Family constitution from Konya

Family constitution from Konya

My readers would know that I like to report from time to time from what we call “The Anatolian Tigers,” the capital owners and entrepreneurs from Anatolia. 

I was in the central Anatolian town Konya recently to attend the “Night of Union” (Şeb-i Arus) organized every year at the death anniversary of Mevlana. 

Şeb-i Arus is a ceremony that somehow awards a person with tranquility and is watched by many coming from all over Turkey as well as other countries. 

Before the ceremony, I had the opportunity to come together with members of the third and fourth generation of the Helvacızade Group which is among the first five companies of the city. Helvacızade is a 125-year-old company. 

Now, it is the third and fourth generation managing the company. The company has first started producing the famous halva of Konya which has even been mentioned at the journals of the 17th century traveler Evliya Çelebi.

After that, they went into food wholesaling and in 1990s they started their food industry. 

The vegetable oil they are producing under the brand “Zade” is sold to 60 countries other than Turkey. 

In 2012, they have started selling the products of “traditional herbal medicine” they have developed together with Ege University at Izmir through R&D. Their popular product Zade Vital is being sold in pharmacies. 

At this 125-year-old company which is able to produce an innovative product after halva, I was not surprised to hear they had a “Family Constitution.”

We know that major groups like Koç and Sabancı have constitutions. But it is the first time that I come across such a family constitution among the Anatolian Tigers that have a more traditional and conservative structure. 

The third generation boss of the company Dr. Mevlüt Büyükhelvacıgil has co-authored two books about the Family Constitution together with his brother, former head of the Konya Chamber of Industry, Tahir Büyükhelvacıgil. 

Mevlüt Büyükhelvacıgil has a Ph.D. from Preston University of the U.S. about the institutionalization of family companies. His first book is titled “Institutionalization in Family Companies and Family Constitution,” and his second book is “Family Constitution from Family to Institution.” 

In our chat in Konya, Dr. Büyükhelvacıgil said it was only 4 or 5 percent of family companies that were able to survive from the second generation to the third generation.

In Turkey, according to experts, the small and medium sized enterprises that are family companies which are quite widespread in Anatolia experience problems in the second generation. 

The second generation considers the company’s assets as “inheritance” and act arbitrarily. As a result of this, bankruptcies are quite widespread. 

Dr. Mevlut Büyükhelvacıgil said, “Our third generation is three siblings. Together with the children, we have become a large family of 40 people. Everybody has a different education, hence different expectations… For this reason, we needed a family constitution.” 

One of the most important articles of the constitution is that all family members should work in a different company for at least two years to prove themselves. Only after they reach a certain level, they can join the Helvacızade Group. 

I asked Dr. Mevlut Büyükhelvacıgil what was the benefit of the Family Constitution.

Among the items he counted, these are what I remember: 

It makes the family company more resilient to competition conditions, regulates the relationships between the family and the company.

The most important item, I almost forgot: It protects the values of the family coming from the past from change and political transformations. 

As a matter of fact, according to what I learned from the fourth generation of the family, the company maintains the same distance to all political parties. 

Just as their Family Constitution demands…