What is it like to start a family business?

Read The Count, tailor from father to son

For 14 years, Jean-Marie Greven and Sébastien have orchestrated a double fashion brand in Liège. Sebastian: “When I was a child, I sometimes visited my father at the tailor’s, where he worked before I opened his own shop. At the time, men’s fashion did not interest me so much, but when I felt that the development of the brand required me to help. my father, so I joined him. Very quickly I fell in love with the subject. From now on, it’s me who heads the tailor – made department. If the basics were my father who passed them on to me, I think I have managed to professionalize this service more. Dad does not talk much. All I learned was by observing him. He is 50 years old by profession. So he knows what he is talking about. “

Jean Marie: “We rarely have the opportunity to stop to take advantage of our success. The job requires us to be on the go all the time. We have just completely transformed our first store and opened a ladies’ store directly opposite. All of this takes all of our energy. “In times of stress, we are never sure of one tension or another. When we are tired or stressed, it is harder to communicate. C This is where it can go wrong.” Sebastian: “Ten years ago, when I returned from my first salon, I wanted to change everything in the store. That would have been a mistake. One can, as I do, bring a touch of modernity to the purchase or decor of rooms, but without to turn his back on the brand’s DNA. Since I came to my father, the clientele has become younger. it is not today. “ Jean Marie: “When we spend six out of seven days together, we are not necessarily tempted to share, in addition, all our moments of freedom …” Sebastian: “I thought so for a long time, until I recently realized that it was necessary to experience real moments of relaxation with the family. Our relationship should not be solely centered on work.”

Any advice for a successful family business?

“While it can be scary to work as a family, you should at least give it a try. When you’re lucky enough to be able to take advantage of a business that is doing well, it’s silly to throw everything away without even trying the adventure.”


Today’s video:

Fadi and Antoine Sfeir, wine from son to father

You’ve got off to a perfect start: We’ve just released our Cabernet de Papa!, Fady and Antoine Sfeir tell us when we contact them. For two years, this father and his son have been in charge of the start-up Pif à Papa. The concept? Offers organic, biodynamic and natural wines made in Courbevoie, five minutes from La Défense’s business district in Paris. We have always had a close relationship, says Antoine, 29 years old. He was passionate about the world of wine since an internship at a trade school, and the young man first worked as a wine merchant and importer in Champagne, Australia and Spain. Pif à Papa is anything but a conventional business; here it is the son who has transferred the passion for wine to his father.

Unlike the majority of wineries, our subordinate transmission has been reversed, says Anthony. The idea of ​​working together begins to sprout as Fady, commercial director of business software, reads his son’s dissertation. It focused on urban wine production and the history of wine in the French capital. I thought it was great and I told my son that one day we would make an urban winery together, says Fady. The young sixty-something then made a 180-degree turn to begin oenology education and joined his son in the adventure. As a result, Pif à Papa currently produces 12 different wines a year, which are mainly offered in a monthly box to subscribers. Le Rouge du Neveu, Le Chardonnay des Cousins, Le Rosé de Mamie … All the cuvées are connected to the family universe. The key to their collaboration? We are very complementary and we have great respect for each other. We learn a lot from each other, says the duo.

For those who want to start with their father

Fady advises you to choose your father well (he laughs). More seriously, it requires some forethought in advance. We need to make sure we can work well together. Because it can also lead to disaster …


Arnaud Wittmann and Sacha, a legacy of luxury

As a 24-year-old, Alexandre (known as Sacha) has just joined his father, owner of Maison De Greef in Brussels. Arnaud: When I entered the house thirty years ago, I was immediately thrown into the deep end without asking myself what I liked to do and what I wanted to achieve. For my kids, I see things differently. I want them to be fully realized by following the route that seems most logical to them. And if they, as is the case for Sacha, then want to enter the company, why not. What I did not want was for Sacha to reluctantly join us and then tell himself, as a 40-year-old, that he has wasted his life. For now, he completes his course while working in the store about three days a week. Since my brother left home four years ago, I have to handle it all myself. I have less time to devote to creation, and that frustrates me tremendously. I am therefore fully aware of the importance of finding my way.

Sasha: I did three years of communication, then I started studying audiovisual. Unlike my sister, who like Dad is quite creative, I do not see myself designing jewelry. My role is more commercial. We have also started producing digital content, such as videos. What fascinates me about this subject is that learning is permanent. Both in terms of watches and jewelry, it is incredibly interesting to rub with my dad, but also with watchmakers.

Arnaud: I immediately felt that Sacha was put up for sale; more than me who is quite introverted by nature. The brands of watches that we sell set the standard very high in terms of requirements. It is therefore reassuring to know that Sacha will be able to eventually managing this aspect of things. I do not think I am tougher on him than on my other collaborators. Some of our loyal customers – whose children are Sacha’s age – enjoy seeing him in the store. For them, it is a sign of trust. The proof that our house is dependent on transmission. His presence creates a new dynamic.

Sasha: It’s not uncommon for a customer coming into the store to say to me “You’re a Wittmann!” In our family, we do not take ourselves too seriously. The products we sell are linked to the concept of dreams.

Any advice on reconciling business and blood ties?

Understand everyone’s competencies and potential. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of a business partner, member of your family or not, and let him or her take a position that suits him or her, helping to avoid many frustrations.


Four generations of Nihoul

125 years, four generations. The Nihoul House is an institution in Brussels that is very popular among sweet teeth. The first store opened in 1897 in rue Neuve. After several relocations – the patisserie went through the Bailli district and Avenue Louise – the family has branded a workshop shop in a mansion located on the Chaussée de Vleurgat. Pascal and Philippe, the sons of Christian Nihoul, gained “full strength” three years ago. Each brother has a defined role: Pascal deals with production and Philippe with management. Although their name predestined them to take over the reins of this historic enterprise, the two brothers had to struggle to find their place and show the previous generation – consisting of Christian, their father, Édouard, their uncle and Anne-Marie, their aunt .. regretted – that they were ready to pick up the torch.

We had to go through a putsch (laughs). Our father retired about three years ago, but he still has a job in the company as a consultant. We always ask his opinion. Our uncle is very attached to pastry, he regularly asks us questions about sales, explains Philip. Since their arrival at the helm of the company, the brothers have made a few changes: they have installed a disco area in the workshop and have even tried out the new delivery platforms while retaining the traditional values ​​of the address. Above all, my father conveyed to us the importance of respecting the products, taking care of the customers and offering them the best. These remain our values.

To work as a family, you must …

Know how to open the eyes of those around you when things are not going well!


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