June 07th 2022

How a family business succession can succeed: Interview with Thomas Auer, fourth-generation CEO of Holzmanufaktur Auer

Thomas Auer talks about planning, challenges and tips for a successful succession.

Family business succession is a critical phase in the life of a family firm. Only a small proportion of family firms manages to successfully hand over the business within the family across generations. Since succession does not happen in one day, it has to be systematically managed and planned in detail.

The interview with Thomas Auer was undertaken in the course of the succession process at the Holzmanufaktur Auer. Thomas Auer, fourth generation, currently is CEO of the company together with his father Heinrich Auer, third generation. He entered the business in 2019.

Thomas Auer graduated from the MCI Business & Management study program. Already in 2018, he collaborated with the MCI Family Business Center in an applied research project entitled “Carpentry 2025”, where he elaborated a future scenario for carpentry entrepreneurs.


Anita Zehrer, Head of Family Business Center, spoke to Thomas Auer about successful succession in a family business.

A successful handover requires planning and time. How did you approach the topic for yourself? How did you design the handover process?

We started planning when I was in school. We set up a qualification framework that I was supposed to acquire - and I then acquired this through studies, internships and work experience. When I then joined the company, I was able to learn a lot about the processes at the beginning before I got involved myself.

How did the company takeover go? What was and is the biggest challenge for you when taking over your family business?

The takeover is going well. External influences put some big stones in our way, but we removed them together. Due to the good harmony with my father, it always worked well. We have a good basis for discussion and can work things out

Who supported you in your succession or what helped you the most?

We structured it ourselves, but have always learned a lot from others. We always like to look at how others are trying and then derive our conclusions from these examples. The case studies dealt with during my studies also often pop up in my head - and I try to learn from them and gain insights.

How difficult was and is it for you to find the balance between family values and new ways (i.e. innovations)?

Innovation was already a core topic before I was in the company. My father was always one step ahead and thought about how new processes and technologies could be used. I adopted this philosophy.

What tip would you like to pass o to buyers that should definitely be followed?

Peace in the family is the basic building block in the handover. You should have a good relationship, then you can solve all problems together.


Prof. MMag. Dr. habil. Anita Zehrer
Head of Family Business Center
+43 512 2070 – 7100

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Thomas Auer, fourth-generation CEO of Holzmanufaktur Auer. © Holzmanufaktur Auer


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