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Bringing the family business community together

The ‘Cosentino Approach’

13th June 2016 Paul Andrews

Pilar Martinez-Cosetino is one of the third generation of people working in the Grupo Cosentino business, in the Almeria region of Spain andexplains how they manage their family affairs.

It started out as a small workshop processing marble and natural stone from the local area, and now manufactures a range of surfaces for kitchens, bathrooms and other areas of the home, including ‘Silestone.’  The business has over 3,000 employees worldwide, and these days 92% of its sales are outside Spain, through the vast majority of production is still based there.

There are thirteen people in the third generation of the Cosentino family, and nine work in the business, taking roles that reflect their particular experience.  Pilar did a law and business degree, before working for two years at a law firm.  Then in 2004 there was the opportunity to join the family firm.  “It was good timing, as Grupo Consentino was just starting the process of professionalising the company, and so I was offered the opportunity to take part in that.  I started in the Legal Department and then I became Director of Strategic Planning, which gave me an excellent overview of the business, and the chance to contribute to the transformation of the company.”

In the last few years that professionalising agenda has seen Grupo Cosentino focus on improving its corporate governance, and now it resembles public listed companies in its framework of Board and Executive Committees, and its use of independent experts, both on the board and in more formal advisory roles.  It also has an established family protocol to manage the succession process, which is based on the principle of the ‘best person for the job,’ whether that’s someone inside the family, or from outside.  “I’m a great believer in a meritocracy – it’s a working culture I really believe in.  Being a member of the family, you can sometimes lack objectivity, and the risk then is that you are led too much by the heart and not enough by the head.  You have to be analytical, and you have to be objective, so you make the right investments and decisions for the business, not just for the family.”

But there are clear advantages of the family business model too: “It gives us a competitive edge.  Our people are part of what we’re building together and we’re not a hierarchical business – everyone is involved, and it’s a very open and honest culture, because you won’t get anywhere without trust.  We also want Cosentino to be a company that learns.  My father has a very strong personality, but he also has a very open mind and he wants to keep us learning and improving all the time.  That’s part of the Cosentino approach.”

Each time there’s been a generational shift at Cosentino, the business have changed, but “the involvement of each new generation has always represented a positive change going forward.  There have been challenges too – of course.  For example, the previous generation are more used to making decisions based on intuition, while the new generation is more analytical, wanting plans and data before they decide.  And while the new generation has huge respect for what’s been achieved in the past, they see our future growth and direction slightly differently, so there’s tension sometimes.  But it’s a creative tension.”

The Cosentino family also has an interesting and thoughtful approach to the way it manages its family affairs, which could be a model for other families: “We have a plan for the fourth generation, and it’s not just for those who want to work in the business, it’s for all of them.  It’s about what it means to be a ‘Cosentino’ – the sort of people we are.  People who know different languages, who are culturally sensitive; who are aware how lucky they are, and feel a responsibility to give something back.  And if they do want to join the business, they will have to meet specific criteria, and be prepared to work hard once they get here.   That’s the Cosentino approach in action.”

About the Authors - This insight was part of the PwC global report, The Next Generation of Family Business Leaders which was published in 2016 and has been reproduced with their permission.  You can read more of the report here

 

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