What do you see as the advantages of a family business?
Nicole Ehrlich-Adám: Family businesses have advantages in terms of combining permanency and efficiency in decision-making. On the one hand, we see the company’s development in the long term, even spanning generations. On the other hand, we can also reach decisions very quickly if necessary thanks to the short lines of communication. In any case, we take corporate risks with sound judgement. EVVA’s company history is closely intertwined with the family history.
How can family businesses maintain this strength?
Stefan Ehrlich-Adám: This question certainly cannot be answered in general terms. Family businesses are in competition nationally and internationally just like all other companies. In any case, one approach is to remember your strengths with regard to the planning horizon and decision-making structures and to reflect these accordingly in the company structure. It is also important to have the courage to produce innovations, which may be trendsetting, but are also associated with a high degree of uncertainty.
And what do you think are the special challenges for family businesses?
In abstract terms: keeping the balance right in what was just described – meaning focusing on economic facts and consulting the right internal and external experts in order to make the right decisions together. Equally, it is important to consider the extent to which the size of the company allows for the right growth spurts.
The expansion of EVVA and the growth of your own family go hand in hand. How do you manage to set boundaries here?
Nicole Ehrlich-Adám: We’ve been working in an office together for 28 years. Over the years, we have learned to separate the company and private life.
Stefan Ehrlich-Adám: However, it would be wrong to claim that we always pull it off. EVVA is simply part of us. You don't go home in the evening without continuing to think about it.
Nicole Ehrlich-Adám: But so far, we have always managed to find the balance here.
Can you tell us your secret?
Nicole Ehrlich-Adám: I value treating others as partners and a clarifying discussion – quite direct and clear. I also see this closely coupled with our requirements of appreciation, respect and fairness.
Stefan Ehrlich-Adám: Communication is particularly important to us at EVVA. Especially for our managers. I don't need anyone who tells me what I want to hear. Rather, I appreciate a critical discussion.
In your opinion, what sets family businesses apart from others?
Nicole Ehrlich-Adám: I think we do offer a more attentive approach. And there is certainly also a greater closeness between employers and employees. I’m there every day, even if I can't see everything, I sense moods and notice problems earlier. As a result, communication is usually faster and more efficient.
Stefan Ehrlich-Adám: In my opinion, family businesses offer more permanency. We see the long-term development. If a major investment such as the extension here at Wienerberg requires that we prioritise projects, we implement that. At the same time, we take corporate risks with sound judgement.
You are both still young, but have you thought about succession?
Stefan Ehrlich-Adám: We are still here, but nowadays we deliberately rely on our management team. Performance and trust are particularly important.
With three children, however, succession in the family would be guaranteed ...
Nicole Ehrlich-Adám: I want our children to follow the path they really want. Besides, gone are the days when only the family name gave you an entitlement to manage the company. A degree, further professional experience – these are the prerequisites I expect from whoever takes over EVVA.
Stefan Ehrlich-Adám: The fact that the family business exists must not obligate the next generation to work here. There must be a desire to successfully shape the future of the company, with new ideas, new visions and lots of energy. Last but not least, education naturally plays a major role in the suitability to run a company.