Mr Fava recently conducted an interview with the Times of Malta and it was published today on their Family Businesses supplement. Make sure to catch the interview for a look into our history and how our wheels function!
Family businesses are a national treasure which we should safeguard, Reginald Fava, Chemimart Group chairman, says.
Reginald Fava, chairman of the Chemimart Group, has a rare kind of politeness. His manners are well practised and yet natural, his wardrobe carefully chosen yet comfortably worn. And his handshake is not a competition of who has the firmest grip – rather, it is a pleasant introduction. Such solidity has served Mr Fava well, as he now leads his group of companies in the third generation.
Chemimart was set up in the early 1960s with the opening of its first outlet in Republic Street, Valletta. Over the years, Mr Fava has secured international contracts and preferred distribution rights for a number of renowned brands – this turned Chemimart into a household name for various brands of perfumeries, cosmetics and healthcare products, with a strong presence in the island’s busiest commercial hubs.
Yet despite its growth, Chemimart remains a personal, family-run business. “I know all my employees,” Mr
Fava says. “It is a habit of mine that I call them in for a chat in order to maintain contact on a human level. That is an advantage that family businesses have – we keep it personal.
“I also listen to everyone’s opinion before taking a decision. I give my children this liberty, both as a parent and as chairman of the group.” It is this approach that has helped the Chemimart Group successfully transition from one generation to the next. However, this is not easy. The eighth edition of the Family Business Survey held by PwC shows that only 20 per cent of family businesses in Malta had a robust, documented and communicated succession plan in place. Also, less than half said that the family and business strategy were completely aligned.
For Mr Fava, the key to running a successful family business is discipline. “My parents gave me a good education and a very strict upbringing – just consider that until I got married at 26, I had never had the key to my parents’ house. Whenever I went out – which was frequent, as I was very active in the university students’ council – I had to be back home by half 10 and I would always find my mother waiting for me.
“That sense of discipline has helped me appreciate everything that I have achieved.” The second generation of a family business finds the company’s foundation and capital ready – and that may be a distraction, rather than a leg up. “I have raised my children Pierre and Graziella – who nowadays jointly manage the company – the same upbringing, and that has helped them appreciate what they have.
“It has also given them the energy and inspiration to lead Chemimart to further growth. Yet this is not growth for growth’s sake. We are very cautious and only do business which we can understand – rather than diversify and possibly lose focus, our aim is to be experts in whatever we do.”
The third generation, Matthias and Petra, have recently joined the Chemimart Group. “They are very responsible and have joined the company not simply because they are my grandchildren, but because they are valid employees,” Mr Fava says. “The second and third generations of a family business inspire change. As the first generation, I have to understand and accept that change – but on their part, successive generations have to appreciate the value of my experience.”
Mr Fava recognises the value that family businesses add to the local economy. “Family businesses are the biggest employer in Malta and are responsible for some 38,000 employees. They are a national treasure, even though for years, family businesses were undervalued, both on a national and on an EU level. We are finally recognising their importance, especially through the enactment of the family business legislation, which has been a long time coming.
“The value of family businesses is also translated to customers. In my case, for instance, I am not willing to offer a product or service which I will not make use of. And that creates a valuable and trusting relationship between a family business and its customers.”