As part of our project on Regional South Westphalia 2025, we sat together as a team and first asked ourselves who the typical South Westphalian is. When it came to the South Westphalian entrepreneurs, Chris asked the question:
Do entrepreneurs inherit success to their children?

The boss is going to make wood on the weekend

Terms such as modest, binding, somewhat stubborn, but authentic characterise the South Westphalian. Everybody knows everybody. People organize themselves in associations. Internet does not always work, a night life is hardly noticeable. Biking and hiking – great offers, but still very limited. Nothing works without a car. Public transit… who?

Above average hidden champions have their home in South Westphalia. Südwestfalen is a region of successful medium-sized family businesses. However, the wealthy company boss is not driving a Porsche, but an Audi A6 station wagon to “make wood” at the weekend.

Is success hereditary?

In South Westphalia – representing many other regions in Germany – it is customary for companies to be handed down from generation to generation – from father to son, from son to grandson. Until now, as long as the next generation simply did what the previous generation did successfully and didn’t come up with any crazy new ideas, a family business had the secret recipe for success – success was inherited!

The rules of the game are changing right now!

Careful! The success is deceptive, because digitalization and a sound understanding of innovation potentials are changing the rules of the game for the first time in decades. This holds a potential for conflict, which can lead traditional companies to ruin.

The son of a bathroom fitting manufacturer, whose father drives his money into the garage with a wheelbarrow (as his father already did), may have recognized the signs of the times. He knows: “It is no longer just a matter of building the same bathroom fittings for the next 50 years as have been built in the last 50 years – the pressure of glottalization means that process innovations are needed, models from completely different areas (such as Amazon in retail) will be the yardstick for service innovations in the future, about how to innovate entire business models (that of the taxi driver), etc.

Give me one reason why this should pass bathroom fittings or any other industry?

Conflict potential in the family

So while the son wants to push ahead with innovations, the father appeases: “Boy, that has worked for the last 50 years and that will also work for the next 50 years”. No, it won’t! Times have changed. Products, services, processes, management, organization and business model must be questioned. Put everything to a stress test by asking the question, “And what if it’s different?”

Let the kids get to it!

I’d like to shout to all the senior executives: Either you are intensively occupied with the mega-trends and innovation needs of the coming years or let your children get involved – give them the space to innovate, the space to try something new, the space to fail.

The experience of the “old” (forgive me the term) and the fresh know-how of the young complement each other fantastically.
Pulling in the same direction as the family business – there is no room for stubbornness, vanity or know-it-all. Over the next few years, it will be decided where the company’s journey will take it.

Give appropriate backing to all those who want to make the company ready for the future. One person alone will not be able to innovate – everyone is needed.

Because one thing’s for sure:

Success is not inheritable!