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Excerpt from the interview with Weber Bank

Our family business that has been close to its customers for three generations!

Family business with conviction and passion

Dr. Steffen Gebauer has been managing the second-generation family business MELAG from Berlin for over 50 years. He took over the manufacturer of instrument reprocessing products, which was founded in 1951, from his father. In 2019, MELAG was expanded to include the third generation with Dr. Niklas and Sebastian Gebauer joining the management team.

Dr. Niklas Gebauer, Mr. Sebastian Gebauer, when was it clear that you would be joining the company?
There was no precise point in time, but it became clear during our studies at the latest that we had the interest, courage and ambition to take on entrepreneurial responsibility. However, the start date was not meticulously planned; we first wanted to prove ourselves in other companies in Germany and abroad and gain experience.

How was the generational change prepared?
As a family of entrepreneurs, we have always talked a lot about MELAG. Although we accompanied our father to important trade fairs as children, it was important to us and especially to our father that there was no pressure, but that the motivation to join the company was intrinsic. It turned out to be a good idea on our father's part that emails sent to him as a teenager were also automatically sent to us. This meant that we could always stay informed if we were interested in the topic at the time. We were also able to gain a good insight into the day-to-day life of an entrepreneur, with all the positive issues but also the problems and discussions. When it became clear to both of us during our studies that we could imagine a future as the third generation of entrepreneurs at MELAG, we intensified our work. Parallel to our studies, we took part in many meetings in the company, contributed ideas and led our first projects, but without having an official position in the company. This allowed us to establish many points of contact with topics and people in the company without too much responsibility and to get to know MELAG even better.
It was then important for us to join the company at the same time so that the other person had not already been with the company for a long time and "felt" to be above the other in the hierarchy. This is how we started together as managing partners on January 1, 2019.

How did the first weeks and months go?
The advantage was that we were already well networked within the company, knew our specialist retail partners and already had a solid knowledge of the market. Nevertheless, the focus in the first few weeks was on holding separate smaller meetings with each team from MELAG in order to get to know the working methods, the tasks and, above all, the people even better. In these meetings, we also took the opportunity to introduce ourselves in more detail and let everyone know where we want to take MELAG and what our priorities will be in the coming years.
These "get-to-know-you" sessions were an important and positive signal, and the meetings and participation in the individual departments were also a lot of fun, as they enabled us to generate many ideas on how we can implement individual improvements.
In the first few months in particular, it was essential for us to communicate extensively to all employees that we do not want to push ahead with disruptive changes, but that MELAG is well on course for the long term and that we will remain true to our previous focus on instrument reprocessing and quality "100% made in Germany".

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurial families facing a generational change?
The most important thing is to communicate honestly and openly about whether entrepreneurship is something that will make the next generation happy. This was quite clear to us, but unfortunately there are many examples, including in our circle of friends, where the next generation joins the company without really enjoying it. Neither the passing generation nor the generation taking over are doing themselves any favors.
It is also important to talk about how tasks and responsibilities should be divided up within the family and how cooperation should be organized - and the next generation should talk to the older generation about what changes they would like to introduce. After all, it is crucial for harmonious cooperation within the family that the older generation has sufficient trust in the younger generation. Fortunately, this has worked very well for us at MELAG, but it is not a matter of course in other companies.


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