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Digitalisation is the main challenge for family businesses in the world in order to advance and grow

  • December 11st, 2023
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Valencia 11 December 2023. The Chair of Family Business of the University of Valencia (CEFUV) promoted by the Valencian Association of Entrepreneurs (AVE), EDEM Business School, the Valencian Institute for the Study of Family Business (IVEFA), the Institute of Family Business (IEF) and the University of Valencia (UV), and sponsored by CaixaBank and Broseta, organised the 6th Conference on Family Businesses in the World to present and debate the challenges of digitalisation in family businesses, on this occasion with the cases of Germany and Switzerland. 

The conference began with a presentation by Professor Thomas Claub from the University of Witten/Herdecke (Germany) on "Digitalisation in family businesses: Status Quo and future challenges". During the presentation, it became clear that German family businesses are less digitised than non-family businesses in most areas.

Thomas explained that the main objectives for German family businesses to digitise are cost reduction, reaching new markets and customers, improving cooperation with business partners and improving quality, among others. Thomas emphasised that "digitalisation is a long-term process and that a digital strategy is necessary to carry out this process and to avoid duplication of efforts". During his presentation, he also stated that digitisation is not conditioned by the generation involved in the family business and that it is not necessary for the family to be represented in the management to drive this process, but the involvement of experts is considered key to carry out the digitisation process. 

As conclusions of this first presentation, German family businesses have to catch up in terms of digitisation, that they should invest in further training, that digitisation is a matter of ownership and that owners should be equipped with adequate digitisation skills, as this increases profitability and sales growth.

Next, Ivan Miroshnychenko, professor at IMD (Switzerland) presented the paper "Digitalisation in Family Businesses in Switzerland: The keys to change". In this case, emphasis was placed on the shortage of talent and the lack of human capital in terms of technological skills, which makes it difficult to advance in the digitalisation process. Investing in training, training their employees, attending job orientation programmes at universities, offering attractive and flexible working conditions, as well as outsourcing are some of the actions with which Swiss family businesses try to make up for this lack of talent.

In order to discuss and analyse these challenges in the field of digitalisation in family businesses, a round table was held, in which, in addition to the professors, the family entrepreneurs Carlos Albors (General Manager of Group Laiex) and Consuelo Vaquer (CEO of Nirvel Cosmetics SL) took part, moderated by Alejandro Escribá, professor at the Universitat de València and director of the CEFUV.

Carlos Albors stated that "it is important to have trained and experienced staff in the company, but if this training is not aligned with the digital transformation process, a lot of already acquired knowledge can be lost". He also wanted to highlight the role of a leader who teaches, trains and acts, as well as the importance of teaming up with a good partner.

For her part, Consuelo Vaquer stressed that "having the team aligned with the strategy, doing a lot of pedagogy and talking a lot with the workers is fundamental for a successful digitalisation process in a family business". "Family businesses are very much about people: closeness, human treatment and familiarity are fundamental values in a family business," said Consuelo.

To conclude the conference, Alejandro Escribá, professor at the University of Valencia and director of the CEFUV, stressed that digital transformation is a long-term process. It is essential to be informed and trained to begin the journey, and to advance step by step, with initially small projects, but which lay the foundations to gain maturity. In this way, it will be possible to progress towards deep and ambitious projects. As deep and ambitious.

The closing of the conference was led by the president of EDEM Escuela de Empresarios, Hortensia Roig, who stressed that "digitalisation is one of the main challenges for any company that wants to grow and move towards the future. But it is especially so for family businesses, because in their DNA, as well as growing, is the vision and commitment to the continuity of the business project".