Founder Inaction Can Cause Business to Fail Part 2

With tension escalating and family members demanding for more entitlements, Mr. C, the founder, no longer had the passion to grow the business he started in 1973.

Unless there was real intervention, it was obvious that the family business was on a downward trajectory.

In the course of our assessment, there were instances we hit a brick wall.  We discovered that the gap was so wide and the acrimony between siblings so deep.

There was a time in my advisory work that every meeting I attended would always end with a virtual confrontation punctuated with a shouting match that can be heard by employees and visitors in the executive floor. And as if on cue, assistants would immediately disallow visitors from entering the floor. Mr. C would then just quietly leave the boardroom, disheartened and embarrassed by his children’s actions.

At one point and out of desperation, Mr. C became emotional and told me “how he wished his business never grew so big so he will never have to contend with his entitled, squabbling and disrespectful children”.

He also lamented about the issue of money and power plaguing his adult children… “why are they fighting for the small pot? If they can just work as a real, united family, there is a much bigger pot to create!

Mr. C was used to the hard life, at a young age of 12, desperate and hungry, he decided to join the exodus of Chinese laborers leaving China with only one thing in mind…hope for a better life.

As he was about to tear up again, I comforted him that all was not lost. In tense situations where the Patriarch or Matriarch is being pressured by family members to make decisions, there is a very strong likelihood that they will end up suffering in silence and feeling helpless. Such is the case of Mr. C. He chose not to decide, opted to procrastinate and remained neutral in the course of our intervention.

This pattern of indecision is not only wrong but destructive. Unfortunately, the “Do Nothing” option is by far the most popular option. Therefore, it makes sense to consider a third party intervention as time is critical.

An experienced family business advisor, bereft of any emotion, will guide the family members the appropriate governance mechanism to make critical decisions based on what is best for the family and the enterprise.

After the children swapped accusations of wrongdoing, it was apparent that if my firm, W+B Family Advisory cannot help them, their only recourse was to seek the legal route. It didn’t help that both parties were being goaded by their lawyers to seek court intervention.

In a KPMG report, this case is what they refer to as a classic Rags to Riches and likely back to Rags family.

The report highlights that starting a family business is easy, relatively speaking; sustaining it beyond 2 or 3 generations is the hardest part. Indeed, it’s often said that the rags fall on the third generation. It’s a sad commentary on the reality that faces family business.

Every family member must recognize that family issues, not business nor external events, will define the very survival of the next generational change in family businesses.

After a series of assessments, one on one sessions with the family members and a slew of governance interventions replete with drama, a breakthrough happened that averted what would have been the biggest mistake the warring family members would have committed… go to court and scar the family for life.

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Founder Inaction Can Cause Business to Fail

Allow me to share the story of a Family Business run by Mr. C. Like most entrepreneurs Mr. C migrated from Southern China, started a trading business and through the years expanded to several businesses like manufacturing, food and retail. The business was founded 44 years ago and at its peak, had a total employee count of more than 15,000.

Early this year, I conducted an organizational audit and found out that the employee headcount sharply dropped to just below 5000. The decline started right after the founder took a back seat due to a life threatening condition.

Family C’s case is unique. It is a live case full of twists and turns and ever unfolding. Live case also means that it is a “work in progress” (WIP) project. This is also one of the reasons why I spend more time in Asia than in the Philippines.

Our sessions have been quiet challenging and gratifying at the same time. My core team was able to diffuse a family “ticking time bomb” that started more than a decade ago involving two warring sides of the family…three younger siblings pitted against two older siblings.

The problem started with the employment of the first 2 children, who were untrained and ill equipped to handle the rigors of managing an enterprise belonging to different industries.

Straight from college and without any formal entry policy, they were asked by their father to help out in the business. Confident that the children were ready to assume bigger roles and the companies’ consistently better performance year after year, the father decided to slowly detach from the day to day chores.

Through time, they married, produced children and the family grew faster than the business. With their new found power, the older children started to apportion for themselves the departments and business units that they were already managing.

This was also the time the three younger siblings joined the business. With 5 children in the business, each vying for control, the departments were like a separate kingdom without any semblance of a collective plan moving in one direction.

With the children at the helm, heated discussions among them became more frequent and their incompetence manifesting by way of lapses in major decisions. It was obvious that apart from the breakdown of governance, the lack of vision, poor judgment, conflict of interest, high attrition rate for employees, no planning and a certain level of entitlement contributed to the decline.

Primary Causes of the Sharp Decline:

  • With the same surname as the founder, any family member can freely join the business
  • Some were plain lazy, while some did not have to work as hard and still got the same pay as those who were fully engaged
  • Distrust and self-dealing among family members were becoming apparent
  • Relatives or friends can be a supplier without the necessary accreditation.
  • In-laws got infected with the “entitlement bug”
  • No rules of entry and exit including accountability for family members.
  • Employees started to take sides out of survival
  • Frequent clashes due to personality differences
  • Constant friction as to where the business should be heading
  • No expansion as family members spent much of their energy fighting one another over money and power
  • Family members never exerted effort nor time to cooperate.

To be continued…

 

https://www.towerswatson.com/en/Insights/IC-Types/Reprints/2014/10/Succession-Planning-The-Answer-to-Leadership-Crisis

DIY Governance Can be a Disaster (Part 2)

Family Governance

A fundamental aim of family governance is to mitigate conflict and harmonize interests to ensure business sustainability.  Successful family businesses in the region often establish a governance model and do the following:

  • Establish and formalize family rules and policies through a family constitution
  • Have a clear succession plan in terms of family ownership and leadership
  • Establish the right structures and bodies to enable proper family governance e.g. family assemblies, councils, etc.

Professionalization of the Firm 

  • Corporate Governance: Having an effective Board of Directors with the right structure, composition, roles, decision making rights, etc.
  • Planning and Performance: Having a planning function for both holding and subsidiary levels supported by a performance management system
  • Controls: Effective management controls are in place to ensure proper functioning of business processes
  • Processes, Policies, and Procedures: Effective processes and policies for core business functions, job descriptions, authority matrices, etc.
  • Technology: Implementing technological systems which increase efficiencies in processes and promote more effective decision making

Portfolio Direction and Management

  • Core competencies of the group need to be clearly defined and an investment strategy outlined to match those competencies and opportunities in the market.

—- Continue with Prof Soriano’s Article —-

Governance is all about communicating and winning the trust of family members/branches as well as instilling the overarching message that institutionalizing rules and setting a realistic code of conduct for the “greater good” can effectively mitigate conflict and raise the bar of productivity.

For some that have sought my help, they have admitted that in the past, the next available “resource” and natural “go to counselor” were their favorite spiritual advisers. These can be the community parish priest, a pastor and to some extent seeking out guidance and wisdom from the most senior and influential member of the business community.

Sadly, for those who are already on the edge and showing clear signs of desperation, they have resorted to calling out as many saints including their deceased founders and influential family members imploring their divine intervention so they can finally put an end to the “curse” we generally refer to as family conflict.

DIY Governance Can Be Extremely Frustrating

The downside in any DIY initiative is it can be physically draining for the family member proponent. Governance is not just about articulating the list of benefits or asserting the importance of legacy creation or getting everyone to comply based on the rules and policies set.

The key is communicating the urgency and significance of going through this all-important event!

It is a Once in a Lifetime Event

Now that I have emphasized the enormity of work and the likely disastrous consequence of initiating a Governance DIY approach, I am sharing a timely PWC research related to the importance of initiating Governance in family owned businesses:

a. Safety in structure. Many family businesses have learned that a little structure can be extremely helpful when the time comes to discuss sensitive issues, such as:

  • Ownership shares
  • Rights and responsibilities
  • The competence of family-member managers, and
  • Agreeing on a strategy that is best for both the business and the family

b. It starts with a clear vision—and clear lines of communication

  • Like any business, a family enterprise must be built on a foundation of mutual agreement on certain fundamental questions:
    • What is our vision—and our mission—for this business?
    • What strategy should we follow to reach our goals?
    • What structures and people do we need to succeed?
    • How do we handle shares, inheritance, in-laws?

The Importance of Education and Shared Values

When next generation members fully understand and embrace their roles as stewards rather than owners, the entitlement mindset is tempered. And having a non-family member as advisor to provide oversight can significantly improve and restrain aberrant behavior.

Clearly, when the process of governance becomes unbiased, consistently applied to all, and initiated without fear or favor and with the guidance and facilitation of an experience family advisor, the family can expect better communication within its members plus the added benefit of a scientific and stable approach to the natural overlapping interests of the family, business and the ownership ecosystem.

In closing, Governance is a sensitive and serious matter and is simply too important to be left in the care of a family member unfamiliar and ill equipped to manage emotions and personal interests of different family members.

Harmonizing relationships and institutionalizing control across generations under an environment of shared vision can tremendously accelerate the growth curve of the enterprise.

If done correctly from the onset, governance can become the source of more strength and longevity for the family.

Governance is Not a DIY Thing

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In order to produce the desired outcome we believe that we need to guide the family through a three step process.

STEP 1.  Build the future on sound foundations

The starting point for delivering the desired outcomes is to have a sound foundation built on trusting relationships and open, honest and constructive communication. If there is no trust between family members, it is very difficult for family members to successfully negotiate the complex issues that a family business must deal with.   To work with a family successfully, first step is to assess the quality of both trust and communication and if they need improvement, develop strategies appropriate to their individual circumstances.

STEP 2. Develop a common uniting vision for the future based on the families values

This step is about identifying what each family member wants to achieve personally, and finding the threads to create a common, uniting vision for the family in business, based on the families’ values. This is the critical step that creates energy and commitment.  Having a common vision can also provide the reason to put up with differing personal styles and can therefore assist with communication and the inevitable tensions that arise in a family business.

STEP 3.  Ensure that there are appropriate governance structures in place for both the business and the family

This step is about creating a framework for sound governance for both the business and the family. The challenges however often arise in growing family business where the roles overlap with the family dynamic. We find that in the process of setting these sound foundations, many  issues are invariably cleared.  Most importantly we have set the framework for the family to address any issues that they are faced with.


Have you ever watched some reality shows on cable? The script usually starts with people working on a project but they have no idea what they are doing. Take the case for example of a particular show in HGTV focused on home remodeling where unskilled homeowners will attempt and try the “do it yourself” (DIY) approach.

The host of the show then comes in to save the day, repairing what the DIYers tore down, and teaching them how to do and perform certain tasks to reverse the situation.

This show has many parallels to the world of Family Business governance. It is very tempting to try and find a DIY solution to sticky family issues. Why?

Budgets are tight, and professional advice can seem like a luxury when you are struggling to meet sales goals, many family members adopt a DIY solution when what they really need is an experienced family business advisor.

The Internet is also a huge source of information and encourages many family members especially the younger generation to DIY their family agreements, whether it is access to governance information or plainly using a “cut and paste” model to craft a charter or constitution.

But the problem is that advice on the Internet is not always accurate, particularly since governance and if I may add Succession, are not a “one size fits all” document.  It is a process and the way governance is applied depends on so many factors:

  • The size and complexity of the family
  • The phase where intervention is needed
  • The magnitude of the conflict and
  • The capability of the family members to transition from the old entitled and lackadaisical model to a process, vision centered and governance driven family business.

Additionally, there have been a few instances where my competence and credibility as Family Business advisor was questioned by business owners both in the Philippines and overseas and on rare occasions, business owners would also belittle my firm’s engagement parameters.

The “I know better” syndrome is quite common among enterprise leaders. I do not blame them. Their power, wealth and their inflated ego distinguishes them from the rest of us and rightfully so. In the stage where they are high and mighty, they probably believed that they know their family better and can effect change.  It is a normal process and comes with the territory. So when I feel an air of unreasonable arrogance, I would just graciously disengage.

I am not totally closing the door on doing DIY Governance. It has a slight chance of succeeding for as long as the rules are exhaustive and doggedly applied to all family members.

But here are my key takeaways to family business leaders stubbornly pursuing the DIY approach:

  • You cannot DIY intervention after doing nothing for many years causing the family so much emotional strife
  • You cannot DIY and act as arbiter in a hostile environment pitting two generations or two branches
  • You cannot DIY and act as referee between warring family members/ branches that have caused untold sufferings and anguish
  • You cannot DIY compliance in an atmosphere of frayed nerves with a long history of animosity coupled with constant threat and intimidation
  • You cannot DIY suspension of an erring and entitled next generation member who happens to be your favorite nephew or niece or in law
  • You cannot DIY termination of a first born child even if he or she has prejudice and damage the business

To be continued…

 

http://www.fbrc.com.au/what-we-do/fbrc-development-process

Hope Alone Will Never Heal Family Conflicts

oct 16

Lotte: Family Feud

Founded in 1948 in Tokyo by Shin Kyuk-ho, the Lotte Group started off as a chewing gum distributor to children in post-war Japan. Nearly a decade later, Shin expanded the company to South Korea and became the country’s largest confectionery manufacturer. Lotte group engages in several industries, such as shopping, entertainment, finance, hotels, and food.

The feud began on July 27 2015 when the 92-year-old Shin dismissed his younger son Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of Lotte Group, along with six board directors. According to the Korea Herald, Lotte Group lost billions of dollars from its operations in China over the past four years, and Dong-bin had reportedly failed to report the losses to his father. Dong-bin held an emergency board meeting and staged a coup to remove his father as general chairman of the company’s holdings. The younger son kept both of his executive titles. The move angered Shin Dong-joo, who called his father’s demotion unlawful. In January 2015, Dong-joo himself was fired after his father discovered that he had overstepped his role by meddling in the management of Korean operations.

Lotte chairman clinches ultimate victory against brother

The long-running family feud between Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin and his older brother Dong-joo has apparently ended after the latter disposed of a large stake in the group’s key affiliate. The nation’s fifth-largest conglomerate said Thursday that former Tokyo-based Lotte Holdings Vice Chairman Shin Dong-joo sold a 6.88 percent stake in Lotte Shopping ― 1.73 million shares ― through a block deal for 391 billion won ($342 million).

Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho’s oldest son now holds just 7.95 percent of Lotte Shopping, while his younger brother has 13.46 percent.

The siblings have been fighting for control of the retail giant since July 2015, engaging in a fierce legal battle. But the older brother appears to have accepted defeat in the uphill battle for now, according to industry watchers.

—–

NEW YORK. NY. On September 3, 2008, at the Republican National convention, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the first to use the phrase “hope is not a strategy. Specifically, his convention speech included these words:

“Because ‘change’ is not a destination, just as ‘hope’ is not a strategy.

What Does It Mean? When Mr. Giuliani used the quote in late 2008, he was saying that Obama – and any other president – needs to act.

I am connecting this message to family members who are suffering in silence because of deep conflict within the family and indecision.

Hope Supported by Action

You cannot just hope and wished that the issues will just go away. As a family member, you need to muster enough strength to initiate and act on the problems that are causing tension within the family and have likely spread to the business.

The patriarch/matriarch must act to mitigate the problems. Just sitting around thinking about how the current situation could be better is not going to change anything.

The fact remains that the following problems will never be resolved by just merely hoping for the best:

  • Hope will never address the confusion as to where the business is heading
  • Hope will not reduce misunderstandings among siblings/cousins
  • Hope will never resolve personality differences
  • Hope will not cure the incompetence nor can it terminate unqualified/ dishonest family members
  • Hope can never manage frequent power struggles among siblings/cousins
  • Hope will not create ownership alignments/agreements
  • Hope will not mend emotional outbursts and constant finger pointing and cursing
  • Hope can never cure greed nor will it fix a slew of conflict of interest or self-dealing activities by family members
  • Hope will not remove from the business entrenched inept but entitled in-laws
  • Hope cannot heal a scarred relationship
  • Hope can never promise nor offer solutions to a mismanaged enterprise nor will it help correct a bad P&L (Profit and Loss) financial statement
  • Hope cannot prevent a family member from selling his or her shares to a competitor
  • Hope cannot prevent a catastrophic failure of both the family and the business

Just hoping is plain and simple procrastination!

I can list more issues but one thing is crystal clear, hope is not a strategy. Without any means to address these deep and frightful issues, it will be a bruising struggle for power that will result into more disputes, further antagonizing members and weakening the very foundation of the family business.

If there is continued inaction, these problems can cause entropy and will scar the family and the business forever. The consequences of inaction are irreversible.

Objective Intervention Is Important

The best and only option is for family members agreeing on solutions and subsequently formulating family agreements. To avoid making the issues less personal and ensure greater objectivity, it is imperative for the family to engage the services of a third party facilitator who will propose initiatives leading to the creation of mutually agreed governance policies defining the roles and responsibilities of family members active and not actively working in the business.

The good news is that most family related problems are predictable and initiating policies before they happen or morph can eliminate or reduce further tension and will de-escalate a brewing conflict when the founder or patriarch is no longer around.

Do not get me wrong, hope and prayer can work in the face of a difficult situation, but family members need to act and do their part now. There is still time.

(esoriano@wongadvisory.com)

*****

LINK:

http://kore.am/a-breakdown-of-the-lotte-family-feud/
http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2017/02/694_224573.html

Why Banks Love Governance

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Corporate Governance

Outstanding Performance, Higher Profits, Expanded Market Reach and the like FAILS to protect a company which has put good governance & ethics at the back burner.

Only the culture of strict adherence to good compliance can keep a company ahead on sustainable basis, bring in larger profits.

Corporates should act like honey bee which suck the nectar of the flower without effecting its fragrance and produce honey for the well –being of society.

=====

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. Governance is everywhere. I am slated to deliver a talk related to Ownership and Succession today to the students, faculty members and business owners at the Community College of San Francisco Ocean Campus (CCSF).

This will be another interesting exchange of ideas with business owners and the academia similar to the one I did exactly a year ago when the University of San Francisco College of Business (USF) core faculty invited me to lecture on a topic as diverse as the ASEAN Integration and Its impact on the US Economy.

Next month, I will resume my family business initiatives in Africa organized by the World Bank/IFC Group and then proceed to Southwest Asia to run another governance campaign in collaboration with the country’s stock exchange.

If I get “unlucky”, I will end up doing another North American engagement before or after the year ends. It will be winter so advisory work can get really challenging.

Just as I thought my business coaching engagements will taper off as the year is almost at the tail end, in comes invitations to actively promote governance and succession in emerging economies like Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda in Africa and India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in South Asia.

Governance is a Top Lending Metric

There is no doubt that creditors, lenders, VC’s and financial institutions are clearly biased towards businesses that are devoted to best practices or whose business and operating model revolve around corporate governance.

The Asian and Global financial crisis in 1997 and 2008 revealed severe shortcomings in corporate governance. Quoting an OECD report, “when most needed, existing standards failed to provide the checks and balances that companies need in order to cultivate sound business practices.”

Right after the 2008 debacle, the OECD and several global institutions launched an ambitious action plan to develop a set of recommendations for improvements in priority areas such as remuneration, risk management, board practices and the exercise of shareholder rights.

The changes happening now is a result of the global wave of governance standards put in place especially in the most vulnerable sector, the start-up businesses and family-owned enterprises.

Hopefully, the collaborative and active intervention efforts will encourage founders of businesses to step up to the plate not just in their profit strategies but in establishing a structure where sound business practices can become the norm.

It is a fact that one of the major hurdles for business owners is the issue of transitioning from an owner mindset (where there is weak governance structures and systems) to the new model of stewardship management (where governance is written and there is compliance of best practices).

Why Creditors/Banks Prefer Businesses that Espouse Governance?

The answers point to a very important ingredient in lending money… the ability to use the fund for the right purpose and the responsibility to pay the creditor-bank on time.

Corporate governance structure builds a strong family foundation and banks are naturally receptive in lending capital to a stable enterprise especially if they see a family constitution in place that captures the following:

  • Vision-driven and values-based that prepares the family and the business for the future
  • Aligning the family’s relationship with the business by way of meritocracy
  • Defining the family member’s rights and responsibilities
  • Ownership alignment covering the next gen leaders are well-documented
  • Effective plan for ownership including key family leadership role and succession
  • A Communication platform to minimize conflict and misunderstanding for active and non-active owners
  • The creation of Family Council to manage Family and personal issues

(esoriano@wongadvisory.com)

*****

https://www.slideshare.net/pkvijay/corporate-governance-39555679

 

Why Am I Passionately Espousing Family Governance?

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Samsung

Samsung Electronics, the crown jewel of the Samsung group, has reported record profits despite Lee’s arrest in February and a damaging recall for Galaxy Note 7 phones that were prone to battery fires. The financial success was largely thanks to events set in motion by Lee’s father in the 1990s. The elder Lee made the decision to break into the memory chip industry and followed up with massive and risky investments that rivals could not match every year.

Those investments are paying off. Samsung, the world’s largest maker of memory chips for servers, mobile devices and computers, was the biggest beneficiary of supply constraints and explosive demand for mobile devices that pushed up prices.

Longer term, however, some analysts see risks for Samsung and its flagship Samsung Electronics.

“South Korea’s chaebol system is similar to monarchy,” said Park, the Seoul National University professor. “In the monarchy system, you need a king.”

There is also potential for a destabilizing family feud over inheritance when the elder Lee dies.

=====

Over the past seven years, our firm, W+B Family Business advisory has been spearheading family and business governance in Asia.

Most of our alliance partners in the business sector and the academe in North America, Indonesia and Singapore have referred to our vigorous campaign as “relentless”.

In our head office, we modestly refer to our work as the “W+B Method”.  International clients have acknowledged our method as best in class and we solely look at it as our compelling value proposition.

Why is W+B vigorously campaigning to promote Governance?

It is a race against time. We have witnessed first-hand, emotionally charged families being torn apart because of rivalry, greed, envy, vengeance and sometimes senseless loss of human lives.

There have been quite a number of cases where family members would “kidnap” a parent allegedly suffering from dementia in order to prevent an asset sale or overthrow a sibling in power or seeing siblings conspire in forging documents so they can surreptitiously sell assets.

I have experienced several cases where I had to enforced disciplinary action and initiate expulsion of family members engaged in self-dealing, conflict of interest transactions and in rare cases absconding with large amounts of money.

These are unfortunate but live cases of family conflict! When the battle lines are drawn, you can expect discord among family members, sometimes violent confrontations, parents inconsolable and confused, and the business on the brink of a major setback or at worse, imploding.

Without any doubt, as Family business advisors, we have the herculean responsibility to intervene and affect the governance process because it is the way forward and the right thing to do.

To quote a Bloomberg report related to the never-ending family drama unfolding at Samsung:

“Sabotage, espionage, succession battles, and sibling rivalries — it sounds like a season of “Game of Thrones.” But it’s the real-life drama of the Lee family, the Korean dynasty that founded Samsung with wealth equal to 17% of the country’s GDP.

It’s a fragile situation. If successor Lee Jae doesn’t navigate this right, there are family members waiting to take his spot.“

Currently, Lee Jae is in jail and family members and non-family shareholders are allegedly plotting separately to let him stay in jail for good.

Governance Intervention Must Be Holistic

Our coaching interventions are straightforward. As a Senior Advisor, my role is to articulate very important and purposive set of ideas and beliefs before any actual engagement. The key is to educate and prepare members for the journey toward corporate governance.

Educating family members is critical. The willingness and readiness of every family member to go through the process is equally vital.

Finally, the advisor’s role is to underscore the importance of embracing pre-work rules before starting the process of change. These are the following:

a. Governance and Succession is non-negotiable.

b.Size of the business is immaterial.

c.The bigger the number of family members, the more complex it can become.

d.Intervention should be on the 3 circles (Family, Business and Ownership). Each circle has its own unique characteristics so a tailor-fitted approach must be in place.

e.Procrastination is like a thief of time. Delaying governance further can increase the volatility of the family and the business.

f.Age is a factor. As the founder and the business leader ages, succession and related issues in a multi generational family can offer more challenges.

g.Compliance of the rules and activation of the Governance Councils as enshrined in the constitution is non-negotiable.

(esoriano@wongadvisory.com)

*****

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-samsung-prison-qa-20170825-story.html