4 Minutes Read By Philipp Ortlieb

Digital as an Enabler for Family Business Growth: An Interview with Anna Breun

#Digital Strategy#Entrepreneur#Family Business#People & Culture

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, the integration of digital strategies has become a key factor in driving growth and sustainability. Anna Breun, a dynamic leader and advocate for digital transformation, has shared her insights and experiences in leveraging digitalization to navigate the challenges faced by family-owned businesses. In this interview, we delve into Anna's journey from her time at OMMAX, a digital strategy consultancy, to her current role in her family-owned business, AVO - Werke August Beisse GmbH, and how digital innovation played a pivotal role in steering the company towards success.

Immersive digital transformation role at OMMAX

Anna's journey into the world of digital transformation began at OMMAX, where she worked as a strategy consultant. She was motivated by the opportunity to work in a fast-paced environment with an international team and the chance to gain a deep understanding of digital business models and KPIs. Her experiences at OMMAX provided her with valuable skills and insights that would later prove invaluable in her family business.

During her time at OMMAX, Anna cultivated a consultant's mindset, enabling her to identify inefficiencies, work on cost-saving solutions, and define specific goals. She also learned the importance of open communication within the company, breaking down silo mentalities by building cross-functional teams.

Family Business Success

Anna is currently managing AVO, a family-owned business with a rich history and a focus on B2B operations. AVO offers a wide range of products, including natural spices, spice blends, marinades, and more. With approximately €200 million in revenue and over 750 employees across three locations, AVO holds a significant market share in Germany's spice industry.

Anna attributes AVO's success to three key factors: 

  1. Finding and retaining the right members of staff and continuously working on being an attractive workspace to attract new (and young) talent
  2. Highly customer-centric approach; every client can order customer-specific recipes to their liking
  3. Constantly finding new and innovative ways to not only “just” deliver spices, but deliver solutions for our customers (for example: being the first manufacturer that switched from dry to liquid sausage spice-mixture in order to help our customers reduce production time as well as delivering a solution that is less labor intensive)

Challenges Faced and Crisis Management Strategies

Transitioning into the family business was not without its challenges. Anna entered the company during a turbulent time when uncertainties were high. Employees were initially confused about her role and intentions. To overcome this, Anna embraced transparency and open communication. After-work events and town hall meetings were organized to build relationships with employees and clarify her role as the Head of Transformation, focused on navigating the company through difficult times without resorting to staff cuts.

Anna's crisis management approach included the establishment of an advisory board and the creation of a project management office (PMO). The PMO's 140 action points addressed various aspects of the business, from supply chain issues to cost-saving measures, and played a crucial role in restoring the company's profitability. Anna also implemented a suggestion scheme to involve employees in decision-making, fostering a sense of ownership and contribution.

Importance of Digital Strategy and Transformation for Family Business Owners:

Digital transformation in traditional family businesses can be challenging, often due to a reluctance to change and limited resources. However, Anna's experience demonstrates that embracing digital innovation is essential for long-term success.

Anna Breun's journey from OMMAX to AVO exemplifies the power of digital transformation in family-owned businesses. Her experiences provide valuable insights for professionals looking to embark on a similar career path. Anna encourages individuals to embrace change and start endeavors whose outcomes may not be immediately clear, as they can lead to substantial long-term rewards.

Anna's background in digital strategy from her time at OMMAX greatly influenced her approach at AVO. She initiated "Project Pegasus," the company's largest digital project, focused on digital distribution to enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction. While the success of these digital strategies is still being measured, Anna plans to use KPIs more extensively in the future.

Anna emphasizes the importance of family businesses innovating their business models, preparing the next generation for leadership roles, and staying attractive to young employees through digitalization and corporate benefits. While many family businesses possess technical expertise, they can benefit from digitization efforts aimed at reducing bureaucratic inefficiencies.

Looking into the future

Anna's career journey has taught her the importance of listening, especially when entering a new role at a young age. She advises professionals looking to transition into family business management to gain external work experience before joining the family business, emphasizing the value of learning especially from top strategic consulting environments.

Anna's future plans for AVO involve focusing on new food and food tech collaborations to address the changing landscape of the food industry. She aims to position AVO as an expert in innovation and taste, expanding its offerings beyond spices. Anna envisions further collaborations and expansions for AVO to remain competitive in the market and continue its century-long legacy of success.

Want to learn more? Dive into Anna Breun and AVO's success story on Handelsblatt!

By Philipp Ortlieb

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