Company succession does not happen overnight. Find out what is important – and which steps already make sense today.
Does anchoring a company in tradition hold back its innovative capabilities? This apparent contradiction persists in a society that reflexively dismisses tradition as standing still – a fallacy that misses the most important point, namely that at its core, tradition does not describe what a company does, but how it does it. For example, by upholding traditional values. And, as is well known, such values can be lived without ageing.
Rarely giving interviews, Maja Baumann and Björn Wettergren do not enjoy any special rights on the Board of Directors. At the same time, they represent the fourth generation of the owner families. © Vontobel 2020
Business journalist and editor of Weltwoche.
His article was originally published in German. We present it here in English with the kind permission of the publisher.
A company that innovates on the basis of established values will not falter – even in these Corona times – but rather, the values will drive the firm forwards. Hans Vontobel once coined the term “quand même” for this. What mattered to him was sticking to a decision even against resistance – as long as it is the right decision. Or, to update this notion to today's Corona world:
Only people who are not caught up in short-term constraints are able to actively make decisons at all.
This “tenacity” is one of three values that Vontobel still define today. Two more are the company’s entrepreneurial “foresight” and the “ownership” mindset internalized by its employees at every level. Together, these three values define a corporate culture that has essentially been driving Vontobel for almost 100 years.
When Maja Baumann and Björn Wettergren stepped up to succeed their grandfather and great uncle respectively, these values were by no means so clearly discernible. But they knew how important these “soft factors” were for Vontobel – and for a successful generational change in general.
So it was obvious that bringing what makes Vontobel unique into sharper focus was one of the first projects in which they, as new members of the Board of Directors, would become intensively involved.
It is worth it to seek out the corporate values that are lived implicitly and formulate them explicitly.
In an interview with Florian Schwab (Weltwoche), Maja Baumann and Björn Wettergren explain how Hans Vontobel arranged for family continuity on the Board of Directors. They describe how the holding structure helped to depersonalize possible lines of conflict – ensuring that the company’s management can act and invest with a long-term perspective.