Matching and merging family-run business values in South America
Lehning Laboratories, a natural healthcare solutions provider founded in 1935 by René Lehning, is one of the pioneers of homeopathy and phytotherapy. The family-run business has been a key driver of the rise of alternative medicines over the years. Its innovations and success in France led to expansion through subsidiaries and partnerships in Europe and in North America. Most recently, Lehning set their sights on South America, where Altios assisted the company with an M&A deal to expand its reach and set up locally.
The Lehning Group was interested in the Brazilian market for its potential in both human and animal health and, thanks to an exceptional biodiversity, for sourcing suppliers.
A growing interest is emerging among consumers towards natural products and solutions. Criticism in recent news around multi-national pharmaceutical companies has turned this conversation not only to everyday food and product options, but also healthcare products. Lehning is addressing these needs by creating products that work with traditional medicine, and has even moved into solutions for farm animals in an effort to fight against the medicalization of the food for these animals, that we find later on our plates. This holistic approach and quality guarantee of natural raw materials is at the heart of developing Lehning’s solutions and was ultimately a critical element in the strategy to purchase a Brazilian laboratory in the Sao Paolo region.
With strong market analysis provided by Altios, Lehning understood what was needed for this expansion. “Indeed, we quickly detected that one of the key factors of success in Brazil was the humility and the knowledge of the Brazilian culture,” said Stephane Lehning, President of Lehning Groupe and grandson of René Lehning. “The intervention of Altios was not only an added value on this front, but also represented an investment to give ourselves every opportunity to succeed in this external growth operation.”
To meet their ambitious objectives, it was decided that the best move was to acquire Apis Flora, a small company discovered by Altios. Founded in 1982, also as a family business, Apis Flora, showed longevity in the developing Brazilian economy. The human values of Apis Flora's teams and the quality of its products reflected those of the Lehning Group. Apis Flora is specialized in bee products with remarkable manufacturing know-how and knowledge of the medicinal benefits of Propolis Verte from Brazil, which has many applications in both human and animal health.
“An M&A was ultimately the best strategy to meet Lehning’s goals,” said Didier Koch, Managing Director of Altios Brazil. “The strong alignment in values and culture not only made sense for a merger, but allowed Lehning to reach its goals faster by acquiring an experienced team, efficient manufacturing plant, happy clientele, and access to the extraordinary biodiversity of the Brazilian Amazon.
Maintaining this employee loyalty and goodwill were extremely important to Lehning during negotiations. “Altios assured all were on board by helping communicate the values and culture of the Lehning Groupe,” said Lehning. “Altios knowledge of the local culture helped us determine what was most important to the founders and employees of Apis Flora.” These negotiations can take a while, and having an intermediary like Altios to maintain precision and confidence was essential, he said.
The buyout finalized, retaining key employees was also an extremely important point for the success of the project: "We made sure that each of them adhered well to the project by communicating the values and culture of the Lehning group", declared Lehning.
Altios is currently supporting the integration process which has been a true success, by making the link between the European and Brazilian teams. In this capacity, Didier Koch is co-manager of the company Apis Flora and in this capacity works regularly with both Brazilian management and the parent company.
When asked if he had any advice to give to other business leaders seeking to establish a presence in Brazil, Lehning replied that "Brazilians, in my opinion, are people whose trust needs to be earned and need proximity to feel that they are part of a global team. You have to maintain a strong cultural dialogue with the teams because the integration in the first few months is absolutely essential to score points. Team spirit and the notion of working together are very important for Brazilians. "
These are important values shared by the Lehning Group and Altios because a project’s success is built in the long-term.