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Like father, like daughter?

The article was first published in German in “SIP” magazine (5/2017) by Regina Pawlowski

After 32 years that’s finally it – almost. At the end of the year Peter V. Fleischer will be giving his company PVF Mesh & Screen Technology GmbH to his daughter Julia, but he will continue to work in the company.

1By the end of 2017 Peter V. Fleischer will hand over his company to his daughter JuliaHow will my company, my lifework be continued? The question of succession concerns many business owners. Peter V. Fleischer is leaving those thoughts behind him, because he will hand over the family business PVF Mesh & Screen Technology GmbH to his daughter Julia Fleischer at the end of the year. Peter V. Fleischer founded PVF, a company specialising in screen printing and filtration applications in 1985. 32 years have passed since then – reason enough to settle the matter of succession. “We should be open to pass it on at an early stage, especially to meet one’s obligations in the social and private sectors”, explains the Managing Director. On the one hand, it concerns securing the jobs of the employees and the obligations to the customers. On the other hand, you don’t want to lose sight of the family’s livelihood.

Peter V. Fleischer did not have to look for a successor very long. His daughter Julia has been working alongside her father in management since January 2015 and has finally decided to take over the company. Peter V. Fleischer never pressured his two daughters, they were to go their way and were not forced to enter the screen printing industry or the family business. Julia Fleischer’s professional plans were quite different at first because the young woman had a social profession in mind and studied nursing management. But then, however, it all changed. “I really liked the individual business administration focus points within the nursing management study and so decided to change to business administration. It was also more and more difficult for me to see people as an economic asset”, says Julia Fleischer. She worked for the family business for the first time in 2010, by helping in the redesign of the company website and supporting a sophisticated screen printing application joint project with an American company for the Chinese market. Her interest was awakened and Julia Fleischer got started at her father’s company. She worked in order processing, the production department of MICRON® precision sieves, in marketing and sales, and the human resources area.

From Turning Over and Taking Over

2Julia Fleischer is looking forward to her new position and the cooperation with the young PVF teamPlanning for the company handover has been going since 2014. “A lead-time of at least three years is absolutely essential”, explains Peter V. Fleischer. A successful handover requires a number of tasks to be completed which are a challenge both for the owner and his future successor. For example, the issue of inheritance poses some difficulties that require time. In 2014, the Federal Constitutional Court dropped the practice of taxing inheritances and donations to companies and declared the rules invalid. The reason: corporate heirs were favoured too much under tax law. The constitutional authorities demanded stricter regulations.

“The inheritance tax reform was again amended in the mediation committee of the Federal Council, which then caused and still causes much confusion. There are still difficulties with the Tax Administrations regarding reliable information and calculation methods in order to determine the administrative assets and the eligible assets”, explains Julia Fleischer.

In general, father and daughter recommend to employ external consultants in the company at an early stage to address the legal and tax issues, particularly in order to circumvent the many possible pitfalls which may arise from a company transfer. “It is advisable to speak with tax and corporate consultants, lawyers and bank advisors several years before the planned transfer of the company. These experts exist for a reason”, says Julia Fleischer.

Internally, preparations were underway as well by Peter V. Fleischer building the second generation slowly. His daughter has been in the company for seven years. That’s enough time to get her grooved in on managing the company and to gain acceptance among employees and customers. Julia Fleischer took part in leadership seminars, company succession workshops, and an intercultural seminar at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, in order to gain an in-depth understanding of how business is understood from the point of view of Japanese companies, especially in connection with the role and position of a woman in management and in particular taking into account the long-standing partnership between PVF and the Japanese fabric manufacturer NBC Meshtec Inc. The next step now is management and thus the role as sole chief executive. Julia Fleischer has grown into the leadership position step by step, has fun at work, and is especially looking forward to the young team, which has developed over the past six to seven years, but adds, “Taking over leadership of a company is not easy, and the requirements surely are high.” With that statement she is referring to the requirements of customers and employees, but above all the ones she has set for herself. What helps to prepare yourself personally for such a takeover and the related challenges is time. “I’ve been consulting with myself for a long time”, says Julia Fleischer.

Designing the Future in the Present

3PVF is a provider of precision screens and mesh for industrial printing applicationsHer father is taking a positive perspective on the future for the company: “Julia does not need to build on my life achievements, but shape PVF according to her version. Her own style has impacted the company very well so far. Even though the complete takeover will be completed by the end of the year, his daughter has already left her fingerprint. In addition to the divisions for precision and screen printing, there is now one for industrial fabrics as well since the mid-2000s. In recent years, however, this division has been restructured and reoriented “to secure this business area for a future, successful business on a secure foundation” and to establish a business sector independent of screen printing. “The screen printing industry is an exciting market, but it is currently undergoing change. Graphic screen printing as it has existed in the past, exists now only in limited scope or not at all anymore. Digital printing has largely replaced screen printing. “In order to remain successful, screen printing has to open up new fields of application through further and newly developed fabric technologies and do the work required to convince the decision-makers from the industries about the benefits of screen printing.”

Julia Fleischer will, however, not be on her own in the future. Her father will continue to be part of the management team and will focus on the areas of financing and controlling. “In addition, I will continue to be available as an adviser and look after certain key account customers”, says Peter V. Fleischer. There is certainly no prior example for successfully turning over and taking over a company. Nevertheless, a company handover should be planned at an early stage, especially in order to find an individual solution for the succession and to secure the future of the company. Julia Fleischer will perhaps experience such a generational change once again, but then as the one turning over. She is learning how to do it right now.

ESMA: Connecting the Dots of the Printing Industry

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