Our first family business visit here in Vienna was a very exciting one. We went to a candy manufacturer, the Manner Corporation. Manner is a majority family-owned company that has a very distinct Viennese brand. Upon entering the factory, one can’t help but draw comparisons to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I think we all secretly wanted the Manner factory to be similar. However, after further review, I have found some inefficiencies in the Wonka factory that a reputably efficient Austrian manufacturing firm would easily uncover:
In the real world, the Manner factory is much more productive and clean.
I should also mention that the Manner Corporation is much more than just a candy manufacturer. In fact, their most popular product is a hazelnut filled wafer cookie. These Manner Wafers are quite tasty, and received product placement ads in movies such as Terminator 3 and TV shows such as Friends.
Our group was led by Mr. Hans Andres and was taken around the production line of the wafers. The best part of our tour actually came near the waste bin. Wafers that are damaged in the cutting process are disposed, but are actually still quite delicious. This led to the first dumpster diving that I have ever done in my life.
What is most interesting about the Manner Corporation is its successful merger with Casali-Napoli in the late 1970s. This merger combined both the companies and two different families: the Manner and the Andres families. Mr. Andres spoke to us about how difficult it was to unite the two companies. Even after 17 years, there were still remnants of the rivalry that once existed between the two families. He mentioned that the problem was solved by open communication with all employees. He felt that being open about the company goals united the firm and helped to dissolve the past tension. Mr. Andres also stressed the importance of having non-family member board members present, to keep an objective eye on how the business is progressing. The non-family board members were able to effectively recognize the tension and communicated to both families how important it would be to change the attitude. Ultimately, this led to a more integrated company which deals with conflict in a more productive way.
We really enjoyed our time at the Manner company, and can’t wait to see what else the week has in store.
By: Michael Murnane ’12