• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Nike Anani on building businesses that’ll last generations

Nike Anani on building businesses that’ll last generations

In this edition of BusinessDay ‘My family-my business’, we talk to Nike Anani who is a second-generation family business owner.

Did you always want to join the family business, was that always the intention?

That was never the intention, it was, I guess God had a plan and that was not part of my plan. My plan, like I said, I moved to the UK at the age of nine, but my dad stayed back in Nigeria and was building our family business. My mom myself, my brothers were in the UK and like I said to you, I started off my career in CooperTax International as a chartered accountant.

I actually remember, I came back to Nigeria for three months, that was my plan and I then I was supposed to travel to go do an MBA. I started following my dad to work, and started following him to different meetings, and I fell in love with entrepreneurship outside of the four walls of the city of London.

Why?

I loved it in Nigeria, it was electric, I just saw opportunity everywhere, and there was just strategic value creation coming at the fore. I was where the action was at, and that was it for me, I decided to stay and to build the family office my dad to run the business.

So it was never part of my plan, never had we ever discussed growing up, and we have those many conversations; what are your grades like, what do you want to do when you finish university, never had it ever come up in conversations about joining the family business and I kind of wish we had in some respect had that explicit conversation.

We don’t want this great business to stop with dad or mom but it moves successfully from the next generation and beyond

And I thought about it as an option because then I could be prepared in terms of perhaps there were communities I could have been joining in the UK, maybe courses I could have been you know getting under my belt to prepare me for that.

But I guess the benefit of not having had that conversation or never had that expectation was that I never thought it was a sense of obligation like a number of my peers.

I see them feel like they know they have to join the family business and they don’t want too, it’s not their interest, they don’t have the skill set for it, they have different lives in different countries. So I guess that’s the benefit of never really having had that expectation on me by my parents.

You mentioned that you worked a bit at Deloittes. Do you think that there’s that there are pros that come with working outside of the family business before you eventually joined the family business?

100 percent. I think developing your confidence as a leader is really important because I had worked in a sphere outside of my father’s name, right?

So I knew the value I brought to the table, the respect that I had at Deloitte. I knew my skill set, I knew myself as a professional, and not only that I was bringing a different perspective to the fore, and perhaps sometimes that perspective was misplaced because I was coming from inner city London, right, very different from Nigeria.

I was coming from professional services, very different from construction, but I had a unique perspective. When we think about it as Business Leaders, one of the key things we face is challenges in a very dynamic business environment and it is really important that we are able to bring about quantity solutions and quality solutions and that will only come when we have diverse perspectives too. I think it helps my confidence, helps with bringing a different perspective and it helped with my network.

I was able to troubleshoot several different things in planning for the family office with my network of peers and friends in the UK, in international tax, lawyers, and trustees, I was able to serve as a bridge so to speak between the family and our advisors.

Interesting; you clearly grew up with the family business around you. Did you ever feel an obligation to join the family business? And then, is there a best time to introduce the next generation to the family business?

I left Nigeria when I was 9. Prior to that, I don’t really remember much of the business. It was really just my dad. I think it’s important that the next generations are aware of the business and there are explicit conversations because there are values and skill sets they can start to develop from a very young age; about the importance of discipline, you know, the value of money, what entrepreneurship really means, commitment to your customers, commitments to wider stakeholders, the importance of philanthropy and things like that and these values are not just what you say, they learn about, they see you in action and it’s important to pass these on.

Read also: Businesses tasked on corporate governance

I do think that the subject of family business, cannot be mandated upon the next generation, it should be exposed to them, Inspire them and let them find the fit and their feet in the way that is congruent with who they are, where their interests and passions feel like.

And what I really appreciated about my parents was that at no point did they ever obligates me to anything.

It was always I brought my hand out there. Actually, I don’t want to go back to London. I want to stay, I want to build this, and you know, I had the skill set right? I’ve been working in private wealth in the UK, I had an interest, like I said.

I came back to Nigeria; Lagos and I fell in love with entrepreneurship, I had a genuine passion for this; so it wasn’t mandated upon me, but I wish that I had been exposed from an earlier age, perhaps interning from an earlier age, shadowing and developing my deeper core skill sets; perhaps learning more about the industry in the formalized way, joining peer groups in a formalized way and things like that.

So it’s difficult for first-generation business owners, I do envy them because I mean, how do you ensure that you are creating this pipeline of future talents within your family without mandating it upon them because that very mandating kills the inspiration for them.

Earlier, you referred to yourself as a succession specialist. Do you want to tell us about that? How did you come to be a succession specialist?

(laughs) I love seeing that families flourish over generations, that there enterprises flourish over generations and that their generational transitions do not lead to fractuous relationships within the family.

And so that’s precisely what I do; I help business owners get clear on their goals, I help them create their visual mission, their purpose values. We don’t want this great business to stop with dad or mom but it moves successfully from the next generation and beyond.

I stumbled on a book recently and I’ve asked a couple of the others earlier interviewed about their thoughts on the book. It’s a book titled “Myth of the Silver Spoon by Kristin Keffeler. So the book physically talks about the anxiety that comes with being the child of an entrepreneur and that fear of falling short of family expectations. Do you feel that pressure as well?

Oh, I think the pressure; I wouldn’t necessarily say it comes from my family probably comes from myself, but it’s definitely a feeling of will I measure up to my father, will I be able to create what he’s created and I really struggled with this narratives initially but I had a reframing around that, and that is I am not my father.

I bring something different to the table, I may not have built it, you know this huge Empire, but I have a different skill set, a perspective and I can’t be a meaningful contributor to both the enterprise and to the world at Large and that has really helped me.

But this challenge, this anxiety around growing up a prominent figure that’s successful and living in their shadow is something that a number of my clients grapple with as well. It’s very universal, not just in Nigeria but the world over.

Having conversations with a lot of business owners, obviously, the general consensus is that family businesses play an important role not just in Nigeria, but globally. But there seems to be a reoccurring problem and that’s the problem of succession planning.

So how do you think that family business owners can deal with the issue of succession planning?

I think the challenges were wired to work in our businesses rather than on our businesses and succession planning requires taking time to think the long term, to think legacy and to start curating that now.

So a lot of it is making the time and not just focusing on the here and now, thinking about revenue, cost-cutting and profitability and cash flow. There’s also cultural aversion we have towards talking about death; When Daddy dies what’s going to happen? Daddy when you die, how are we going to do this business?

And I’m not necessarily sure that’s sensitive because who really wants to be thinking about when they’re not here? It’s a very confronting conversation.

Also it puts a lot of pressure on the founder like it’s all me, but for me what would happen? I think the conversation needs to be refrained away from finite death to continuity and from one individual to the collective. What legacy do we as the Anani family want to believe in?