Unfolding the Future


Family business - what comes first?

“I love you my child. I just don’t trust you with my business yet.”

Most big businesses that we know today started out as family businesses. In fact, at the end of 2019, it was reported that three family businesses in the United States – the Walton, Koch and Mars families – have a combined wealth of US$348.7 billion which is more than the combined wealth of 4 million American families of median wealth.

Asia has its fair share of successful family-owned businesses. In India, there are the Ambanis (Reliance); in Hong Kong, the Kwoks (Sun Hung Kai); the Chearavanonts (Charoen Pokphand Group) in Thailand; and the Hartonos (Djarum) in Indonesia, just to name a few. Many more are poised to join these ranks from emerging markets like Vietnam, Myanmar, and even Singapore.

Family-owned businesses—where family members hold positions in the business or derive income from it—often keep the overall management of the business within the family and usually in the sole hands of the entrepreneur-owner, even if they employ professional managers for day-to-day operations.

Entrepreneur-owners treat their family businesses as their ‘baby’ and view everyone who works with them as their instruments in shaping success their way.
The business almost always becomes personal gratification and many desire to leave behind a legacy (even a monument) for others to admire. More so than their own families which is why succession planning often becomes an issue in family-owned businesses.

This outlook leads to a key issue among entrepreneur-owner’s children as summarised by a second-generation member of a family-owned business in Myanmar; “I know my father loves me. He is, in fact, very loving yet he does not trust me with his business”.

Are entrepreneur-owners so objective that they can compartmentalise Love and Trust when it comes to their children and the way their business should be run?

Or are they more progressive in their attitudes towards Love for their children but remain traditional when it comes to trusting them with the business they have spent a lifetime building?

Can ‘Love’ and ‘Trust’ even co-exist in a family-owned business in the first place?

The questions need deep discussion but suffice to say, ‘Love’ and ‘Trust’ within business works the same way it does outside of business.
Love is a feeling, something you give of yourself. It is an attachment you form, a joy you share, a warmth you embrace which can shift you through the gears of emotional to illogical just like that.

Trust, on the other hand, has to be earned. It has to be forged and maintained. There is no free lunch! Trust is needed for workplace cooperation, collaboration and even creativity. Interpersonal trust is also needed in friendships, partnerships, marriages, even in love.

An entrepreneur-owner who loves his children to the moon and back is being a doting parent first.

The same entrepreneur-owner who cannot 100% trust his children to takeover the business, maintain ties that he/she has built through the years, retain customer loyalty and build on the brand equity is being a business owner first.

What would you do if you have built a successful business?

Would you hand it to your children who have been educated in the finest schools, waiting in the wings to take over with grand plans of their own to modernise, streamline, re-purpose and re-engineer for the Future?

Would you hand over blanket trust?

Reference: Finance Yahoo / America’s 3 wealthiest families have more money than 4 million average families combined