• Monday, July 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Nurturing African family businesses: The journey of the LBS Family Business Initiative

Nurturing African family businesses: The journey of the LBS Family Business Initiative

A recent study reveals that more than four out of five businesses in Nigeria are family-owned, indicating that 75 percent of businesses in Nigeria are under family ownership. In the dynamic landscape of African entrepreneurship, family businesses are pillars of resilience, embodying a legacy of innovation, tradition, and adaptability. In Nigeria, as in many parts of Africa, family businesses form the backbone of the economy, contributing significantly to employment, wealth creation, and community development. Family businesses account for about 70 percent of African small and medium enterprises (SMEs). However, despite their vital role, the journey of these enterprises is fraught with challenges, often stemming from internal dynamics and external market pressures that threaten their sustainability and longevity. Issues such as poor or lack of succession planning, defective governance structures in both the businesses and the business-owning families, as well as intergenerational conflicts, often hinder their ability to thrive in an increasingly competitive market environment.

Recognising the pivotal role of family businesses in driving economic growth and social well-being, the Lagos Business School (LBS) established the LBS Family Business Initiative. This initiative aims to address the unique challenges faced by family businesses to foster family cohesion, business success, and ethical practices within these enterprises and create an ecosystem where family businesses flourish across generations.

The inception of the LBS Family Business Initiative heralded a new era of support and guidance for enterprising families across Africa. The Initiative seeks to empower family businesses with the tools and knowledge to navigate complex challenges and seize growth opportunities through a multifaceted approach encompassing advisory services, case studies, training, and seminars.

One hallmark event the initiative organised was the inaugural family business conference on April 12, 2024. The conference ‘From Family Enterprise to Family Institution: Climbing the Longevity Ladder’ brought together prominent family business leaders from Nigeria to engage in insightful discussions on critical issues facing their enterprises. The speakers, who were carefully selected from different families, enriched the dialogue and provided diverse perspectives on the evolving landscape of family businesses.

The conference’s success underscored the value of platforms facilitating open dialogue and knowledge-sharing among family business stakeholders. Participants delved into family governance, succession planning, ethical business practices, and strategies for successful integration of non-family professionals into business operations. These discussions shed light on existing challenges and offered practical solutions and strategies for sustainable growth.

One of the critical questions posed during the conference was how the LBS Family Business Initiative distinguishes itself from similar initiatives and its plans for sustaining the momentum. The initiative’s commitment to ongoing engagement and support for African family businesses, in line with LBS’ goal of ‘Developing Responsible Leaders for Africa and the World’, is the answer.

Moving forward, the LBS Family Business Initiative has outlined a comprehensive roadmap to foster capacity building, knowledge dissemination, and academic research within the family business ecosystem. Annual conferences, seminars, webinars, and custom training programmes will be continuous learning and collaboration platforms. Additionally, strategic partnerships with other family business institutions across Africa will facilitate the exchange of best practices and the promotion of industry standards.

The LBS Family Business Initiative embodies a vision of empowerment and sustainability for African family businesses. While studies have shown that most family firms face challenges transitioning from generation to generation, the Lagos Business School Family Business Initiative firmly believes this narrative can be changed. Employing appropriate business strategies and governance structures, especially in families, to manage the relationships between the families and the businesses and ensuring that all actions and decisions are in line with the long-term visions of the family business can significantly improve the results. The Initiative aims to propel enterprising families towards long-term success and meaningful societal impact by nurturing a culture of excellence, ethical leadership, and innovation.

As Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape continues to evolve, the LBS Family Business Initiative stands as a beacon of hope and support for future generations, ensuring that family businesses remain resilient pillars of the continent’s economic and social fabric.

Expanding upon this narrative, it is essential to delve deeper into the specific challenges faced by family businesses in Africa and the strategies employed by the LBS Family Business Initiative to address them. One significant obstacle encountered by family businesses is the issue of succession planning. In many cases, the lack of a clear succession plan can lead to uncertainty and conflict within the family, jeopardising the future of the business. The LBS Family Business Initiative recognises the importance of succession planning and offers tailored advisory services to help family businesses develop robust succession plans that ensure continuity and smooth transitions across generations.

Governance structure is another critical area of focus for family businesses. Establishing a transparent and effective governance structure is essential for promoting accountability, mitigating risks, and fostering long-term growth. However, many family businesses need assistance to implement suitable governance frameworks due to familial dynamics and a lack of expertise. To address this challenge, the LBS Family Business Initiative assists family business leaders in designing and implementing family and business structures tailored to the unique needs of each family business.

Intergenerational conflicts are also common in family businesses, often arising from differences in vision, values, and leadership styles between generations. These conflicts can hinder decision-making, impede innovation, and ultimately threaten the sustainability of the business. Through seminars, workshops, and case studies, the LBS Family Business Initiative equips family business leaders with conflict resolution strategies and communication techniques to manage intergenerational dynamics and foster collaboration across generations effectively.

In addition to addressing internal challenges, the LBS Family Business Initiative recognises the importance of preparing family businesses to navigate external market pressures and seize growth opportunities. With the rapid pace of technological advancement and globalisation, family businesses must adapt and innovate to remain competitive in today’s dynamic business landscape. The Initiative provides access to cutting-edge research, industry insights, and best practices to help family businesses stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of emerging trends.

Looking ahead, the LBS Family Business Initiative is committed to expanding its reach and impact across Africa. By leveraging digital platforms and forging strategic partnerships with local organisations, the initiative aims to extend its support to family businesses in underserved regions and sectors. Through these efforts, the Initiative seeks to empower African family businesses to thrive, drive economic growth, and create lasting legacies for future generations.

In conclusion, family businesses are vital to Africa’s economic development, contributing significantly to job creation, wealth generation, and community empowerment. However, these enterprises face unique challenges that require tailored solutions and support. The LBS Family Business Initiative provides comprehensive assistance to family businesses across Africa, empowering them to overcome obstacles, achieve sustainable growth, and positively impact society. As Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape continues to evolve, the LBS Family Business Initiative remains committed to serving as a trusted partner and ally for family businesses on their journey towards long-term success and longevity.

Dr Okey Nwuke & Mr Emeka Agu are with Family Business Initiative, Lagos Business School