Alumni Stories · Family Business

Learning before doing: how HPB helped prepare for a family business legacy

Juan Vilaseca De Prati found that IMD’s High Performance Boards (HPB) program provided food for thought on how to set up a successful board
September 2017

Grupo Vilaseca is a family business and this is perhaps why, when Juan Vilaseca De Prati decided to attend the HPB program in Lausanne, he came with his two nephews.

The multinational business conglomerate based in Quito was founded by De Prati’s grandfather and then massively expanded by his father. With a view to starting a succession process to ensure the company remains sustainable and continues growing, De Prati suggested to his family a few years ago that he move on to a board to professionalize the company.

After becoming chairman of the newly-created board with his two nephews as members, De Prati wanted them to exchange with other top board members from a diversity of companies to glean best practices. IMD’s HPB program proved to be the right forum to achieve this.

Every evening throughout the course, the three sat down over dinner to discuss their vision for Grupo Vilaseca’s new board, based on what they had learned that day. “It was very interesting to be able to share with them the ideas we were experiencing, while still fresh, and it also became a great bonding experience,” says De Prati.

The three and a half-day program, says the businessman, fully held his attention thanks to its content. The course is aimed at a variety of board members, including those who already have a lot of knowledge and want to refine their skills. It features talks by guest speakers, top executives, as well as chairmen, and assesses existing boards across the globe. By doing this, it builds on important and relevant topics such as innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital disruption.

“We not only had a very good professor leading us, but interacted with peers from very important boards who shared great experiences, and speakers with important posts whose insight was enriching,” says De Prati.

The trio were therefore able to draw on real-world scenarios and different perspectives, which opened up ideas on how best to create a board that would create the best value for their shareholders.

Juan Vilaseca De Prati says the program taught him that to have a good board, you need to make sure it contains both diversity of skills and characters. “Many believe that consensual boards are a good thing, but apparently they are not,” he explains.

Also, he learned that it is important to ensure that lessons learned and guidance received during the program stay fresh in the mind so that “we can implement them slowly but surely.”

Regarding the next steps for Vilaseca, De Prati says: “I don’t think we will have a perfect board tomorrow because this is a maturing process, but HPB has been a great experience. Switzerland is a good place to be and IMD makes you feel very comfortable, with both coordinators and professors who are very accessible.”

As for advice to someone interested in this program, says De Prati: “Do it, do it, do it. You will not waste your time, you will not waste your money, and you will make very interesting contacts.”

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