The German Family Business Association is to meet in Hamburg from April 21-22, 2016 for its annual “Family Business Days”. This year’s honorary guests include Mayor Olaf Scholz, Professor Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Heinz Buschkowsky, former District Mayor of Berlin-Neukölln.
Around 90 per cent of all German companies are family businesses and provide 60 per cent of jobs that are subject to social security and 80 per cent of trainee places in Germany. In an interview with Hamburg News, Friedrich Görtz, head of the Hamburg branch, discusses the concept of success in family businesses as well as digitalisation and globalisation against the backdrop of current affairs.
*Hamburg News: * What should delegates expect from the two-day meeting of family businesses?
*Friedrich Görtz: * A wide range of subjects. One issue is integrating refugees. On the first day, Detlef Scheele, Board of the Federal Agency of Employment, will give a talk entitled “Integration is Work” while Heinz Buschkowsky, former District Mayor of Berlin-Neukölln, will discuss: “One country, two Worlds? How can integration be achieved?” We hope to glean different solutions as the German economy is reliant on new workers. In this context, we will also discuss the new immigration law as well as reiterating our demand for a more flexible retirement age.
*Hamburg News: * “The Family Business Association” is the political lobby group of 180,000 such businesses in Germany with 8 million employees who are subject to social security. What makes an entrepreneur successful?
*Friedrich Görtz: * Success is achieved when an entrepreneur does what a client wants – it’s as simple as that basically. That requires a great deal of attention. Keeping your finger on the pulse of events, being open for suggestions from staff and looking beyond our country’s borders, operating internationally and preparing for business abroad and further education. And of course, going along with digitalisation even if it often requires considerable investments.
*Hamburg News: * What about new, young entrepreneurs? Is becoming an entrepreneur attractive for young people or is there an image of someone bent only on maximising profits and who may not appeal to generation Y?
*Friedrich Görtz: * The concept of “entrepreneur” is indeed slightly loaded and we don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for the reasons. Take for instance, tax evasion, by multinational companies or the current debate about managers’ bonuses at VW. This discussion does not occur in family companies as their stance towards staff pre-empts it. If employees have to suffer pay cuts, then of course, the boss cannot give himself a bonus. Apart from that, the agreement of risk and liability applies to family businesses and this bans risky business deals. That also distinguishes us from some manager-run companies. Unfortunately, some scandals are putting a burden on the entire sector.
*Hamburg News: * Digitalisation and globalisation are widely discussed challenges especially for family entrepreneurs. What is the current status in your association?
*Friedrich Görtz: * There is no straightforward answer as we are a cross-sector association. Our members are equally from trade and manufacturing or shipping and have very different demands on digitalisation. But I think there is consensus that digitalisation is a major requirement to be able to face the future well.
In reference to globalisation, Hamburg’s long tradition means it is well equipped. That begin in the Hanse era and world trade in Hamburg has always been committed to this spirit. We, the family businesses,” therefore support the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) because we see significant chances for medium-sized companies to increase their exports to the U.S. Simply put, globalisation is fundamentally good!”
Interview: Yvonne Scheller