Entrepreneur Series: Why Communication is Key to Family Business Longevity

A snap poll conducted at the recent HSBC Private Bank Entrepreneurs Series spoke volumes. Asked about communication in a family business compared to a conventional company, the results were resounding: more than 70 per cent responded that “communication in a family business is likely harder than in a corporate business. Roles and transparency tend to be less clear.”

In the context of sharing the entrepreneurial spirit among generations, the communication deficit in family businesses is a cause for concern. “Frank conversations about both business issues and personal relationships are crucial for a family business to sustain over the longer term”, says Bernard Rennell, Senior Adviser to the CEO, Global Client Coverage and Global Head of Family Governance and Family Enterprise Succession at HSBC Private Bank. With this in mind, a multi-generational family panel shared insights on how to successfully communicate in a family business.

Listen carefully

Conflict resolution begins and ends with genuine listening, says George Yang, founder of Golden Arches Development Corporation, which operates the McDonald’s franchise in the Philippines. “I welcome the children to say what they want to say, and voice their opinion,” he says. “I may be wrong. They’re all educated, they all studied abroad. So I would encourage them to say what they feel.”

Find the time

Focus Global’s second-generation CFO Stephanie Sy reveals her secret for improving communication in her family business: “You can catch them at home — when they’re in a good mood!”

Belo Medical Group’s second-generation entrepreneur Cristalle Belo recalled that mealtimes growing up were often when business was discussed. “Family dinners would be like a board meeting,” she shares. “You would hear about the challenges, the frustrations — but also the accomplishments.”

Stay flexible but united

Stephen Sy, Founder of Focus Global, advised that when it comes to today’s next-generation leaders, it is important to guide yet also to be flexible. “As parents, you can only do so much. The choice is theirs — and they do have a lot more choices.”

Unity among siblings is a key to harmony, adds Stephanie Sy. “Being part of a family business is a joy and a burden. A friend told me, when you share a joy, it multiplies. But shared burdens are divided,” she explains. “So we are together discussing what we’d like to do, what we’d like to propose to the boss — and how we should get things done!”

For further insight on the importance of open communication to ensure a family business prospers for many generations, watch Cristalle Belo share her experiences and viewpoints.

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