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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Stewardship over power

Today, shared positive values are more essential than ever: reconciliation over antagonism, accountability over complacency, stewardship over power.

Business ethics is often an oxymoron. Rare is the enterprise that acts according to what it avows.

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“In the end, we are a business, so profit counts above all,” says the head of a manufacturing group.

His company is still afloat, but aghast at the excessive price escalations, customers have left. Employee turnover is significantly more than the industry norm. The boss is not on talking terms with siblings. At his demise, the company will likely die with him.

Contrast this with many successful business families I have profiled.

The Tiu family of Akari Lighting and Technology Corp. (Feb. 7, 2014) value togetherness, but each sibling has a clearly defined role. They maintain close personal ties, but have each other’s backs.

The Sy family of dentists (April 15, 22 and 29, 2016) view their craft not so much as a job, but more as a way to fulfill their passion while having fun. The patriarch passed down his love for dentistry to his sons, who in turn, with their spouses, have passed this on to their children.

In the family constitution of the Andaman clan (Dec. 4 and 11, 2015) is the value of “pasobra.” The founders have always gone the extra mile in dealing with clients, stakeholders and each other. The younger family members strive to practice “pasobra,” too, and have aligned their constitution for the next generation to uphold this legacy.

“Values inspire people to do things that are difficult, to make commitments that require discipline, and to stick to plans for the long haul,” say Craig Aronoff and John Ward in their book “Family Business Values.”

“An enduring commitment to values is the greatest strength a family can bring to business ownership.”

Power of values

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Since values are the foundation of company culture, they can make or break the business during crisis.

The Tylenol scare in 1982, when people died of poisoned capsules, provided a way for Johnson & Johnson to reaffirm their values. Then-CEO James Burke disclosed details openly to the public, and took back every single bottle of Tylenol on sale. He and his executive team worked round the clock to solve the crisis, and Tylenol swiftly regained consumer confidence.

“A single value—to ‘trust people until they prove themselves unworthy of that trust’—underpinned all [Burke’s] actions,” say Aronoff and Ward.

Family businesses with inspiring values find it easier to attract talent. One of my top students has been working for a medium-sized family business for five years, despite offers from multinationals.

“In our company, employees are treated as family rather than merely as workers,” she tells me.

Instead of just focusing on past success, values empower companies to adapt to change. Shared values “foster shareholder solidarity, commitment and enthusiasm. Shareholders who have a reason to stick together are more likely to support appropriate risk taking, to sacrifice short-term liquidity for long-term business goals … ”

Positive values need to be shared, “Just as shared values … can strengthen a business,” say Aronoff and Ward. “Differences in values can cripple it.”

This observation applies to society as well. On Monday, let’s choose candidates with positive values that we share.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at www.lazada.com.ph or call National’s Jennie Garcia at 0915-421-2276. Contact the author at [email protected]

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