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The secret power of family businesses
Igor Akrapovič, the founder of Akrapovič company, that develops premium exhaust systems for motorcycles and racing cars. / Photo: Akrapovič

Over 80 percent of Slovenian companies are family owned. Most of them are small, however, a few have developed into European or even global leaders within their niche.

The backbone of Slovenian entrepreneurship are without a doubt family businesses. They represent over 80 percent of Slovenian companies. Many of these businesses have been operating for several decades and a third of them are already being run by a second generation of owners. In early January the ministry for the economy and SPIRIT Slovenia Business Development Agency held a regular annual meeting of family businesses. The main goal was to provide support for the successful succession – a critical factor in the long-term success of an important segment of the national economy.

True, most of these businesses are locally oriented and very small. Only 12 percent of Slovenian family businesses have ever had revenues over 4 million euros. Yet not all of them remain small. Some of the best Slovenian family businesses have evolved into strong local players – or even European and global niche leaders. According to the Podjetna Slovenia (Entrepreneurial Slovenia) magazine, one third of the 600 largest enterprises are run by the owner or their family members. These companies are among regular recipients of the most prestigious business awards. The entrepreneur of the year 2023 title, awarded by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, went to Robert Medle of Roletarstvo Medle, a family business manufacturing shades and blinds. The Entrepreneurial Star of 2023, presented by the Delo daily newspaper, was awarded to RLS Merilna tehnika, a leading developer of rotary and linear motion sensors. The company was founded in 1989 by two friends – now owned by Renishaw from the UK.

The largest Slovenian company run by the owner is carbon emission allowances trader Belektron with over 3 billion euros of revenues. The company is among the niche’s European leaders. Premium exhaust system developer Akrapovič employs over 1,600 people. Other leading Slovenian family businesses include engineering company Riko, complex steel structures manufacturer ADK, and elastomer and thermoplastic component producer Siliko. High tech plastics is the area with several successful Slovenian family businesses. Plastika Skaza focuses on sustainable plastic materials and products. Polycom develops polymer and mold solutions for companies like BMW and Volkswagen. Lingva produces printed circuit boards and SMD stencils – metal foil stencils used for soldering components onto circuit boards.

These family owned businesses and companies still run by their founders are an example of the vibrancy and dynamism of Slovenian entrepreneurship. You can find some of their greatest success stories in the Family Business Book published every year by SPIRIT Slovenia Business Development Agency and the EY consulting company.

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