Strong businesses, strong women

The family business was the central theme of the 8th WiA meeting at Dr. Eckel in Niederzissen

Family-run businesses function differently from those run by employed managers. This is a scientifically proven fact and one of the particular strengths of family businesses: among other things, this is why they generally have more long-term and sustainable planning and operations. But this brings with it a specific set of challenges, one of which is planning for succession, when the next generation takes over.

The 8th meeting of the Women in Agribusiness (WiA) network focused on the specific challenges family businesses have to overcome and how other successful family businesses operate. The WiA was established by Hella Otten, NordLB’s agricultural risk management specialist, in 2017. Its biannual meetings serve the purpose of information exchange and classic networking between decision makers, the self-employed and young professionals in the agricultural sector, while focusing on issues that are encountered by members on a daily basis but often neglected. Topics that experts have addressed in the last few years include negotiation, human resources management, challenges in agriculture and the development of agricultural markets. Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition invited members to the latest meeting in Niederzissen. The medium-sized company is one of the leading international suppliers of innovative additives for animal feed and celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Although it is still managed by founder Dr Antje Eckel, the future of the company and the next generation are already being considered.

Guest speaker Professor Christina Günther (WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management, Vallendar) opened the event with a riveting talk about the risks and pitfalls involved in the next generation taking over the reins in a family business. CEO Dr Antje Eckel talked about the years soon after she established the company and the most important lessons learnt from managing it for 25 years. After a virtual tour of the production facility, Antje Eckel and her daughter Klara (production manager at Dr. Eckel for the last two years) gave an entertaining account of the mother–daughter and employer–employee relationships vis-à-vis working together, also describing how they manage to separate these roles at work and at home. There was even enough time for lively discussion and quiet conversation.

The intensive day culminated in a guided tour of the historic cellars of Weinmanufaktur Walporzheim with a subsequent wine-tasting session. Despite the limitations imposed due to the coronavirus, all participants rated the meeting a complete success. The next WiA meeting is expected to take place at the turn of the year.

Dr. Eckel gives a very warm “Thank you” to all participants from WiA for coming to visit: It made a very special experience in these special times.