• Prof. Dr. Tom A. Rüsen und Prof. Dr. Arist von Schlippe

Clans - this is how large families become sustainable,

From the research workshop. Successful management of large shareholder groups erfordert Antworten on special family strategy issues. In private wealth 02/2017 the basic challenges have already been analysed. In the second part, the Witten Institute for Family Enterprises (WIFU) now examines how education and training formats should be defined so that appropriately trained family members can get involved. Im Ganzen, a professional clan management 2.0 is created.

For a long time, family businesses were accepted with a shrug of the shoulders, dass the family is both the strength and the weakness of the company. In recent years work has increasingly been done on this "weakness". Awareness of the need to organise and professionalise oneself as a family has increased significantly.

Today, on the part of the owner family, forms of separate family strategies are often developed parallel to the corporate strategy. Ideally, these documents should be written down in writing and form the basis of family management.

The tasks (we call this "family management 1.0") usually include the contact and caretaker function. It deals with all topics that become virulent within the entrepreneurial family and do not belong directly to the field of responsibility of the management or supervisory body of the company.

At its core, corresponding structures are concerned with organising family days, ensuring the reflection and further development of the contents of the family strategy, coordinating further training activities of the family and transferring emerging conflicts to professional processing. The members of the entrepreneurial family who work here are usually volunteers and, in addition to their main occupation, also have limited activities for the entrepreneurial family. The election to the appropriate committee is often based on a sympathy or trust factor.

All in all, such models can be described as "family-based systems". Due to the often still existing personal proximity of the acting actors, the "family mode" is necessary and admissible in the form of communication and contact. This also applies to the design of the interaction between family management and individual members of the entrepreneurial family.

Basically, this is a big advantage. This type of (self-)management, however, reaches its limits at a certain number of members or their spatial and cultural distance. As the degree of complexity increases, the people involved often lack the specific skills and time resources to deal appropriately with the differences within the entrepreneurial family.

If a certain complexity threshold is exceeded, so-called "family management 2.0" is required. It addresses the central question of every multi-generation entrepreneur family: Do we as shareholders want to see ourselves more as an entrepreneurial family or more as investors?

If the investor mentality dominates, the family management takes over the classic tasks of an investor relations department. In particular, it explains the management's strategy, communicates performance and organises the purchase and sale of shares within the group of shareholders. Since cohesion as a family community is no longer relevant, there is no need for measures to promote competence and cohesion as a community.

If, on the other hand, the primary objective is to maintain the circle of shareholders as a closed system of related members of an entrepreneurial family, the task changes. In this case is about "Family Investor Relations". In addition, measures must now be taken to enable the management, development and leadership of the circle of shareholders as a community of related persons at a higher level of organisation.

The tasks, structures and competences required here must be dualistic. Because a family management 2.0 has to assume at the same time beside the classical economical and juridical tasks a professional contact with familiarity.

In connection with "clan structures", profound knowledge of system and group dynamics, of individual and family psychological patterns and models as well as knowledge of conflict and communication theories or models for controlling communication in large groups is required.

The "classic" training courses for supervisory or advisory board members with a focus on business management and legal factors are therefore not sufficient for the management of a large entrepreneurial family.

Many families are well aware of this. In practice, the lack of communicative and family-dynamic models is therefore often compensated for by "many years of experience" as a committee member or by acquired "high trust" in the family.

This may work for shareholder groups in which it is still possible to quickly establish face-to-face communication to solve critical questions. However, if a large community is to be professionally managed by an appropriate family body, the people involved must have a broader range of skills.

Sociological or psychological basic knowledge, training in communication theories and designs as well as practical experience in dealing with conflicting communication, interpersonal conflict dynamics and the activity as a mediator are particularly important.

The competence profile required here therefore corresponds less to that of a commercially experienced manager than to that of an experienced manager from the Human Resources department.

However, the CVs of family managers observed in practice to date show that the persons involved are usually "full professionals" only with regard to business management issues. Hinsichtlich of their abilities for the control and guidance of a community as entrepreneur family they trust in personal qualities.

When it comes to the sustainable management of a clan, we therefore see a need to catch up. This aspect of family management, which is dedicated to the wishes and needs within the community, is less focused on fulfilling grassroots democratic codetermination or individual needs in individual cases. He needs a systematic organisation of opportunities for addressing and reflecting within the larger family circle. Analogous to the works council for employees, the "family investor relations unit" then becomes a "caretaker unit" for the members of the extended family.

This is the decisive task for the long-term existence of the "clan". If the individual member of the family were "left to himself", the loss of interest in the community would be programmed - and the disintegration of the community foreseeable;


Authors: Prof. Dr. Tom A. Rüsen, Managing Director WIFU (Witten Institute for Family Business), and Chairman WIFU Foundation.

Prof. Dr. Arist von Schlippe, academic director of the WIFU and holder of the chair for leadership and dynamics of family businesses at the University of Witten/Herdecke.

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