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Family business secrets revealed

What the country’s most successful families have in common, aside from their sizeable net worth, are the importance given to loyalty as well as open communication, and the penchant for hard work.

This is what we learned from popular professor and award-winning author Dr. Queena N. Lee-Chua’s latest book called “All in the Family Business.”

The book, published by Inquirer Books, gives us a glimpse into how the most successful families in the country built their empire from the ground up.

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The launch, held at the National Book Store Glorietta in Makati (another family-owned business by the Ramoses) was attended by some big names in the industry who also shared a piece of themselves through their encounters with Lee.

Some of the VIPs at the launch were Robina Gokongwei of JG Summit Holdings Inc., Grace Tan Caktiong of Jollibee Foods Corp., Michael G. Tan of LT Group Inc., June Alegrado Ugarte of Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort, and Selene Lee Yu of Chevrolet Philippines.

“All in the Family Business” is a collation of Lee-Chua’s best columns from three years of writing her column “All in the Family” for the business section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

These cover advice on dealing with sibling rivalries, how to divide the business empire, and other topics that families often decide to sweep under the rug.

It has over 65 entries, each of which gives an insight into what makes or breaks a family-owned venture.

“A lot of people want instant gratification and oftentimes they get disheartened if after a few months their business doesn’t seem to work. Many of those who were profiled here failed countless of times. What makes them different is that they learn from their failures which, for many people, is not an option,” shared Lee-Chua.

“What I really liked about these people is their extreme hard work. The people featured here, these are their secrets. And training early on, because skills and passion, you can cultivate it.”

During the launch, three business magnates who were also featured in the book shared how their respective families were able to fortify their businesses without sacrificing kinship.

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“We make time for family,” said Alexandra Ramos-Padilla, National Book Store’s purchasing director, also a granddaughter of 94-year-old founder Socorro Ramos.

The country’s biggest office and supplies chain is now being run by the family’s third generation, and is celebrating its 75th year.

According to Alexandra, everyone must earn his or her spot in the business no matter how they are tied to the family, and there was never a sense of entitlement.

This, for her, is one of the secrets of their success.

For Catherine Tiu-Tan, chief financial officer of lighting and technology corporation Akari, a great family business means siblings working together harmoniously.

Inspired by what their father has built for their family, Catherine and her siblings joined the family business right out of college.

Her brother Christopher is now the president of Akari, while her other siblings, Christine, Carter, Irene and Grace, are all vice presidents in charge of different functions.

Her sister Carol started her own accounting firm, with Akari as one of its clients, of course.

“Our father taught us family values and how we should integrate these values into the family business,” said Christine.

As for Welcome Supermart’s Steven Cua, communication is vital to success.

“We hold family meetings every two weeks to talk about any issues and problems in the business, and this is very important,” he said. “It’s all about perspective too. You can look at it as a family business, or a family who owns a business.”

Cua shared that there was no squabble in their family when they finally decided to divide their retail business among themselves.

The family’s supermart, built by their father in 1948, still stands.

Over 300 copies of the book were sold during the launch, and both businessmen and budding entrepreneurs lined up for their books to be signed by the author herself.

While there are no similar family enterprises, Lee-Chua said those that have proven to be successful share similar values, work ethic, and above all, the love for their family more than any amount of wealth. These, she added, are what make these families not only affluent in money, but even in spirit.

Given the right approach, Lee-Chua believes that engaging in a family business can be an asset more than a liability, and it shows.

The most successful enterprises in the country and in the world—P&G, Inditex Group, SM Prime Holdings Inc., JG Summit Holdings Inc. and LT Group Inc.—are all family-owned.

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TAGS: All in the Family Business, Dr. Queena N. Lee-Chua, Inquirer Books
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