Ensuring the family business legacy: my second book

THAT’S the title of my second book. After three years and three copy editors, my book is now available.

To give you an idea on how this book was conceptualized, let me share with you two distinct reasons for writing it. First, the family business in Asia has grown considerably in the past decades. It has made an impact on China, India, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In the Philippines, there are quite a number of family businesses that are at least 100 years old such as the Ayala-Zobel and Aboitiz clans. I can mention a friend and former neighbor, Dr. Vivian Sarabia, whose family business, Sarabia Optical, is way past its centennial mark. (The family has been making the eyeglasses of all Philippine presidents since the time of Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon. Dr. Sarabia herself made a new pair for President Aquino to wear during his oath-taking ceremony last June 30, 2010.) Those that have reached the third generation are generally more structured as their organizations naturally evolved.

The second reason has something to do with my experience as mentor and business consultant. I was deluged with cases and stories from clients and students about their family business, and most importantly, about the issues and problems related to business succession. Majority of these businesses are still in their first or second generation and managed by founder-owners or sibling-partners. In these firms, one witnesses the struggle between maintaining family harmony and gaining respectable profits. The family business ownership group is the real engine for long-term success and yet we invest so little time in keeping it healthy. Somehow, we assume it will naturally stay strong with a unified vision for the future.

The need for a book on Asian family businesses really struck home. Almost every member of a family business is interested in continuing the life of his or her business as an innovative and successful endeavor until the third generation and beyond. It was then that I realized the imperative of writing a book about the Asian family business.

The stories of successful Asian business tycoons and their succession problems can encapsulate everything a client or student engaged in a family business needs to know.

Today, business successors are more inclined to shift from the founder’s patriarchal perspectives to a more corporate style of management. This book fits as a quick but comprehensive reference for understanding what it takes to continue a family business across generations.

Moreover, one of my basic aims as an author is to provide a book that every reader would be able to take something from, whether he or she is a business founder or successor.

Of course, the main benefit for the reader is the variety of Asian family business stories and complexities shared here. Most of the stories contain timeless business insights, inspiration and advice for both the patriarch/business founder and the younger successor.

These business tips and insights are products of my years of consultancy work and experience with various companies:

a. As chair of the marketing cluster and family business professor at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business;

b. My experience as part of the executive committee of the Unilab Group’s property arm, Greenfield Development Corp.;

c. Working and reporting directly to Andrew Tan as president and chair of several companies under his group. Noteworthy was my being handpicked to mentor his eldest son Kevin from day one until he became vice president;

d. Working as group chief executive officer (CEO) of Belo Medical and mentoring Dr. Vicki Belo’s daughter, Cristalle Henares;

e. Family business mentoring is a core service of Wong and Bernstein Business Advisory Group where I mentored and still mentoring several family-owned businesses — initiating a shift from family-owned and managed to family inspired;

f. Doing advocacy and turnaround strategies for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and family businesses and mentoring young entrepreneurs and students at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.;

g. Doing receivership of and initiating rehabilitation of distressed family-owned companies; and

h. Being a strategic advisor to the JG Summit Group and its affiliates

To further compliment the chapters of the book, I included a powerful bonus feature about the phenomenal rise of Andrew Tan, the challenges and adversities he faced and his climb to being the country’s third wealthiest Filipino.

It is reassuring to know that the vibrancy of the Asian family business has been captured in this book. Thus, we can look around and realize that Asia is at par with its western counterparts in terms of successful management succession planning as far as family businesses are concerned.

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