Raising capable heirs: The Villa-Abrille legacy
(Last of four parts)
A Chinese saying goes, “Wealth does not last beyond three generations” (see “The third-generation curse,” Aug. 4, 2017). The first generation creates the wealth, the second tries to maintain it, and the third squanders it. Studies show that only around 10 percent of family businesses survive beyond three generations. Many well-known business families today are still in the hands of the second generation, with several struggling to train successors whose sense of entitlement or lack of work ethics bring into question the future of their family firms.
As we saw in the last weeks, the Huang family of Davao City, fifth-generation descendants of Francisco Lim Juna and Maria Loreto Tan Sipo Villa-Abrille, sidestepped this statistic, as each generation continues the values that their foreparents held dear.
“We must be good stewards of what was entrusted to us by God and our great-great grandfather,” says Jason Huang. “With proper management, the blessings passed on to us have made our lives secure for generations. But we are taught to give back, especially to the development of Davao.”
Jason, with cousins Frederick Huang and Susan Grace Huang-Tan, partnered with Cebu Landmasters, Inc. (CLI), to create Davao Global Township (DGT), a P33-billion business, residential and cultural hub. CLI, also a family enterprise, is led by Jose Soberano III and Franco Soberano.
Jason has the moxie to dream up DGT because of how he and his siblings Janette and Jasper were raised. “Our parents are far less conservative compared to those in other traditional Filipino-Chinese families.”
Early on, their father brought them on dive trips, and today, the siblings are all certified scuba divers. Their mother, a licensed pharmacist, chose to take care of the family full-time.
“Our mother was never a tiger mom,” says Janette. “She was quite the opposite. Mommy let us strive on our own and learn from our mistakes. We did not have strict curfews, unlike more conservative Filipino-Chinese families, and I was careful not to break her trust. After college, I wanted to work at the Davao City Tourism Office. Surprisingly, she and my dad allowed me, their only daughter, to work there. It was most fulfilling, it pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone.”
“Our dad did not say how much he loved us, but showed it through his actions,” Janette continues. “He selflessly gave and supported our endeavors. In 1993, when Jason established the Knighthawk Rescue Team, our dad financed their first ambulance and provided for all their needs. Now, Knighthawk has six firetrucks and state-of-the-art equipment. It is one of the most dynamic and active fire volunteer-rescue groups in Davao.”
“We continue the philanthropic legacy of Lim Juna. Through Knighthawk, we continue our family tradition of giving back to the community,” says Jason. “We siblings also serve on the board of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of the Philippines, the Davao City Chinatown Development Council, and other charitable organizations.”
Whether cousins or siblings, the Huangs remain close.
“Allocate time for your family and siblings,” says Jason. “Have dinner together, enjoy vacations together, so family bonds remain connected and strong.”
Succession is never easy in family businesses. Training of heirs is paramount, in skills, mindset and attitudes.
“When your children are fresh out of college,” says Jason, “let them first work in other companies. Let them experience working under a different boss and get scolded, reprimanded, etc. In that way, they get to immerse themselves in a different company culture. If they are to work in the family business, let them start from the lowest position and work their way up.
“Our kids now belong to the sixth generation,” he says. “We hope that the succeeding generations continue to develop the lands we were blessed with not only for the benefit of our family but also for the community.”
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