(Idioma: Inglês  – para traduzir, clique com o botão direito do mouse e selecione a opção de tradução ou clicando nas configurações do Google, pelo smartphone)

The founder / owner of a business that you built from hard work, is the family business prepared for a crisis Major? Whether it is family, business and ownership (wealth) everything is in transition. When illness, incapacity or death of a key family shareholder strikes or events like marriage, separation or dispersed ownership happens, the impact on the family business system can cripple the business overnight.

With a mindset bordering on immortality, stubborn leaders totally disregard any form of transition. But when a sudden event like death occurs, it will leave everybody broken, gasping for breath, barely surviving and being dragged by overwhelming under the weight of the business and the family. There is no doubt that any business will be faced with some very difficult choices in the months and years to come are being prepared is critical.

The sudden death of a colleague in 2015 was a stark reminder that life is fleeting.

A year earlier, we were exchanging notes and quite excited about our planned collaboration to “gain a beach head” by setting up businesses in emerging Asean member economies. Then suddenly,

I received news that he became terminally ill and given a few months to live, six months … to be exact. In the blink of an eye, his health deteriorated  and went downhill. He was gone at 64. Death came so swiftly like a thief in the night. He left behind a wife, three children and a 2,700-plus workforce.

My friend passed away without any leadership transition plan and as the family grieved, the children struggled to consolidate his estate, comprising assets, liabilities including the three core businesses. And the if on cue, worried creditors swooped down like vultures, naturally demanding for answers on how loans will be repaid.

For the three children (all in their 30s), they were obviously unprepared, untrained and used to the good life generously provided by their visionary  father. With the death of the patriarch, they were now fearful of an uncertain future and the “what’s next.” I realized that the family needed help, so I volunteered any assistance but my offer was politely turned down.

When the youngest child was diagnosed with a certain form of mental disorder and had to be hospitalized, the other siblings continued to manage the business but their apparent lack of training and limited skills worsened the situation. Sensing a bleak future, employees started to leave the company. The business suffered its biggest setback when their credit lines were discontinued. Clearly, everyone was at a loss due to the sudden void left by the demise of their leader.

Four months after, the children pleaded for help and requested my intervention. The six months that followed was probably one of the most challenging times the family members experienced under my brand of governance … and a test of patience for me and my team as well. I almost gave up on a number of occasions. The family members were stubborn, indecisive, arrogant and distrustful of our turnaround initiatives. Worse they were incredulous and hardly contributed to the efforts.

I felt helpless when they could not decide on critical issues and, in my quiet moments, I would lay the blame on their deceased father and overprotecting and raising entitled children. Their actions were extremely frustrating and a disservice to the values of hard work and tenacity that the father displayed when he was alive.

At the onset, the only way to appease troublesome creditors was to install a management committee primarily tasked to manage the tight cash flow. We also brought in specialists to “hold the fort” until the situation normalized. My title was “caretaker CEO” but in reality I played the conductor role by making sure alignment of plans continued without disruption.

After two years of playing catch up, the firefighting became less frequent and the business showed signs of recovery. When we finally saw steady growth, we knew that the turnaround was in sight. Also we saw creditors renewing their commitments after cash flow and new investments started to show favorable results. It was a close call and would not wish this event to happen to my worst enemy.

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