A Conflict Free Christmas! (Part 1)

By: Prof. Enrique Soriano

Working over the holidays is a fact of life for most entrepreneurs and their active family members. And with that reality comes the stress of business and family vying for attention. What can you do to find a happy balance at holiday time? As a business leader, how do you manage emotions as a result of so many factors. Emotions cannot be avoided and can aggravate conflict in the family and business. I am also aware just how much of a burden entrepreneurship can take on the active family members. Understandably, December is a time when many family businesses begin closing the annual books – and family members who had all year to dream about hefty dividends often get disappointed when they realized to their dismay the numbers do not add up.


Dividend Sharing can be a Major Source of Conflict

Stress due to expectations of a bigger dividend share and discovering that the value is smaller can easily be a source of tension. Especially when you worked so hard and the sharing is equal among working family members.

In my coaching work all over Asia, I have learned after many years of advising family owned enterprises that there are several effective strategies you can use to take the pressure off and I’m happy to share them below to serve as a wish and a guide for every family member wishing that the holiday season can be a wonderful occasion to finally bring peace and unity within the family.


Wish No. 1 Family Unity Above Self

For starters, every family member must look at the big picture and be reminded that family unity must be the overarching value over ANYTHING! Those who feel aggrieved must never forget that whatever hurts they are going through must give way to a mindset that espouses stewardship and a vision of a happy, secure future for all family members.


Wish No. 2 Create a Growth Journey to Inspire the Next Gen

The key is if you want your family to understand stewardship and unity, you have to have some open, honest discussions about the future. I am in Singapore now and a couple of families from other countries flew here to meet me precisely to reinforce the importance of family unity and vision. When there is family unity, harmony follows. When there is a powerful vision, growth naturally follows.

On top of a governance compass that we crafted two years ago, we also created a succession process on how to transition the successful business to the next generation set of leaders comprising five adult children.


Wish No. 3 There is No Success Without Succession

Succession can be a complex event but when there is ample time to prepare, the transition and wealth transfer phase can be a wonderful and joyous event for the family.  To quote Montxu Aboitiz, a 4th generation member President and CEO of listed firm Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV):

“We have passed the baton down seven times since the company’s beginnings in 1889. Sustainability is key in the company and that AEV has always taken very seriously the capability to pass the company down generation to generation.”

The 130-year-old Aboitiz family runs one of the largest and oldest conglomerates in the Philippines. They have a constitution to ensure the sustainability of its wide range of businesses and have strictly followed family governance rules that is why they continue to reap the benefits of a successful business generation after generation.

To be continued… 


Prof Enrique Soriano is a Book Author, World Bank/IFC Governance Consultant, Senior Advisor of Post and Powell Singapore and the Executive Director of Wong + Bernstein Family Advisory Group, a research and consulting firm in Asia that serves family businesses and family foundations. He was formerly Chair of the Marketing Cluster at the ATENEO Graduate School of Business in Manila, and is currently a visiting Senior Fellow of the IPMI International School, Jakarta.