Gender equality has characterized the family, and now we have an opportunity to turn our attention to generational diversity as well.
Inversora Lockey C.A., founded by Claudio Visani and a group of strategic partners in 1975, has been producing and marketing the CISA and Schlage lock brands throughout South America for decades. By the early 1990s, the company accounted for more than 70 percent of the entire Venezuelan lock and padlock market.
Since 2007, the ownership and management of Inversora Lockey has been in the hands of second-generation members of the Visani family, at which time the youngest daughter, Claudia Visani León, was appointed as the CEO and firstborn son, Andrés Visani, as COO and Vice Chairman.
Laying the groundwork for succession
In 2015, CEO Claudia Visani León negotiated the purchase of all of the company’s shares from its international partner at the time. Her father’s lifelong dream to have full ownership of his company had finally been achieved.
Today, three generations of the Visani family are involved in the business, with second-generation family members having control over ownership, management and governance. The company founder, Claudio Visani, maintains his presence with regular visits to the company’s facilities.
Even though Claudio Visani did not have a formal succession plan, the family believes that two important elements led to the successful transfer of leadership to the second generation. The first was the confidence everyone had in both Claudia and Andrés. The second was their individual academic achievements. Andrés joined Inversora Lockey in the late ’80s after completing an industrial engineering degree and an MBA. He also gained direct experience at CISA in Italy before entering the family business.
Claudia became directly involved in the family business in 1995 as a lawyer specializing in the fiscal and financial areas, which were critical aspects of the relationship with Inversora Lockey’s several national and international partners at that time.
The rise of female family business leaders
Over the past 20 years, the visibility and influence of women in business has continued to increase, with women increasingly taking charge of their family firms. The women of Inversora Lockey are no exception and their involvement is rooted in the gender equality that was practiced by their parents.
Eunice León, wife of Claudio Visani, played an important role in the company’s early days. She supported Claudio when he decided to become an entrepreneur and once the business was stabilized, she developed her own professional career as a criminal lawyer specializing in public corruption. This, in turn, led to her holding important positions in the Venezuelan public sphere, in addition to directing postgraduate studies in criminal law at the Central University of Venezuela.
The Visani women have been raised in an environment in which they play valuable family roles at home and productive roles in the company. The importance of having a role in the family business was instilled in the daughters from an early age, regardless of the male-dominated nature of the industry in which they worked.
In 2019, an unexpected event created the family’s second succession when Claudia Visani stepped down as CEO to relocate to Mexico following her husband’s appointment as Nestlé Mexico’s Executive President and Chairman. The family’s board of directors appointed Marila Visani, who had co-created the company’s financial structures with her sister Claudia, as the firm’s new CEO.
As Claudia explains, “I know that having women in charge of a company that makes locks may look a bit strange, because we are used to seeing her in more feminine settings. All this is the product of my dad's work and we all ended up falling in love with it. This is what we prepare for — taking over the business. We multitask, we do many things at once and we come forward without fearing the daily challenges.”
The basis for a smooth transition
While a documented succession plan was not in place at Inversora Lockey, the family had undertaken several informal and important activities that facilitated a smooth transition of the leadership roles to Andrés and Claudia, including:
- The engagement and preparation of potential successors who had expressed an interest in the business.
Both Andrés and Claudia were involved in the family business after completing their undergraduate and graduate studies and both had gained previous work experience in organizations that were not related to their family.
- Progressive empowerment of the successors.
A gradual allocation of management responsibilities allowed Andrés to strengthen the production processes and introduce quality control procedures and provided Claudia with the freedom to implement management improvements.
- Implementation of communication and governance procedures.
Corporate governance structures were in place due to the partial ownership by external partners and a board of directors that provided oversight on the company’s strategic direction and financial results.
Separately, Claudio Visani engaged his second-generation family members in an ad hoc family council that included two daughters who were not involved the day-to-day business or decision making. When the family assumed 100 percent ownership of the company, the ad hoc family council was transitioned to a formal board of directors that included all four members of the second generation.
- Development of financial structures to safeguard the family assets.
Claudia, supported by her sister Marila, developed a set of financial structures aimed at addressing the monetary issues related to shared family assets. This included setting up a holding company to effectively manage the Visani family’s portfolio, allowing them to adopt a shared vision on topics such as strategy, diversification, risk, profitability, taxation and control and consolidated reporting of results.
Claudia and Marila promoted the development of a position that is responsible for managing the family's inheritance, similar to that of a family office, though that protocol is not currently in place.
Navigating the road ahead
Gender equality characterizes the dynamics of the Visani family. The second generation now has an opportunity to turn its attention to generational diversity as a matter of priority as well. With three demographic cohorts coexisting in Inversora Lockey, the Visani family is in a unique position for the Baby Boomer, GenX and Millennials to share their visions and diverse points of view and contribute to the future direction of the business.
Ultimately, there are three generations aligned around a shared purpose, vision and set of values and who are ready to take them forward for the good of the family and the business.