The family business forum discusses values, succession and future in Zaragoza

Values, succession, and future are the three axes on which pivoted the 19th National Meeting of the Family Forum, which gathered, in Zaragoza, 350 young members of entrepreneur families from all over Spain; an event organized by the Family Business Institute and the Aragón Family Business Association, with the collaboration of Deloitte and Banco Santander.

The motto chosen for this year, “The Spain Beat”, seeks to convey the idea that, aside from the debates we are attending to, the country is moving and advancing thanks to the contribution of the civil society and the family companies, which day after day open their doors with the hope of doing something for their communities.

The Family Forum is the venue for future generations of stockholders, board members and executives of the companies that make up the Family Business Institute (IEF, acronym in Spanish) and affiliated Regional Associations (AATT, acronym is Spanish).  It is the space created for the youngest family members who represent their companies’ generational continuity, a forum for discussion and exchange of experiences and concerns.

On Friday afternoon, the meeting’s attendees visited facilities of outstanding Aragonese companies like La Zaragozana, Pikolin, Fersa, IQE, and Cefa.

The academic session, chaied by the Aragonese journalist, Ana Aínsa, took off on Saturday with a welcoming speech by the IEF’s CEO, José Luis Blanco, who reminded the audience that what really makes a company a family business is the commitment of the next generation, and pointed out that in these so special times we are living in, reality must be built with facts and commitments, just like the family business do each day.

Staying away from the noise generated by uncertainty

Jorge Blanchard, President of the Aragón Family Business Association, encouraged the meeting attendees to “stay away from the noise generated by uncertainty”, be prepared to address the challenges the future may hold, cherish human capital, and always maintain the innovation spirit that characterizes the family businesses.

Asier González, Managing Director of Santander España, reminded that his bank was founded 176 years ago, as an entity intended for supporting companies, and that ever since, its mission has been to contribute to the progress of these companies, communities, and society.

Lastly, David Álvarez, Active Partner of Deloitte in Aragón, listed five transforming challenges that, in his opinion, all companies, whether family business or not, must address: namely, sustainability, digitalization, data input, talent, and inorganic growth.

A psychiatric diagnosis of society

The first morning session called “Making Good Things Happen to You”, was led by Marian Rojas Estapé, Psychiatrist from the Spain Institute of Psychiatry Research, and was presented by Enrique Sendagorta, a member of the family company, Sener. Rojas made a complete psychiatric diagnosis of the current society, bringing into focus how people are intoxicated by two major hormones like cortisol (stress) and dopamine, (pleasure, addiction), and mentioned the existence of a profound crisis of attention.

Grupo Pikolin set up the next round table with the title “When the Family Takes Care of Business”, featuring its President, Alfonso Solans; the Group’s Vice-President and President of Dunlopillo Holdings, Borja Solans, and his brother, Álvarez, Grupo Pikolin’s Vice-President. The table’s moderation ran on Jorge Esteban, Director of the Aragón Family Business Association.

In his speech, Alfonso Solans noted that the job of any good entrepreneur is to pave the way so that the next generations get access to the realm of management, while also stating that at eventually the most difficult decision is always “who will steer the ship”.

On the other hand, Álvaro Solans acknowledged that the surname carries a weight for the company’s new generations, and that having great role models such as his grandfather and father constitutes a challenge that, in his words, he faces with hope and responsibility. Meanwhile, Borja Solans, asserted that a long-term perspective and a personal commitment have been key in integrating the family culture into the Group’s Asian branches.

Are we ready to live within the Internet?

 Later, a discussion group called “Metaverse and Extended Reality, the Future is Here” was held with the participation of Pedro Lozano, Cofounder of Imascono; Víctor Pérez, Digital Marketing & Growth Manager of ISDI, and Patricia M. Val, Cofounder and CEO of Future Space. The group was moderated by Isabel Puig, Institutional Coordination Manager of Santander España, who questioned if we were prepared to live within the Internet, where many things from the real world will be found.

In this respect, Patricia M. Val asserted that Metaverse is the new structure that will support the Internet within 10 years. “It is being built, but it still needs to be developed in many ways. What is clear is that those who come late will find rules already implemented”, she said.

In Víctor Pérez’s view, Metaverse is an opportunity. “On which side of history do you want to be?”, he wondered.  “On the side of those who believe it will be a failure or on that of those who seek how to help their businesses?” Pedro Lozano, on the other hand, claimed that the future will assume a hybrid model, “where we will have the best of the physical world and the best of the virtual world”.

The first afternoon session was led by Professor Alfonso Chiner, Scientific Collaborator of the Strategic Management for IESE, who presented the audience with a case study under the motto “Succession, An Open-End Movie or Series”. During a spirited debate with the group of new generation members from the family business, Chiner wrapped up a series of key ideas: “We are family; we need to talk; communication can be fixed, trust cannot”.

The following round table entitled “ESG, All Time Values” summoned Javier Pérez de Mezquía, Saica’s Board Member; Beatriz Molins, Cementos Molins’ Board Member and FIBAC’s Couselor, and Clara Arpa, ARPA’s CEO; it was chaired by Salvador Bautista, General Secretary of Bergé y Cia.’s Board.

avier Pérez de Mezquía elaborated on the idea that served as the session’s title, “Today we called it circular economy, but we started doing it in our business back in the 70s. According to Saica, each business decision must fit into the SDGs.”

What good can we do for our society?

On her turn, Clara Arpa noted that her company is 55 years old, “and on each fiscal year, we wonder what good are we going to do for society”. Finally, Beatriz Molins emphasized the need to preserve the environment by creating value and placing sustainability at the core of each business strategy.

The last session of the academic day was called “Family Offices”, How Do Family Businesses Invest? featuring Alberto Folch-Rusiñol, Vice-President of Fábricas Folch; Albert Botet, Managing Director at Inderhabs Investments, and Armando Fandos, Wealth Manager Director of Zubi Wealth Management. This last event was moderated by Fernando Vázquez Castro, Partner of Deloitte Legal, who mentioned that, in his opinion, the family offices are an instrument, but not an end for the family business.

Despite that, for Alberto Botet, the vision, goal and managing bodies of a family office must act just as those of the family business. In a similar key, Armando Fandos stated that sustainability, profitableness, and impact should lead the way of investment for the family business. On his turn, Alberto Fosch reminded that companies do not always go well, therefore diversification is important.

Finding strength in unity

The meeting concluded with a summary of conclusions by Salvador Bautista and an address by Patricia Riberas, President of the Forum’s Executive Board, who sent a message to the members of the family business new generation. “In the current times, we need to find our strength in unity.”

Then, Esther Aguirre, President of the Family Forum for the Murcia Association, announced that the next National Meeting of the Family Forum, in its 20th edition, would be held in Cartagena, in 2024.