Success in succession

Success in succession

The next generation taking over the family business

Situation

The son of the founder was taking over the family business.

To grow the company, he also took on a private equity partner. The private equity firm recommended me as a sounding board to the CEO.

Context

The new CEO was the oldest son and best equipped to take over the business with the skillset, knowledge and passion. He also had a vision and the mindset to get there. Some of the senior executives had been with the company for some time – they had strong relationships with the father and were used to his way of doing business. A big challenge was enabling them to shift their mindset to a new way of doing business and genuinely respecting the new CEO, an individual they had known since he was a boy. In some ways, they saw him as younger and, therefore, less experienced than them.

Approach

  • Conducted one-to-one sessions with the Senior Executive team to understand their background and assess their capabilities and mindset.
  • Identified and addressed potential threats related to attrition and politicking
  • Working with the CEO, enabled him to think through workarounds and develop the right strategies
  • Became a trusted advisor to discuss deeper family dynamics, challenges, aspirations and legacy.

Why it matters

Change can be difficult, especially when it’s related to a person’s life work. Having the time, space and insight to understand the different factors at play, what truly matters and finding a way forward can make all the difference.

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15 + 7 =

THREE THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR BETTER DIVERSITY

THREE THINGS WE NEED TO DO FOR BETTER DIVERSITY

 

We do not need a bunch of men or women pontificating about diversity. We need action.

Tip 1

If you’re speaking at a conference, ensure at least 30% of your fellow speakers are women. But more than that, make sure everyone speaking is credible and brings something interesting to the table. i.e. no tokenism. That doesn’t mean they have to be the CEO of a company that everyone knows. A different way of looking at things is great. The world needs all the fresh perspectives it can get!

 

Tip 2

Stop being lazy!

 

Great women exist, but it might take some work to find them. This is further exacerbated by the ‘noise’ of others and wrong metrics. For instance, just because someone has lots of followers on social media does not mean they are subject matter experts. It just might be a reflection of their ability to create and promote content (both of which can be outsourced). This is eclipsing great people. Dig deeper, get curious and shine a light into hidden crevices.

 

Tip 3

Leaders vs People in Positions of Power

 

This is a game changer! The word ‘leader’ is banded around to cover some of the most irresponsible and short-sighted humans on this
planet. In organisations, the word ‘leader’ is sometimes attached to those who navigated the corporate matrix to rise to the top. These are not examples of leaders. They are examples of people in positions of power. We must distinguish between the two.

 

Real leaders are:

 

  • Not necessarily the loudest in the room or the most gregarious
  • Considered and considerate
  • Reflective and think about the world around them beyond tomorrow
  • Collaborative and work beyond silos
  • Responsible with the discipline to think through potential consequences and seek better solutions
  • Able to navigate complexity and uncertainty
  • Human!

This needs to be our standard if we are to level the playing field for people from all cultures, genders, backgrounds and creeds.

 

 

N.B. There is a lot more complexity to this issue. If you’d like to know more, please send me a note, and I’d be happy to share insights, nuances and strategies.

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WHY INTENTIONS & MOTIVATIONS IN TECH MATTER

WHY INTENTIONS & MOTIVATIONS IN TECH MATTER

Tech in the right hands can do some great good. One of the best examples of this is Dr Patrick Meier. I first met Patrick around 2012 when he was giving a lecture at Imperial College on the work he was doing to improve the response time of humanitarian aid. One of the cases he shared was looking at trends in social media usage in Indonesia. If a disaster hits and the pattern of usage is lower than usual, they could infer there was no power, and hence, the area badly hit and requires urgent assistance. His book Digital Humanitarians, takes you through an amazing story of a dedicated global network of new humanitarians are using mobile technologies, computer applications, and vast quantities of data to make a huge difference.

SENTIMENT ANALYSIS

It was through Patrick that I connected the dots on how the same technology could be used to pick up sentiment, and where I realised it’s the character, thinking and intention of the people behind the technology that are the real game changers. Welcome to the world of sentiment analysis.

Sentiment analysis, also known as opinion mining, uses new technologies and algorithms to collect and analyse opinions about a product, service, or even an entire brand. It’s not just opinions, though—it’s also all the attitudes and emotions expressed with each mention online. In short, sentiment analysis seeks to highlight what people mean, not just what they say. Politicians have used sentiment analysis to gauge public opinion to policy announcements and campaign messages.

It’s the character, thinking and intention of the people behind the technology that are the real game changers.

To understand the power of this, imagine two conversations with two different people. You feel one of them gets you, really understands what you’re saying and what you mean, even who you truly are. The other comes across as cold, distant, uninterested, metallic. Which one will you gravitate to? The bets are on the former. But here’s the snag – humans do this very well, only they’re in two camps: the empaths – the highly intuitive individuals with heightened listening skills; and the manipulators and sociopaths – brilliant at telling you what you want to hear. The difference is the intention – the empaths have your interests at heart, the manipulators will tell you anything you want to hear but for their gain. What people don’t realise is most of us have interacted with a sociopath without realising it. It would likely have been a positive interaction, and they are not recognised as a sociopath or manipulator until they’re caught.

So why am I telling you all this? Technologists out there have realised we have been posting our thoughts in the ether. In some cases, they have used it to sell us more stuff, in other instances to swing elections. I have come across applications that give you the specific phrases to use with someone you want to win over, language patterns that could only have been extracted from the messaging facility of a given platform. Other applications help position you as an influencer in your domain by feeding you what you should say, what you should post. There is a fine line between influence and manipulation. If these applications are anything to go by, we’ve crossed it. Of course, technology also puts tools in people’s hands, to gain access to information. But people aren’t using it enough! Whether that’s an online search to do some fact-finding on people or picking up the phone to verify someone’s claims, we have plenty of tools at our disposal not to get duped. I would like:

  • To see more people using technology wisely and develop greater discernment
  • For investors to stop backing stuff that has the power to harm humanity
  • For entrepreneurs, innovators and everyone else in the ecosystem to temper greed

Photo credit © Can Stock Photo / rolffimages

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3 SKILLS TO HACK THE HYPE IN TECH INVESTING

 

Technology can help us tackle some meaningful problems. But it’s the thinking and capabilities of the investors that will determine which will see the light of day. I have seen too many ‘bad’ projects get funded by supposedly sophisticated investors, burning their cash. This impacts the available capital for worthy founders and promising applications of technology. We need to know what to look for and how to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out).

Here’s a case in point.

Over a glass of bubbly, someone tried to convince me to invest in a blockchain project.

“There’s a great opportunity using blockchain technology in electricity.”

So, I asked how it works.

His reply? “I’m not sure, but it’s the same technology behind bitcoin, and a lot of people have made money out of bitcoin. Also, Branson, Gates and Bezos have invested $1billion in it.”

Brilliant! Yes, please take a lot of our money to invest in something you have zero clue about.

A significant injection of discernment, diligence and better decision-making are long overdue.

DISCERNMENT

Pitches are great, but it’s how people answer questions that matter. It is probably a good idea to not put your money where the promoter can’t explain it and uses other people’s names to justify you joining the bandwagon.

Pitches are great, but it’s how people answer questions that matter.

DILIGENCE

Is it true? The pandemic of fake news shows how people love to share information without fact-checking. So, have Branson, Gates and Bezos invested $1billion in blockchain for energy? No – they are part of a $1 billion fund (Breakthrough Energy Ventures) investing in clean energy technologies, not specifically blockchain technology in energy.

DECISION-MAKING

There are many potential winners out there – but there are also a significant number of potential losers. The furore of hype is often hard to resist and, like any virus, a vaccine is needed. A useful resource is a checklist highlighting the elements that matter to you. Taking a leaf out of one of the greatest investors of all time – Warren Buffet – one of the principles should be ‘do I understand it’. If you don’t, seek out more information. If it still makes no sense, it might be worth staying away.

Please keep your wits about you while others are losing theirs, and let’s make sure we’re funding innovators worth backing.

 

 

N.B. There is a lot more complexity to this issue. If you’d like to know more, please send me a note, and I’d be happy to share insights, nuances and strategies.

 

 

Rethinking Startup Success

We often hear ‘it’s a great company, they’ve raised $x’. This is the wrong metric, and recent disasters (e.g. WeWork, Uber and Theranos) have confirmed this. Thought it was time to peel back the layers on what we should be looking at. Here’s the article featured in Entrepreneur Middle East. read more

Discussion on AI & Intellectual Property

A recent article in Technology Review posed the question of whether AI can be an inventor. In principle, it’s a debate around IP law and whether AI can own ideas it generates. Check out the debate generated on LinkedIn. It’s worth a read. Additional views always welcome. read more

State of MENA Startups 2019

Following on from the recent report on the startup scene in the MENA Region (well done to MAGNiTT and 500 Startups for putting this together), here we peel back the layers on some of the issues raised. read more

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THE STORY BEHIND AMANI™

During my time in Executive Search, I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing brilliant people every day. Amidst a ‘war for talent’, I didn’t experience a shortage of talent. What I found was a shortage of great companies that deserved great talent.

I didn’t appreciate the urgent need to address this until I received a link to water poverty – water poverty caused by a privatisation deal, where the tariffs set were too high for some members of the community to afford, resulting in the water supply being cut off. One of the consequences that captured me was young girls being bullied and teased at school for being dirty.

The irony was that the company leading the transaction had a link on their website to CSR (corporate social responsibility).

How can a company’s business practices cause harm, but they have a department ‘to do good’?

Many companies have compelling mission statements, well-articulated values and CSR initiatives. But what truly matters is what a company and its people do in practice.

It got me thinking about the people leading the transaction and the company’s strategy and modus operandi. Having interviewed many Investment Bankers, I knew that none of the ones I helped my clients hire would ever have been so short-sighted, so irresponsible. Moreover, my clients would never have accepted them.

So what was creating this? How was business impacting society? How can we improve things?

I explored water poverty – what’s causing it, who it’s impacting and what needs to be done to solve it. I was saddened by what I found, from questionable policies and poor principles to bad practices, misaligned performance metrics and poor decisions. The crux of it all? People and organisations – their collective mindset and motivations, their actions and inactions.

But I also found some great companies with incredible people doing a lot of good. These weren’t charities. They were profitable commercial entities (including banks). I studied these companies and profiled their people. The findings were extraordinary. These companies and their people gelled and excelled. They were principled and profitable. They are companies worth emulating and are the cornerstone of the AMANI™ protocol.

Learn more about AMANI™ and how it can help you be your best – in your life, in your business and in the world at large.

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CASE STUDY

ESTATE PLANNING

Wealth transition between generations

 

CHALLENGE

An Ultra high-net-worth family had sold the shares in the family business and placed the funds in trust to secure the wealth for future generations. However, the structure was creating family friction. Was asked to look at the structure in place, how to ensure success in succession and safeguard the cohesion of the family.

INSIGHT

The business was set up by the grandfather who had two children – a son and a daughter. Believing only boys should be in business, he spent more time with his son who then took over the company. The daughter herself had three sons, all of whom were very close to the grandfather when he was alive. Their mottos was a saying instilled in them by their grandfather.

The three grandsons were all married with children. By observing family dynamics and conducting one-to-one sessions, the cause of family friction became apparent, along with a pathway to create cohesion.

SOLUTION & OUTCOME

Many underlying issues arose, including:

  • Family members and their spouses holding different views on whether they are owners vs stewards of the wealth
  • Different attitudes and beliefs around money (e.g. one family member believed the middle class were happier and was on a mission to spend the wealth)
  • Different aims on how much wealth to leave the next generation

Worked with individual family members to:

  • Define their values, ambitions, and what legacy looks like for them
  • Explored potential avenues to see which would be the best fit
  • Brought the family together to share common values and develop a shared family philosophy
  • Discussed potential avenues raised during one-to-ones
  • Leveraging the family philosophy and overlapping values, reevaluated the structure and rules around the trust.
  • Developed a framework for decision making and conflict resolution that reflected the family values and philosophy.
  • Developed a path forward that was owned by all family members, not imposed.

Ultimately the family realised that beyond the financial wealth, it is the goodwill of the family name, its lineage and heritage that is their greatest asset.


CASE STUDY

EMERGING MARKETS: Navigating a clash between corporate governance and local customs   CHALLENGE A multinational company operating in emerging markets discovered an individual who had access to the company float was taking money out of the company but replacing it...


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ESTATE PLANNING Wealth transition between generations   CHALLENGE An Ultra high-net-worth family had sold the shares in the family business and placed the funds in trust to secure the wealth for future generations. However, the structure was creating family...


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SUCCESS IN SUCCESSION The next generation taking over the family business CHALLENGE A nextgen was taking over the family business. To grow the business he also took on a private equity partner. The private equity firm recommended me as a sounding board to the CEO....


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THE RIGHT PERSON TO LEAD? Taking a closer look at people's credentials. CHALLENGE The client needed to find a Managing Director for their business in an emerging market. A potential candidate had been recommended. I was asked to profile him. INSIGHT On paper, the...

CASE STUDY

SUCCESS IN SUCCESSION

The next generation taking over the family business

CHALLENGE

A nextgen was taking over the family business. To grow the business he also took on a private equity partner. The private equity firm recommended me as a sounding board to the CEO.

INSIGHTS

The new CEO was the oldest son and best equipped to take over the business, with the skillset, knowledge and passion. He also had a vision and the mindset to get there. Some of the senior executives had been with the company for some time. They had strong relationships with the father and used to his way of doing business. A big challenge was enabling them to have a shift in mindset to a new way of doing business and genuinely respecting the new CEO, an individual they had known since he was a boy, and in some ways still fixed on seeing him as younger and therefore less experienced than them. SOLUTION & OUTCOME
  • Conducted one-to-one sessions with the Senior Executive team to understand their background and assess their capabilities and mindset.
  • Identified potential threats related to attrition and politicking
  • Working with the CEO, enabled him to think through workarounds and develop the right strategies
  • Taken in as a trusted advisor to discuss deeper family dynamics, challenges, aspirations and legacy

CASE STUDY

EMERGING MARKETS: Navigating a clash between corporate governance and local customs   CHALLENGE A multinational company operating in emerging markets discovered an individual who had access to the company float was taking money out of the company but replacing it...

CASE STUDY

  WHEN INVESTORS COME IN Tackling transition and the growing pains of scaling a business CHALLENGE A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. There was low morale, diminished team spirit, lack of personal performance, all ultimately impacting results. INSIGHTS...

CASE STUDY

  MILLENNIAL LEADER: Unmotivated and difficult to manage?   CHALLENGE A team transformation process with people from various backgrounds and ages. One person, in particular, was a millennial in a leadership position. He was perceived as difficult to manage by his...

CASE STUDY

ESTATE PLANNING Wealth transition between generations   CHALLENGE An Ultra high-net-worth family had sold the shares in the family business and placed the funds in trust to secure the wealth for future generations. However, the structure was creating family...

CASE STUDY

SUCCESS IN SUCCESSION The next generation taking over the family business CHALLENGE A nextgen was taking over the family business. To grow the business he also took on a private equity partner. The private equity firm recommended me as a sounding board to the CEO....

CASE STUDY

THE RIGHT PERSON TO LEAD? Taking a closer look at people's credentials. CHALLENGE The client needed to find a Managing Director for their business in an emerging market. A potential candidate had been recommended. I was asked to profile him. INSIGHT On paper, the...