“There’s nothing we won’t see in this world,” they said. “This small girl of yesterday is our CEO. What does she even know?”
The staff didn’t like it when her dad brought her to run the company. Some of them are as old as her grandfather. They knew her when she was a little girl and used to run around the office in diapers. Now, she’s their boss.
But these people are not her problem. Her problem is that company is broke.
All her life, the business had always looked huge to her. It paid for everything her family had. From the money her dad made here, he’d sent her and her sisters to Harvard. Now, the firm is a ghost of itself.
Her dad had raised her to run this company; she never made any other plans for her life. What’s she going to do?
This is a real life story.
If we want statistics, there are dozens of statistics on how many startups die young. Four out of five. Eighty percent.
In Nigeria, most companies die with their founders. Or they shrivel as the founder grows old. Maybe we can stop the trend. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a Nigerian thing for companies to croak like this. Maybe you too one day can hand over your shop to your spawn in a condition that make her curse you.
This is why I spoke to Nike Anani.
Nike Anani, a Deloitte UK veteran, is the only corporate consultant who has dedicated her practice to family businesses and succession. She has some interesting insights. Please enjoy:
Why is it important to have a consulting firm dedicated to family businesses and succession?
Family businesses are the engine of the economy, both on the global stage and closer to home. Over 90% of Nigeria’s GDP is private-sector driven and over 90% of our indigenous businesses are family businesses. Therefore the sustainability of our family businesses is key to our economic development.
Unfortunately, only 2% of Nigerian family businesses survive beyond Generation One, compared to 33% globally. This need not be: In a society where there is no safety net, family businesses can act as a safety net for future generations to come.
Lastly, Family Businesses are traditionally good at passing down family values. African Family Businesses can become vehicles to export to the global stage and pass down across generations our culture, our legacy and our heritage.
Is there a peculiarity—culturally or otherwise—for Nigeria when it comes to the organisation of family businesses?
I don’t think there’s any peculiarity per se. I think it’s a matter of lack of available in-country advisors. We need more advisors that understand the peculiarity of family businesses and our culture, and thus advise on sustainability. The study of family businesses is largely a science: there are universities, research institutions and schools of thought dedicated to this very science. We can learn from our global counterparts to improve the sustainability of our businesses. There are other cultures that are similar to us but have fared significantly better than us, such as Latin Americans, Asians and Arabs. Therefore, it is not an issue of culture, but of knowledge.
Despite the prevalence of family businesses, we lack an association of family businesses. Family businesses are critical to the economy and so we should have the ears of our government—we need to create a common voice and lobby our government for policies that will encourage the sustainability of our enterprises.
How come you’re passionate about this subject?
I am an insider. My parents set up their first business when I was a newborn, so my life story is strongly intertwined with our family business: our first family business is as old as I am.
I left Nigeria at age 9, and spent half of my childhood in the UK and went to university there and worked at Deloitte in Corporate Tax International. As God would have it, I came to Nigeria on what was a three-month career break, and shortly after, found fulfilment. Eight years later, I am still here and absolutely love it. What started as an informal journey shadowing my father in our family businesses morphed into a formal appointment as a next-gen family member executive in my parents’ businesses and me setting up our family office. I also co-founded a power and energy company with my husband. It was during these last eight years, on my journey to self-discovery as I term it, that I had a heavy burden for more, for our family businesses on the continent and so I set up a Family Business practice.
When was you’re a-ha moment—the trigger that led you to this area of business?
A few years ago a friend of mine lost her father suddenly. He had a terminal illness that killed him within six months. My friend was in her mid-20s at the time and was devastated. Beyond having to grieve her father who she’d been so close to, she was in a precarious situation. Her dad had been the breadwinner and no one in the family had any knowledge of his business. His assets unfortunately were not well-protected, and other people claiming to be his children surfaced and alleged ownership of his properties.
Luckily, my friend, who was the oldest in the family, was financially independent. But she had her mum and two younger siblings in UK universities to now shoulder the heavy financial responsibility for. Overnight, her reality changed. I watched her fraught with grief and anxiety about her future at the same time. The business was not able to withstand the death of the founder. That incident pained me dreadfully.
So my friend’s dad’s death was my wake-up call to want to see more resilient family enterprises on our continent. A resilient family enterprise will not collapse, as a result of death, incapacitation, economic shocks, change in regulation or technology. It may be thrown off course for a little while and may have to course-correct. However, it will still withstand whatever adversity it faces.
What are the common setbacks you’ve discovered in family business organisation and succession planning in Nigeria?
Globally, family businesses generally face 3 major transitions as they evolve from first to second generation. These transitions are:
1. Transition of leadership within the business and wealth from first to second generation.
2. Movement from a national to international business.
3. Greater leadership responsibility of non-family members in the operating business.
However, Nigerian family businesses struggle with these 3 transitions for 3 major reasons.
1. Sustainability of the family business and wealth requires collaboration between the founders and the next generation. However founders and next generation typically have a wide divergence in perspectives. Founders tend to be more interested in history, values and heritage, whereas next-gens tend to be more interested in technology, innovation and modernising the business. Where families shy away from collaborating due to differing perspectives, it will be difficult to see a transition of leadership from first generation to second generation.
2. Our economy is highly volatile, unstable and uncertain. Therefore in order to achieve multigenerational wealth, founders need to diversify their income base and/or wealth portfolio, and international expansion presents a great opportunity to do so. However founders are often grappled by challenges in raising appropriate finance, in order to pursue international expansion. In order to pursue new frontiers, family businesses will have to professionalize so that they can attract favorable long-term institutional financing, by way of equity and/or debt.
3. As families move progressively across generations, strategic direction becomes increasingly important: The most enterprising families globally are those where each generation adds a layer of entrepreneurial contributions to that of the previous, resulting in increasingly complex structures. These contributions may include new businesses, new products or services, new regions, new partnerships and/or new technologies. All of these contributions require high levels of strategic directions and where the family focuses on operational matters as opposed to strategic ones, the longevity of the business is impaired.
In what ways do you help companies?
I work with NextGens – second gen family members working in family businesses, in assisting them in collaborating with the business founders in building sustainable family enterprises. We look at restructuring the ownership of the family business and wealth such that it is well-protected, robust, and create a diversified wealth portfolio for the family.
Further I help Nextgens with leadership development, such that they can serve effectively in the family enterprise. I also assist in identifying their purpose both within and outside of the family enterprise and we jointly develop a framework to enable them to serve in the family enterprise whilst pursuing their dreams.
Can you cite a few global best practices/pointers for Nigerian companies to observe if they want their businesses to last
Great examples of strong family businesses domestically that have survived beyond one generation include Olashore School, Yinka Folawiyo Group, Dantata Group. However, they are few and fa in between. Globally there are so many to cite—we have Walmart, Volkswagen, Reliance Industries, Tata Group, etcetera.