Case Study

Firmenich: A passion for smell and taste

32 pages
December 2011
Reference: IMD-3-2226

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND. At the end-of-year company presentation in December 2010; Patrick Firmenich (fourth generation); CEO of Firmenich International; was pleased to review another successful year. The 115-year-old; Geneva-based flavor and fragrances company had posted record sales; regained its growth leadership position after the worst recession in recent history and received unique industry accolades by winning two of the most prestigious perfumery awards. These confirmed Firmenich’s exceptional creativity and sustainable commercial success. It was also a moment of reflection for Marie-Christine Jaeger-Firmenich (third generation); who was going into her ninth year as the “Firmenich Family Steward.” When she took over the role; she had expected to step into a well-oiled family governance machine. But things did not quite go as planned. Family members rapidly came to her with multiple requests and new ideas on how to change the rules and decision-making processes in the family’s governance system. Her main goal was to preserve the family unity over time while modernizing and updating its governance to face up to the new industrial challenges the family business would encounter in the future. By the summer of 2011; another threat was looming. With the sovereign debt crisis; the Swiss franc took on a renewed status as a refuge currency and skyrocketed in value against the dollar and the euro. While the group was operationally very global; it still had a strong manufacturing base in Switzerland and a strong Swiss franc exposure. How would this affect its future competitiveness? What could be done to control the future impact of foreign exchange fluctuations?

Learning Objective

Managing growth; family business governance; technological leadership; competitive strategies.

Technology, Growth
World/global, Switzerland
Field Research
© 2011
Available Languages
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