AUC School of Business hosted the first meeting of the Family Business (FB) consortium of the Arab region on November 12. The consortium brings together different business schools from across the region as founding members (schools include: College of Business Administration Ajman University, UAE, ESCA School of Management, Morocco, Suliman S. Olyan School of Business, American University in Beirut, Lebanon, and USEK School of Business, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon). The goal of the consortium is to develop research on the issues and challenges facing FBs in the region and to develop managerial practices as well as promote a global understanding of Arab FBs.
Family businesses are especially important in the Arab region economies, contributing 60% to GDP and employing over 80% of the workforce, according to the latest PWC Family Businesses (FB) report. The major challenge facing FBs is that 70% perish with the passing away of the owner. Even though the companies are ambitious, they face a lot of challenges that require guidance, and that’s exactly why the Family Business consortium was created to help provide analytical data to guide professionals in the FBs.
The meeting was an interactive brainstorming session, where participants bounced ideas and challenges then negotiated them to figure out what could be the best outcome for this consortium. A major challenge that all the attendees agreed on was that there are very few case studies related to FBs in the Middle East, and so there isn’t any proper analysis of what’s really happening.
“You won't be able to find how to do business in Egypt in a book. There is no manual. This is a challenge that we need to address,” said Sherif Kamel the AUC School of Business Dean. Academia has a chance, by developing case studies, to give FBs education seekers a proper look into real-life cases and qualitative data that is regionally relevant.
The initial meeting was followed by an insightful roundtable discussion, faculty members were joined by prominent figures from the FB industry, including: Fatma Ghaly, managing director at Azza Fahmy, Mohamed El Damaty, Vice president of the board of directors and managing director of planning and supervision, Arabian food industries company – Domty, Hatem El Ezzawy Managing director, Pico Agriculture, and Maged Mansi Chief executive officer, Mansi eyewear.
Participants discussed major concerns, including not finding or being able to attract the right caliber to lead, kids going abroad to travel and not wanting to come back to the FB, and transitioning the business from a one-man show into a proper institutionalized business without losing the family values and core.
For every FB, there are different challenges, but there was one major elephant in the room for all the attendees, which is: who will take the business forward? Several complained that their parents are having a difficult time letting go of the company, some are facing the problem of convincing the kids to take over and others are just trying to figure out a way for the company to live on after the founders are gone. “My mother, sister and I were just discussing how to make our brand live on after we are gone... I think this is a major challenge for many FBs,” Ghaly said.
The initial proposed project for the consortium is to work on a book that contains a number of regional case studies including the history, statistics, and experiences of different successful FBs in the region. This consortium provides a much-needed space to discuss problems facing FBs, develop data and statistics and remind FB owners that they weren’t alone in their issues.