Entrepreneur Panel "Fit for the Future”

In the Entrepreneur Panel "Fit for the Future - Combining Origin and Future" on March 23, 2021, five representatives of the "next generation" of family businesses will discuss the opportunities and challenges of succession, the ongoing digitization processes, and how to successfully lead a family business into the future without ignoring its origins.

Tobias Rappers, Managing Director of Maschinenraum GmbH, invited Max Viessmann and four other family entrepreneurs to a discussion panel to talk about the challenges of digital transformation and the opportunities it presents for their respective industries.

The Maschinenraum is an innovation ecosystem of the Viessmann Group based in Berlin that brings together German medium-sized and family-owned companies to jointly create a livable future for future generations. Together with 20 innovation-minded companies, the Maschinenraum harnesses the power of the collective to shed light on future issues and aggregate resources and insights to create shared value.

"Fit for the Future" - for companies and businesses, this doesn’t just mean becoming more digital. It also means adapting to new working environments and driving forward future-proof changes, because the Corona pandemic, at the latest, has shown that an adaptable, digital orientation is vital for competitiveness. But how can new technologies, new customer needs and new business models be seen as opportunities instead of risks?

The five guests on the Entrepreneur Panel are shaping change in their companies and represent the courage to dare to try something new and to shape the future together with their employees. In addition to CEO Max Viessmann, guests include Nora Fehlbaum, Managing Director of Vitra, the Swiss design company for home and office furniture, Selina Stihl, since 2016 an advisory and supervisory board member of chainsaw manufacturer Stihl Holding AG & Co. KG, Marie Langer, CEO at the 3-D technology company EOS GmbH since the end of 2019, and Jan-Hendrik Goldbeck, Managing Partner of the construction company Goldbeck GmbH, known for large-scale projects such as the Tesla factory in Brandenburg.

The family entrepreneurs openly discussed topics such as co-creation, error culture, motivating employees for change, new business models and maintaining competitiveness in a digitalized world. Everyone agreed that leading a company into the future also always means preparing employees for the future, bringing everyone along equally and putting people at the center. The panel repeatedly posed the central question of the extent to which family-run companies find it easier to undergo digital transformation than other forms of organization, and how a generational change can succeed. For Max Viessmann, when looking ahead, it is important to look backward and be aware of traditions. His recipe for success is to combine origin and future. What values need to be preserved, but what also needs to be radically changed? In his opinion, the decisive element in generational change is trust. Because only trusting communication between the generations can ensure that change takes place in the right places and that transformation does not become an end in itself. The power of two generations helps here: Looking back can be a key to answering the questions of the future correctly.

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