Monthly Archives: September 2017

Padre Noble, Hijo Rico, Nieto Pobre

Sept 25

Governance

As the family and business grow and become more complex, the need for effective governance structures increases. A well structured governance system promotes harmony within the family and business, improves communication and promotes accountability.

Governance defines a process and structure for decision making within each of the systems involved in a family business – family, business, ownership.

Essentially, governance encourages the right people to have the right conversations at the right time.

Effective governance is critical to the long-term success of any organization. This is especially true for family run businesses where the complex dynamics that accompany overlapping family, business and ownership interests can often create conflict where none need exist.

 

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“Father Founder of the company, Son Rich, and Grandson Poor” is Mexico’s powerful equivalent to Asia’s popular saying about family-owned businesses, “Wealth Shall Not Last Three Generations”!

Citing an article penned by Lee Iwan, a leading Business Strategist in Mexico, he avers that the “founder works and builds a business, the son takes over and is poorly prepared to manage and make it grow but enjoys the wealth, and the grandson inherits a dead business and pronto an empty bank account.”

Family Governance Is Non Negotiable

I always reiterate that the first step towards governance is for family members to be cognizant of the major causes of the tension. Second, after identifying the source, the family with the assistance of a family business advisor, proactively work to ensure that adequate measures are adopted so that those conflicts do not spillover to the other circles (John Davis et. al. Three Circle Model). Lastly, if there are differences, they must not be avoided. This will only postpone the issue and create bigger problems in the future.

I strongly encourage the patriarch/matriarch not to waste time in pursuing the governance process. Your action now can help your grandchildren avert not just going back to being part of the “poorhouse” but the ignominy of causing the demise of the family business during their watch.

But to be truthful and fair about the wealth dissipation issue as to which generation caused the demise of the business? The blame lies on the failure or inaction of the first and second generation to initiate governance and succession early.

Tension is Normal in a Transition

When governance is initiated, natural tensions occur as they cannot be avoided. In fact, if there is no tension, it can mean that family members are passive, incompetent, either not thinking or trying to improve or have no power to assert. All of which are equally red flags that a family business will not last.

With any multi-generational transition, you can anticipate tension. With more family members, you can expect more complex family issues emerging that will further exacerbate and breed more tension.

It is important that Family Business governance be set in motion, where rules and expectations are articulated and compliance integrated in the family ecosystem.

It is equally important to note that “every single-owner enterprise passed through various stages of transition and the process improvement is dispersed over time”. But when issues that cause strain and conflict remain unsolved during the governance initiatives, you can expect many of these challenges to manifest and re-appear when the second and subsequent generations enter the business.

The 3 Components of Family Governance

In a Harvard Business Review article with the same title penned by noted Family Business Professor, Dr. John Davies, he adeptly highlights 3 components of Family Governance:

a. Periodic assemblies of the family

b. Family council meetings for those families that benefit from a representative group of their members doing planning, creating policies, and strengthening business-family communication and bond.

c. A family constitution—the family’s policies and guiding vision and values that regulate members’ relationship with the business.

He further points out that for governance to be effective, there should be a working family assembly and family council that focuses on the roles and responsibilities of family members. He outlines the critical areas:

  • These are clarity on family member roles and rights.
  • Actions of Family members, family employees, and family owners to act responsibly toward the business and the family.
  • Regulate appropriate family and owner inclusion in business discussions.

 

(esoriano@wongadvisory.com)

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http://www.mcgowangroupinc.com/services/governance/
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The destructive effect of poor succession planning (Part 2)

sEPT 18

Ensuring the solvency of a family business

Note that succession planning is not about just sending the second and third generation to the top schools. It’s about careful career planning and skill development, and more importantly, it is about making sure that the core processes in the company, including governance, communications and decision making, are such that they support succession planning. Key areas that often are in the center of this are intra-company communication routines, decision-making processes, documentation, and sharing of information.

Corporate governance, growing pains, and your family business 

Instilling corporate governance into the business model is more of a mandatory thing, rather than just a benefit. Without proper governance, a company (be it family-owned or not), can simply not survive.

The growing pains are that usually switching from the first generation “entrepreneurial” style to proper professional grade succession planning requires a major change in mindset.  Sometimes this is only possible in conjunction with the actual generation shift. However, it is much better if succession planning and governance are already addressed within the time of the first generation. This way the process is smoother and has a better likelihood of success, success including also preserving good relationships across the family members throughout the process.

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While some initiatives in my previous article including the list below are instinctively noble, Family Business author Dr. Fan refers to these leader aspirations as “wishful thinking”.

a. Family gene pool is limited but Patriarch is not keen on hiring Non Family professionals

b. Typical of founders, they would express their desire to retire but the patriarchal shadow continues to cloud the next generation members’ decision-making

c. They apportion their wealth equally resulting to a divisive and disunited next generation shareholder group where decisions are stalled

d. Patriarch will delay succession plans because of the fear of losing control

In most cases, family members who have been sheltered often want to sell the business and move on right after the death of the patriarch or matriarch.

Similarly, some leaders (especially the conservative owners) even pass away without making a will. This leads to bitter feuds and will be even more complicated and severe if the founder has several wives.

Flying Away from the Nest

Finally, with the patriarch gone, the untrained and entitled next generation members will end up clashing amongst themselves.

Limited decision making and the lack of any form of hardship experience while growing up under the shadows of their overprotective parents will take its toll on the business.

With their roles undefined for years, there is the likelihood that heirs will be confused amplified by an unproven management skills set.

Compounding the lack of preparation is when they discover that the business has liabilities (debt load) and a looming creditor intervention to exact pressure on the new leadership.

With all the problems besetting the enterprise, the natural option for heirs will be to opt out by selling their shares, effectively absolving them of any form of “hard work”. In the end, the preference to just “live the good life”becomes insatiable.

Can the bleak situation still be reversed?

This scenario is repeated many times, thus it is no secret that business owners go through many sleepless nights blaming themselves for creating entitled children.

I consider this pervasive problem one of the biggest dangers faced by family businesses in Asia where owners attempt to self-medicate by way of offering more perks to family members hoping to motivate them. The problem is in the manner the perks are equally distributed whether to the deserving, capable or inept. The other problem is whether the perks should be given in the first place.

This practice will certainly guarantee failure after failure as the incentive will translate to more entitlement for the next generation of untrained family members.

It now becomes a vicious cycle of generational tension and sibling rivalries. In the end, the business owner will end up struggling with governance, leadership transitions, ownership conflicts and even survival.

At this juncture when the patriarch or matriarch, by reason of age, rushes the process of turning over the business to the next generation and discovers their ineffective or feeble judgements, the parent will end up extending his reign until he succumbs to pressure, old age, stress and death.

There is Still Time to Exact Good Governance

It is absolutely impossible for family businesses to manage internal talent (both family and non-family) and or attract the best non-family professionals without setting up a governance best practices program.

The key is to separate the family and the business and ensure independent oversight from a professional board.

To be continued…

(esoriano@wongadvisory.com)

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LINK:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/254614

 

The Destructive Effect of Poor Succession Planning

sept 11

Yu Pang-lin

A property mogul has decided to donate his entire £1.2 billion pound fortune to charity, leaving his wife and kids with nothing.

He had a special interest in helping those with cataracts in their eyes. Since 2003, his foundation has helped restore the sight of more than 300,000 people from more than 20 provinces and autonomous regions across China, including some poverty-stricken areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces.

Yu attributed his desire to help others with his experiences as a young man. In the 1940s, Yu had worked as a journalist and an editor for a newspaper, learning about the hardships of people in poverty. He moved to Hong Kong in 1958, and made a living in the early years with many jobs, including as a cleaner, handyman and construction worker. He later founded his own real estate company, then expanded to other areas, including tourism, hotels and healthcare.

In the 1980s, Yu started donating money to build schools, emergency centres, public bus routes, tunnels, fountains and other infrastructure projects. In 2007, he was on the list of world’s top philanthropists selected by Time magazine.

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“If my children are more capable than me, it’s not necessary to leave a lot of money to them. If they are incompetent, a lot of money will only be harmful to them,”

Hong Kong Real Estate Billionaire Yu Pang-lin

Yu is the founder of the Yu Pang-lin Foundation dedicated to healthcare, education and disaster relief. He was believed to be China’s first billionaire to donate an entire fortune to charity.

Alarming Number of Family Business Failures

In my work as Family Business coach doing the rounds in Asia the past five years, I have witnessed a rapid increase of family business disputes bitterly adjudicated in courtrooms because of poor governance and harmful wealth and ownership distribution.

In a Family Enterprise Trend report by my consulting firm, W+B Family Advisory, it researched on the average age of business owners who are going through “rush” transitions.

The study showed more than half were 70 years old or more. The firm also identified the top five major sources of dispute:

1. Money as a result of ownership misalignment and wealth distribution

2. Control and Power struggle among siblings and or cousins

3. Poor succession programs that bred conflict

4. Wrong policies related compensation, dividend policies and incentive programs

5. Employment for everyone. Despite their lack of experience and competence, family members are thrust into leadership positions because of their surnames

Summarizing the report and analyzing why conflict and tension happens among these enterprises, it highlighted the following findings:

“Business owners in general procrastinated and did not see the urgency of initiating governance in the early stages of the business cycle. They were just too busy growing the business.

In the latter stages when health issues surface often and disagreements were becoming frequent, owners would suddenly realize that the children were not prepared to assume full control of the business when they (parents) are no longer around. In short, there was a very high probability that these family enterprises were headed to separation due to internal squabbles.”

Litigation Can Scar Family Relationshipsfor Life

My role as governance coach is to prevent and deter senseless and unnecessary family tension from escalating into a full blown and irreversible family feud. That if left to feed on its own, will spill over and convert the courtroom into the next family battleground.

With the exception of lawyers from both sides, nobody wins in a messy litigation process. They are just plain expensive, personal and can scar relationships for life.

Inevitably, whatever comes out of any court case can produce a debilitating effect not just on warring family members but also on the financial state of the enterprise.

Why is conflict pervasive?

As the business leader or visionary gets old, he or she has to naturally pass on the business to the heirs. Unfortunately, many of these owner managers follow certain traditions to a fault.

a. They do not want to see their own business empire falling apart as a result of division of wealth

b. They want their children to stay together in harmony so they can continue the business

c. They have very strong preference towards their male offspring to carry the mandate in the next generational cycle

d. But they are not open to Non family professionals joining the business

e. There are no entry and exit rules for family members and in-laws

To be continued…

(esoriano@wongadvisory.com)

 

Keeping ownership within the family

sept 5

Ownership Stages

An analysis of family business system development in 1997 led Gersick, et al to create the Three Stages of Development of the Family Business, first published in the book Generation to Generation: Life Cycles of the Family Business. 

Most family businesses start at the Controlling Owner stage with one owner (or one owner and his/her spouse) having ownership control. A family business can stay at the Controlling Owner stage for many generations if ownership remains consolidated in one person or a married couple. 

Because families tend to pass ownership equally to the next generation, family businesses typically move next to the Sibling Partnership stage. Now brothers and sisters control the business together through ownership. 

Next, family companies typically move to the Cousin Consortium stage as ownership control passes to a group of cousins. The family is larger, more diverse, and the business is larger and more complex.
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I am finally back in Manila but only for a few days as I am slated to be in Iloilo and Cebu for back to back engagements before resuming my regular advisory work for ASEAN clients in mid-September.

My two-week research and family coaching work in the US and Europe related to the dynamics of Family Enterprises was indeed a learning experience. To borrow a line from Albert Einstein…’the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.’

The series of engagements made me reflect that the more I learn about anything related to governance naturally unlocks the knowledge that there is so much more about ownership that I don’t know.

Ownership transition is a critical end stage initiative that when done early and correctly produces real growth and harmony bereft of any tension and conflict long after the founder is gone.

Ownership Governance and Stewardship

One particular meeting during my two visits in the US that is worth mentioning was with Andrew Hier, Senior Advisor and partner at Cambridge Advisors. It was another opportunity to learn the complexities of ownership as family businesses transitions from one generation to another. Like its Founder and Chairman, Dr. John Davis, Andrew is a globally recognized expert on the ownership dimension of family enterprises and has served as facilitator and lecturer at Harvard Business School’s Families in Business Program.

As he intimated during our meetings, for visionaries and founders to transition the enterprise to the next generation members successfully, leaders must rigorously pursue the following ownership programs:

  1. Craft ownership strategies
  2. Create an integrated, long-term ownership plan
  3. Put in place Ownership governance forums
  4. Develop Ownership and dividend policies
  5. Design a process in selecting and compensating board members
  6. Assess the most appropriate ownership models to include strategies for transferring ownership
  7. Work on a process for shareholder buyouts

Under a globalized economy, high net worth families and SME owners, must do more to make sure their wealth is preserve while passing the reigns of the business to the next generation. In return, next generation business leaders must grow and braced for more changes that are expected to happen in the near future.

Ownership alignment and stewardship is no longer limited to tax minimization and estate planning but has become far and wide reaching that founders of businesses must seek expert advice on how to go about crafting a future proof ownership plan. Seeking the right advice from specialists is no longer an option. It is an imperative.

Wired and Borderless Transactions

While doing research and scanning the various modalities related to ownership and wealth preservation, family enterprises in Asia, the EU Countries and North America are experiencing unprecedented regulatory changes as a result of technology and globalization.

These changes are clear manifestations that family advisors, wealth planners, estate lawyers and most importantly business owners must start embracing complex ownership models as part of their legacy building initiatives.

It is a clarion call for stakeholders to embrace change and initiate the process of stewardship and incorporating tools to further protect the purity of ownership as the family transitions to a multi-generational system.

So whether your enterprise has presence in multiple countries or is simply a small or mid-sized enterprise with local operations, business owners wishing to preserve wealth and control within their family inevitably face a multitude but unique set of circumstances.

If the ownership plan is not initiated early, the American version of losing wealth by default would always resonate…

“Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”

(esoriano@wongadvisory.com)

http://johndavis.com/ownership-stages/