Maitland Mackie underlined the importance for family businesses to embrace change in a speech at the University of Strathclyde, the first in a series of lectures presented by its new International Centre for Family Enterprise.
Mr Mackie, 75, presided over a series of fundamental developments at Mackie's while at the helm of the company, which was established by his grandfather when he acquired Aberdeenshire's Westertown Farm in 1912.
Highlighting his "no change no chance" business philosophy, Mr Mackie, who handed the reins to son Mac and his sisters Karin and Kirstin 10 years ago, explained how the farm-based business had made the successful transition into ice cream producing after exiting milk retailing in 1987.
He described the sale of "half of my life" to Robert Wiseman Dairies as a "huge trauma", but said the move had given the company an appetite for change that would stand it in good stead in the long term.
Mackie's would go on to build an ice cream dairy on the farm in 1993 before, under the stewardship of Mac Mackie, the brand was expanded to produce crisps under a joint venture with Taypack in 2009. A move into renewable energy followed in 2005 when it built its first wind turbine.
Mr Mackie said knowing when to stand aside and let the young generation take up the baton is an important lesson for senior members of family businesses.
He said: "It is a tremendous privilege to have these three running the business. I do not like not making things happen, so I have done well getting out the way.
"For old cantankerous [directors] and fathers to get out the way is a huge lesson for businesses."
Mr Mackie, who said it was important for family firms to recruit externally for key roles, gave a strong case for renewable energy at the close of his appearance.
While he said the price of conventional energy will double in the next seven years, the cost of renewables will fall thanks to new methods for storing excess energy.