Family business

The coming decade is expected to be full of changes and new developments. See, the speed at which change happens has increased, and disruptions are more common than ever – in all parts of life. Economies, politics, finance, and the environment are all subject to change. And that means existing businesses will likely face new challenges.

Family businesses are no stranger to these changes. In fact, they’re worried about what’s ahead: a new study found that most families in business are concerned about the negative impact that new and different headwinds might have on their businesses.1 That’s why it’s important to look at drivers of change and adapt with the times to benefit from new opportunities rather than fight against them.

What are the main drivers of change right now?

The main drivers of change can be broadly categorized into a few different areas: environmental degradation and ecological disruption, technological advances and digital disruption, globalization and deglobalization, and socio-politico-economic influences.

Environmental degradation has already had a devastating effect on business and society. Now, we’re at a tipping point where corrective action is needed to avoid dire consequences for people and the planet. Technological advances have brought many benefits, but they’re not without risks – like cybersecurity and data privacy issues. Globalization has significantly impacted our economic, social, cultural, and political lives, but recent geopolitical events have also led to deglobalization trends. Socio-politico-economic influences, like the Covid pandemic and social justice movements, have had significant impacts on businesses and society.

These forces interact to create major trends or disruptions. Families that want to succeed in business should understand the changing landscape and its potential consequences.

How can family businesses adapt to these changes?

It's important for family businesses to adapt quickly and take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. That could involve making changes to operations, implementing a new business model, or even investing in a completely different business.

There are a few different ways to pivot successfully. First, family businesses should look towards the future and consider emerging trends using tools like “strategic foresight”. That’s when business leaders consistently and methodically keep up to date on any trends or changes that could impact their businesses. This can be achieved by attending industry conferences, actively meeting with customers, and hiring external experts for a third-party perspective, among other things. The information gathered through strategic foresight helps leaders better anticipate and prepare for change and disruption, which is key to growing with the times.

Second, it’s important for companies to keep trying out new ideas, business models, and ways of creating value. This type of experimental approach can make a business much more nimble. Plus, if done at a small scale, it can be a quick, low-risk way to explore new opportunities and speed up innovation. Family businesses – especially smaller ones – could also work with outside partners to experiment in new areas. That might look like a small-scale acquisition, or a new product launch in partnership with a private equity firm..

Third, family businesses need to be agile in both their portfolio and organization. This means being able to quickly and easily adjust holdings and activities to fit changing market needs and the family's capabilities. The entire organization and ownership group should be aligned in their approach to change.

Case study 1: Reinventing the family business

Grupo Cisneros is a multinational conglomerate with a long history that serves Latin American and Spanish-speaking audiences around the world. The company’s owned by a single family, and it’s made up of various media and entertainment businesses, as well as real estate, tourism, and consumer product companies. Today, the family business is run by Adriana Cisneros: a third generation CEO who focuses on innovation and reinvention.

The business today looks very different to how it used to. In Adriana’s time at the helm, she’s consolidated 28 different business silos into just three divisions. That transformed the company‘s structure and hugely improved communication and collaboration, leading to a higher level of organizational agility.

In running and growing the family business, Adriana looks at the long term. She takes time to analyze new trends and opportunities before creating new products to take advantage of them. Just look at Cisneros Interactive: it’s become the sole reseller of Facebook in nine countries across Latin America. That’s the only place in the world where Facebook doesn’t manage its sales directly, which is a great example of the company’s innovation prowess.

Adriana’s able to make quick decisions as needed and keep the company agile. This approach, together with Grupo Cisneros’ diversified presence throughout Latin America, has helped the company weather political and economic instability.

Case study 2: Regeneration of the family mission

Amelia Vicini is the executive vice president of Grupo Vicini, a private asset management firm based in the Dominican Republic. She played a key role in transforming the family business, which was founded almost 150 years ago and originally focused on agriculture and commerce. Now, Grupo Vicini invests in long-term projects in northern Latin America with a focus on impact and sustainability.

Part of Amelia’s long-term vision has been committing the company to having a positive impact on society. After studying sustainability, Amelia convinced Grupo Vicini to focus its business on offering services that directly contribute towards a more sustainable future. That ultimately led the company to rebrand as Inicia (“to start”, in Spanish): a name that reflects its commitment to starting new ventures that drive positive change.

Today, Inicia's investments target positive societal changes in a range of different ways – like increasing small business access to banking services in the Dominican Republic. Amelia believes that impact investing will be even more important in the coming years as investors demand more transparency and accountability from companies.



The 2020s will bring significant change, which will impact how companies operate – including family businesses.

Environmental degradation, technological advances, globalization/deglobalization, and socio-politico-economic influences are the main drivers of change right now.

To succeed going forward, family businesses should consider emerging trends, try out new ideas and approaches, and be agile in their portfolio and organization.