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Family Business Conference Chairs, Catherine Chew, Andre Noguiera and Daniel Park, MBA 2019s

By Sheena Dave

LBS’s annual Family Business Conference (FBC) takes place on Friday 20 April. We discussed the event with Catherine Chew, MBA 2019, Andre Nogueir, MBA 2019 and Daniel Park, MBA 2019.

For those that don’t know, could you give a brief overview of this year’s Family Business Conference and what it’s about?

Cat:This year’s Family Business Conference brings family businesses together from across the UK to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face today.

Family businesses account for between 70% - 90% of global GDP, between 50% - 80% of global jobs, and around two thirds of all businesses in the world (2012 data from Family Firm Institute). Handling matters such as succession planning, social responsibility and monetary success are vital not only for the individual families, but for the economy as a whole. In today’s day and age, disruption is the norm rather than the exception. However, we believe that family businesses have an inherent closeness that, if aligned, can give them a differentiated advantage – or, if in discord, will lead to devastation to themselves and the livelihoods that depend on them.

Therefore, this year we will be covering two main topics: Perpetuating Through a Disruptive Economy and Transitioning into Family Business.

Andre: The first topic, Perpetuating Through a Disruptive Economy, is about the challenge of maintaining a business in a world that is rapidly changing, with new technologies and disrupting inventions. Family businesses are about legacy and long-term goals, so we wanted to give an idea of how families are shaping the future of their businesses. This topic starts with a family business member as a guest speaker, followed by a panel focused on alternative investments for families.

The second part of the conference is about Transitioning into Family Business. Our goal with this topic is to discuss the positive and negative aspects of working in a family business. We start with a panel formed by family members who will discuss and share their personal experience with this theme and then we move to our second guest speaker, the last participant in our conference.

Tell us a bit more about the speakers who will be in attendance?

Daniel:  We are welcoming an extremely high calibre of speakers to share the personal journeys of their family businesses.

G. Garvin Brown IV, Chairman of the Board of Brown-Forman (think of brands such as Jack Daniels), will be speaking about the succession process of the sixth-generation family business – which is extremely systematic and enabling for younger generations.

Allegra Antinori is one of three sisters who have taken over the family business Marchesi Antinori. Antinori is one of the largest and oldest wine families in Italy, spanning 26 generations. Allegra will be speaking to us about how to achieve continuous success over so many generations, and in particular how Marchesi Antinori is navigating the disruptive economy of today.

Andre: We also have a range of speakers from the families of Danfoss Group, a Danish energy behemoth with billions of pounds in annual turnover; Itaú, the largest bank in Latin America; Riso Gallo, the largest rice company in Italy; Everards Brewery, a family-run UK brewery founded in 1849; as well as professional speakers from LGT Vestra, Fusang and OurCrowd. All this is packed into an intensive morning on 20 April!

What goes into planning an event like this?

Cat: It is really important to us is to foster a safe, closed door environment where people can openly share their stories – both good and bad. We’re looking for a very personal element, as many of the challenges faced by upcoming generations are close to the heart. Therefore, the conference will be held under Chatham House rules, with a limit of 100 participants in total. Networking is also a vital part of what we want to achieve, so we ask registrants to fill us in on their industries and roles in order to cluster participants of similar interests together. We hope that the conference will be a benefit both in terms of learning, as well as for future business opportunities.

Daniel: Establishing the theme of this year’s conference, the FBC committee wanted to focus on the issue that concerned family business members the most. As many of the new generations are in a relatively early stage of their career, they strive to understand whether working at the family business is a right decision. Therefore, the committee tried to aggregate as diverse perspectives as possible, reaching out to well-established executives at family businesses, to the next generations who have gone through a similar thought process. I believe that everyone coming to the conference would at least set a reasonable benchmark, listening to speakers’ genuine experiences.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome so far?

Andre: The most challenging – and rewarding, I must add – part of the organisation is creating the conference’s themes and structure. Along with that, bringing the right speakers to address these themes is fundamental. I believe our ExCo has done a marvellous job here and I am very excited with the results. On the operations side, we have several details regarding marketing and logistics that are also very important for a successful conference.

Cat: For me, one of the hardest parts of the conference has been to attract the high calibre of speakers that we see on the programme. Some of them have a personal connection with LBS – but definitely not all. We were also determined to invite speakers who had personal stories that were in tune with our topics, which narrowed an already narrow field. However, we think that we have overcome this challenge admirably due a huge effort from the Family Business ExCo – Filipa Morgado hustled in both Antinori and Riso Gallo, while Andre brought in Itaú, and Cat brought in Fusang and OurCrowd. People outside the Family Business ExCo also did us a huge service – for example, Julien Everards volunteered his family business and brought in that speaker, while Sarah Jeffs (always leveraging the LBS Outreah!) introduced us to Brown-Forman and Danfoss.

Which parts of the programme day are you personally looking forward to?

Cat: I am personally really looking forward to the Brown-Forman keynote. I have heard that his presentations bring both tears, laughs, solidarity and inspiration. His story is also very powerful – as you’ll see in the conference!

Andre: I am definitely looking forward to the next generation panel. I am certain that the discussion regarding transitioning into family business will bring powerful and useful takeaways for all those who are in doubt of whether joining their family business or pursue another career path.

Daniel: I look forward to Allegra Antinori’s keynote speech. It is interesting to learn how Antinori family has sustained the business over 700 years. I also expect to hear Allegra’s personal stories, living the legacy of the family history. After all, I am a huge fan of their wine.

Find out more about the Family Business conference.