business to talk about the right things at the right time.”

Familiness Defined
Believing that family-run firms can have an advantage over other businesses because they can tap into a shared passion and common goals, Habbershon believes that families need to understand what makes them unique to move forward in a positive direction. He defines Familiness as “that unique bundle of resources and capabilities a family and business has…”

Habbershon also noted that the unique story behind every family – their path, their history, its members – needs to be recognized. “Familiness relies on a sense of identity and intentionality.”

Transgenerational Enetrpreneurship
For a family business to succeed over time there needs to be an eye on the next generations. Habbershon notes that vision and trust play an important part of moving forward. One challenge is that often the visionary entrepreneur that established a successful company usually flies solo. “This can be good for the start-up phase but it’s not always great for transgenerational thinking.” This basically means that families have to have a strong sense of identity and intentionality… and they have to share a common vision. Being able to co-create together with other family members from different generations means that you are focusing on the future.

Catching the Waves - Karl-Erivan Haub
Bringing five generations and nearly 150 years of family business history, HSG alumnus Karl-Erivan Haub presented his family’s business history saying that his family has always been good at “catching waves”.

The first generation of this Haub family business saw an opportunity and caught what he called the first wave. Noting that there was an emerging middle class, the family started to sell exotic goods that were imported from the colonies around the world in 1867.

The second generation saw opportunity with inventions of things like the light bulb, started to establish brick and mortar shops in 1893 and changed their business name to Tengelmann, which exists today. Over the next 15 years, the company grew to over 500 stores… after both the First and Second World Wars, the family lost two-thirds of their locations and had to rebuild.

The third generation of the family struggled but managed to keep the business afloat.  

In 1954, after noticing some of the changes going on in grocery stores in the USA, Tengelmann introduced the German public in Munich to a new concept – self-service supermarkets. Shoppers now could browse aisles freely, choose items at their leisure and bring these pre-packaged goods back to their homes (which now had refrigerators).   

The fourth generation, his father, expanded their focus, bringing their brand of discount grocery stores to Germany and in 1985 started the chain of do-it-yourself Obi stores.

Unsure of his own path after studying at the HSG, Haub gained professional experience by Nestlé and McKinsey & Company. When he returned to the family business he was looking for an opportunity… and one came when the Berlin Wall fell. Suddenly, there was a vast underserved market where he could expand the Tengelmann Group.

Haub has an eye on the future… and wonders what the next wave will be to propel the family business forward. Currently the executive has an eye on Venture Capital and on moving his brick and mortar stores into E-Commerce.

While Forbe’s Magazine estimates the family’s worth at 4.4 Billion US Dollars, Haub notes that not all of the family’s ventures have been a success… and he admits that there is always a little luck required. “You have to try the wave before you know it works.”