Saporiti Inc, a family run business since 1927, supplies flavors and ingredients to the food and beverage industry. “Half of our sales come from flavors for producing drinks, chocolate or, ice cream” says CEO, Adrian Saporiti. “We also produce colors and texture agents.” The company is divided into three market segments in the food industry, allowing Saporiti to diversify the business.
“In business, by focusing on a specific segment you can grow fast but the more specialized you become the more fragile your business will be. It’s sometimes dangerous to specialize in one thing in Latin America. You never know what will happen in the economy or in government policy. The government could forbid one of your main ingredients or an import rate could go up tremendously.” Adrian believes that it is important to the long-term health of the business to diversify even at the cost of growing slower.
Learning to run his family business did not always come easily to Adrian. The first 20 years of his professional life was spent working as a pediatric intensive care doctor. It wasn’t until an older brother passed away from cancer that Adrian decided to make the switch and enter the family business. “I had to learn quickly but I was ready to tackle the challenge.” Adrian is the third generation to take over the business. “My father started this business, then my brother took it over (25 years his senior) and now it’s been passed on to me.”
One of the harder parts of running a family business is keeping the business in the family from generation to generation. In Latin America, the majority of family run business are managed by the first generation (about 47%), 29% are run by the second generation and only 10% by the third generation. The trend continues to decline generation after generation. Unfortunately, about 13% of family run businesses fail by the third generation.
One reason for the lack of continually run family business may be that children are taking over the business for the wrong reasons. “I believe that kids should not take over the business just because it is the easy path. They should have a strong passion for the industry and the business,” says Adrian. He feels that fathers or mothers passing down a family business should make it hard for their children to take over the business. “While kids should inherit stock, they need to earn the right to work in the business.” When we asked Adrian if he planned to pass the company to his kids, Adrian replied, “definitely, but I think it’s important that they have outside experience first. After they’ve worked for another company, if they want to be part of Saporiti, I’d gladly welcome them.”
To Adrian, Saporiti is a family asset. “It’s important to think long term to keep the company prosperous for the family.”