The Generation Switch
Werner and Chiara on the upcoming generation change within the company
With Chiara at the helm, a young team is ready to take over at Marylise and Rembo Styling, and Werner is also looking forward to it. “Our business has become even stronger, the highlight is yet to come and I would not want to miss it for all the money in the world.” A double interview.
Family businesses have their own challenges: generation switches can cause headaches. How do you deal with this?
Chiara: I’m very aware of the future of our company and I get all lots of opportunities to quietly prepare myself so that under external guidance I take my time to grow.
Werner: Although I can keep myself quite detached, I still have an overview of the company. If a major decision needs to be taken, I take responsibility, but I’ve also learned to delegate. The aim is that the generation switch simply proceeds in a natural way. Today, the government helps family businesses in generation switches and aspects related thereto. Our Belgian economy revolves around family businesses and SMEs.
Chiara: So I’m in a ‘Plato’ group with other enterprising young people like me from the most diverse sectors. All aspects affecting a generation change are discussed which enriches me a lot. We exchange views and experiences, and that’s exciting. From those meetings we have established the idea to create our own family charter in which we have formulated our values, vision and strategy.
What are the benefits of a family business?
Chiara: We consider family involvement as our asset. We think long term and have strong links with our team. Team spirit is an important value as well. When we talk about a generational change, we do not mean that the company goes from Werner’s hands to Chiara’s. The daily management is not only in my hands, but in the hands of the whole team.
Werner: A modern company does not run on a single person with a brilliant idea. Everyone has their role; we join forces to come forward with ideas as much as possible. This guarantees we remain a company with growth perspective. Everyone keeps going for it. The highlight is yet to come and I would not want to miss it for all the money in the world.
Chiara gets her time to grow; how did that happen?
Werner: I took over the business from my parents to please them. They did not know how to end their business. In the early years it was difficult to survive; I had to take many risks. I started from my gut feeling; today we’re addressing the generation switch in a much more professional way.
Chiara: I firmly believe that this professionalism supports your company to become stronger. The aim is to continue to innovate and grow.
Werner: Also as a family you come out stronger. I experienced what a takeover can do to a family and I want to protect my family from this.
Family businesses have their own challenges: generation switches can cause headaches.
You are two different generations. Is there a cultural difference?
Werner: I see a new culture and I adapt and adopt. (Laughs). The team takes a lot of initiatives and we get to work with the best ideas. This is necessary because not only do people change, their buying behavior is changing as well and our market is evolving. So we are launching a new capsule collection within Rembo Styling for 2018, called “Civil”, a line specially designed for brides who want a special dress for their civil marriage. This idea came from the team.
Chiara: We are young and intense; I can be quite impulsive. Werner is more quiet and will think more about how we do things. This interaction is very interesting for our company.
You talk about a changing market. What does that one look like?
Werner: Previously as a brand you would have tried to reach the widest possible range of brides. Now that is reversed. The bridal market is divided into several segments. You have classic, mainstream, budget and even destination brides who get married for example, in Ibiza. I’m convinced there will evolve even more niches in the future and shops will have to specialize. Those focusing on the mainstream will not survive. Neither would we. With Rembo Styling we are focusing on a niche, the one of the wild, boho chic bride. That segment is still increasing today.
How should a brand deal with this specialization?
Werner: By constantly analyzing the market. Who is this new generation of brides and what do they want?
Chiara: Uniqueness is important. And also creating atmosphere, building a strong image for your brand. We have worked hard on the image of Rembo Styling and we’ve developed a brand guide. We know that if we follow it, we address the right bride. Our next challenge is Marylise. We’ve just finished rewriting the brand guide for Marylise in order to get even closer to our bride.
How do you handle that?
Werner: In autumn of last year we went on a small getaway with the creative team. We spent two days away from everything in the Belgian countryside where we brainstormed about our future. Which dresses will we make in 2018? What should our brand image be? For whom do we design? What does the 2018 bride expect? Who is that bride? What job does she have? What is she wearing in her daily life? What does she wear in her spare time? Everyone had to give their view on these issues with the help of photographs and sticky notes. This was the start of the creation of our new image.
Chiara: Working on the profile of the brand is important. We want to invest in the right bride. We therefore maintain more direct contact with brides all over the world through our social media. The aim is to be very accessible to them and to communicate in an authentic way.
How to distinguish the two brands from one another?
Werner: Both brides are friends and yet they are different.
Chiara: The Marylise bride really wants a Pinterest wedding but the more styled version. That means an elegant soft look. Which we call an easy chic look. For example, they will want a sleek hairdo while a Rembo bride prefers braids. The Rembo bride loves the wild, boho chic look and the atmosphere of her wedding should be relaxed. You can also see the difference between our target brides within our campaign images. The atmosphere is completely different, and that is important. This approach works for us, we note that we’ve received more opportunities since we created our stronger profile as a brand. We are inundated with requests from both existing and new customers. There are beautiful collaborations in the pipeline in which we strongly believe.
Werner: We are sure that we will help the market. The shops have their benefits as well!