Abiola Adediran, passionate about strategy, family business advisory

Abiola Adediran is a family business advisor and one of Nigeria’s finest corporate finance and business strategy experts with over 15-years work experience.

She is a keynote speaker, author, trainer and mentor, whose work and impact over the years have been instrumental in driving key transformation across different sectors in Nigeria.

With her vast experience in business auditing, financial management, corporate valuation, and investment management, Abiola is regarded as an innovative change leader with sterling results that stand as a model in the industry.

She was until her recent transition to full time consulting, the Group Chief Financial Officer of a leading, family-owned investment management group in Africa with investments in financial services, oil & gas, real estate, venture capital/venture building focused largely on fintech, and private equity. She also supported in setting up and running a Family Office which served the interests of the families represented.

Prior to her last role, she was a Manager at KPMG Professional Services, a leading (Big 4) global consulting firm, where she delivered remarkable performance to all her clients and promoted the image of the Firm.

She is the co-Founder of Genea Family Office, an independent boutique multi-family office delivering innovative wealth management and family advisory services to family businesses to preserve their wealth and legacy.

She is also the Managing Consultant of Midridge International, a pan-African strategy consulting and financial advisory firm supporting and facilitating the growth of businesses across Africa.

Abiola Adediran is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, a certified management consultant, a PRINCE2-certified project manager from APMG International, UK and she holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Scotland.

She was recently admitted into the Forbes Business Council where she is collaborating with global leaders and contributing to the development of businesses and economies around the world.

Take us through your formative years and influences till date

I grew up as the first of four children of my parent in an average middle-class family. Both parents were civil servants and my mum being a teacher meant that I had access to a lot of books and reading became a natural habit for me. Growing up for me was marked with very strict discipline and I was often surrounded by people who were much older than me, and I learnt a lot from observing and listening to them. My mum was critically ill for some time when I was 10 years old and during this period, I was saddled with the responsibility of taking care of my younger ones at such a tender age even though we had some adult family members who came in from time to time to support. The whole experience made me mature very quickly as I had to start taking decisions as a leader for my siblings and also for myself which shaped my life significantly in later years.

Tell us about your passion for family business advisory and why?

I have always been fascinated by the stories of businesses especially in the western world that has been around for a very long time. Brands like Walmart, BMW, Ford, Estee Lauder and so on have been around for several decades and are still very relevant today. The more interesting part for me is the fact that some of these businesses that have become really systemic are actually family-owned businesses. When you look at Africa, the story is different. The question is ‘why are we not seeing many more transgenerational brands like that on the African continent?’

Research shows that family businesses fail to perpetuate beyond a generation. Only 30 per cent of all family businesses make it to the second generation and only 3 per cent last for more than four generations or beyond.

This reality is what fuels my passion for work I do with family businesses to build sustainable businesses that can outlive them and continue to add value and be relevant long after the founder is gone.

As a corporate finance and business strategy expert with over 15-years work experience, what have you learnt so far?

I have learnt a lot of things but one major thing I want to share is that there are different types of capital that every business needs to succeed and the most important of them is human capital. Even the best strategy in the world will not crystalise into real value without backing it up with the right quality of talent that can unlock the value in the idea. I’m a strong proponent of sustainability in business and that cannot work without having people who believe in the idea, are sold out on the vision and are committed to doing the work. No true legacy can be built and sustained without the right people.

In what ways are you an innovative change leader?

At the core of my work is change and transformation. What I bring to any project I take on is cutting edge transformation to unlock value in an idea, project or business. I usually find myself leading on new projects or engagements and sometimes, these projects involve people that are much older and more experienced than me, but I always look for ways to bring innovation that will catalyse the idea or project and create tangible results. I’m a big picture thinker and a visionary leader so I’m very particular about planning and detailed execution. This has helped me to achieve tremendous success in my career so far.

Share your experience and lessons learnt on being Group Chief Financial Officer of a leading, family-owned investment management group that you previously worked at.

In my role as Group CFO, I had the responsibility of overseeing businesses in multiple sectors across banking, insurance, asset management, stockbroking, registrars, oil & gas, real estate, venture building (VC) and private equity. My work revolved around providing strategic and tactical solutions that improve the financial performance of the businesses in delivering sustained growth and increasing shareholder value.

Collaborating with multifunctional teams in doing extensive investment analysis, while formulating and implementing strategies that guided the direction of business growth, including expanding into new investment opportunities, tracking and reporting the financial performance of existing and new businesses gave me an opportunity to develop my depth of knowledge of these sectors and how to create value.

I helped in positioning the companies to access capital to finance our growth. This included securing adequate financing and leading the efforts to pursue expansions and acquisitions, as well as implementing new products and services. Knowing the numbers, what they mean and what you can do with them can make or break a company.

I learnt that focusing on the need and purpose of making a return helps to keep the right balance. As we always say, no margin, no mission. We have to be consistent, responsible, cost-effective and innovative. However, to grow and further your company’s mission, you have to be willing to take risks. It’s important to believe that your business is a long-term risk investment.

Read also: Oluwatoyin Naiwo – Registrar/Chief Executive, CIPM, Nigeria

My advice to business founders would be to listen to the ideas of those around them. Trust their knowledge, experiences, research and intuition. Building a company is a team effort. Seeing it that way can lead to bigger and better opportunities.

How was the process of setting up and running the family office which served the interests of the families represented?

It was an interesting process and a rewarding experience for me because it gave me a first-hand insight into how to set up and run a professional family office with global standards. The knowledge gained while working with the families represented, the global experts who follow international best practices and family office exchanges that provided support and advice has been very valuable and has contributed immensely to the work I do now in Genea Family Office.

How important is setting up proper management for family owned businesses especially in regards to continuity?

Setting up the right structure and putting the right management systems in place is critical for any business, not only family-owned businesses. It’s a defining factor between a business that can scale profitably and sustainably.

In the context of family businesses, the Japanese family businesses stand out like a shining example for others to follow. The oldest family business in the world is a Japanese one – Kongo Gumi – a construction company which is owned and run by the same family since the year 578. It is a business that is 40 generations old!

Out of the total 5,000 companies in the world that are more than 200 years old more than 60 per cent (approximately 3,000 companies) are in Japan. Hoshi Ryokan – a hotel which is owned and run by the same family since the year 718 is another example of an old family business. It is in its 46th generation.

Is there some special ingredient that the Japanese have that makes their businesses go on for generations? Research carried out globally points out that the adherence to family values is the key reason for Japan to have the distinction of having the oldest family businesses. The core value in any family, anywhere in the world, is the trust between its members. In Japan this core family value is taken into the business very seriously.

Trust which involves the qualities of character and competence needs to be built not only within the individual family members but even with the non-family employees of the business. Since trust is the key factor in fostering longevity in family businesses, the owners need to actively work on building this quality among their family and non-family members.

On managing expectations for transitions, in the past when people started businesses it was typical for the next generation to wait in line for taking over the family business. Nowadays, things are different because adult children have more career options.

As a business founder, if you have not directly discussed business transition with your children yet then do not make assumptions. Sit down and have a talk about your expectations and your children’s expectations for the future of the business. You would be surprised how often business owners are ready to pass the torch and their successor suddenly says, “I don’t want it.”

Some heirs come to realize that company leadership is not right for them. Although it might be an unexpected transition, the choice to pass your business in another way might be best for the future of your company and your family.

It is common for parents to want to keep the company within the family. You have worked all your life to get to this place so why would you want to give it to a stranger? There are other options. If your children want to keep the business in the family but have no interest in managing, then you can give them ownership instead.

This means that your heir could still have some oversight in the company while also profiting. They could remain as a board member, offering insight over the years. Then you might be interested in passing on a management role to a trusted colleague or another family member instead.

Depending on the unique situation, the solution can vary but the fact remains that the engagement of the next generation needs to start very early. That’s why we offer Next Gen Education as part of what we do at Genea Family Office to help prepare the children for the reality of the transition and build their capacity to become responsible owners.

Tell us about Co-Founding Genea Family Office, what the office is about, the reason for founding it, your responsibilities and goals.

It is a fact that most family businesses have a very short life span beyond their founder’s stage and that only 3 per cent last for more than four generations or beyond. This is often the consequence of a lack of preparation of the subsequent generations to handle the demands of a growing business and a much larger family. Family businesses can improve their odds of survival by setting the right governance structures in place and by starting the preparation process of the subsequent generations in this area as soon as possible.

With about 40 years combined experience in leading financial services and family office firms, Genea Family Office was founded by me and my partner, Abiola Adekoya, a financial services expert. With our extensive experience and knowledge in business strategy, family office operations and wealth management and in partnership with global professionals, we provide a highly personalised approach to preserving family legacies. We support business founders and wealthy families in bringing to reality their vision of transferring their wealth and legacy to the next generation. Genea offers wealth advisory, business advisory and succession planning, family advisory, estate planning and family concierge services.

What is Midridge International about?

Another expression of my work is strategy consulting, financial advisory, capacity development for teams of corporate and non-profit organistions and executive coaching for CEOs and business managers. That is the focus of the work I do at Midridge International since 2018 and so far, we have advised over 40 corporate organisations and trained over 1000 entrepreneurs and their employees.

Share with us on your passion for consulting for leading organisations and high growth start-ups across Africa

My consulting work started when I was working with KPMG where I audited blue chip companies, big banks and other financial institutions. One of the value-added services as auditors is to review the client’s business and identify gaps and weaknesses, then recommend solutions that can bridge those gaps. Even though I no longer do audit, I still bring that experience to bear when I consult for large corporates and high growth startups.

Beyond consulting and recommending cutting edge solutions, my team and I often support our clients with implementation as well because we recognise that it’s only in execution that true value can be created and sometimes these clients might not have the full capacity to implement, so we get involved in leading and/or supporting the process.

Share with us on being admitted into the Forbes Business Council and what is expected of you

I was admitted into the Forbes Business Council, an invitation-only community for successful business owners and leaders in 2022. This platform gives me access to connect and collaborate with other respected global leaders in a private forum and at members-only events. I also get to contribute to thought leadership content and provide expert insights on the Forbes platform to create a richer body of work for a global audience.

In celebration of IW month, what do you have to say to women?

We can all truly embrace equity. It’s not just something we say or write about. It’s something we need to think about, know, value and embrace. Equity means creating an inclusive world and we as women need to lead the change that we seek.

Each one of us can actively support and embrace equity within our own sphere of influence. We can all challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion. We should reflect on how we can all be part of the solution, not the problem. Collective activism is what drives change. From grassroots action to wide-scale momentum, we can all embrace equity.

What role does mentorship play in one’s personal and occupational development?

A mentor can provide valuable insights, guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling that will directly impact your life, career or business. Mentors can act as navigators in your business journey, providing an unbiased view of your business and a new perspective to solve problems. We need to have more mentors shaping the upcoming startup founders and helping them understand the challenging business terrain so they can make better decisions. That’s why I offer myself as a mentor on the entrepreneurship organizations and platforms that I support.

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