DO FAMILY OWNERS NEED CORPORATE GOVERNANCE?
DO FAMILY OWNERS NEED CORPORATE GOVERNANCE?
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مجلة حوكمة

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By Helmut Sihler

One expects the answer to this (rhetorical?) question in a publication designed to promote good Corporate Governance to be an unqualified “yes”. I do not believe this to be so. I will argue that the usefulness of “CG” for family owners is determined both by the definition of CG and the character of the family itself. I will draw on my long-year experience as a CEO in a family-owned company and several assignments as an advisor to entrepreneurial families.


Why did CG become a passionately discussed issue both in Europe and the USA in the last decades? Two causes can be identified: First and foremost the failure of large companies to sustain competitiveness, with ensuing share price erosion, and in some cases bankruptcy. And second the seemingly growing gap between shareholders’ interests and management actions. One might justifiably argue that the discussion in the US was more focussed on the first issue, while in Europe shareholders’ rights held center-stage.


Is better CG the solution to these perceived negative developments? Certainly not by itself. CG should be viewed as a tool which can be of great use in some, but not all corporate issues. CG is sometimes defined as a system of structures and procedures for preparing, taking, and controlling crucial decisions. This definition is not wrong in itself, but it leaves out the more important quality of attitude. We all know the basics of the US one-tier and the Central European two-tier architecture of Boards (by whatever name). They both have their advantages and their drawbacks, of course, but it would be hard to argue that one is better than the other. They both work as tools if they are handled right, or to put it differently, if the board leadership is up to its task.


Do family companies need CG? On the basis of what has been said before, the answer is “no” if it means taking a set of structures and procedures so to speak “off the shelf”. It is “yes” if CG is perceived as an attitude, a mental method if you will, to dealing with major interdisciplinary business problems. (Interdisciplinary: because these problems will usually be a mixture of factors like personnel, finance, marketing, production etc.)


Let me use as an example an entrepreneur who has built up a successful business. He has has not written any rules, and has not drawn up organisation charts. His greatest asset is his belief in himself. Does he need CG? His answer would be emphatically “no”. Simply put: he doesn’t need it, because he has it.


But situations change. Our entrepreneur might want to groom successors coming out of his family.  He might see the need of hiring a strong outside manager to handle the growing complexity of his business. He might set up daughter companies in foreign countries which in their management demand a different approach than in his home country. He might want to have a sounding board to hear comments on his business plans. In all of these and other instances he would have to ask himself: How did I do it, how do I do it?


It is not easy for successful entrepreneurs to reflect on their own style of management and on their basic attitude. In most cases, they will refuse to write down the result of their self-appraisal. But they must be willing to share their thoughts and experiences. Only then will others be able to make the greatest possible input, be they family members or outsiders. Therefore the most important first step in such times of change for any family-controlled company is to take a sober look at itself. It must identify its strengths and its weaknesses. But entrepreneurs (and their families) rarely want to take an objective look at themselves. There is always the fear of family frictions tending to be uncontrollable.


Qualified outsiders can be an important if not indispensable help in this process. They can ask the right questions, they have no personal interests beyond the task at hand, they help in formulating the results, they are not seen as serving their personal interests. They should be impartial catalysts. The outcome of this self-appraisal is not determined by the pre-conceived notions of such mediators. They would not be the right people if they pushed for any standard solution.


What would be the results of such an exercise? The nature of the business would be clearly defined and with it the strategic issues which will determine its future. The entrepreneur who had initiated such a process would have a better idea of the qualities and the shortcomings of his cooperators. He would be able to start a clearly defined initiation program for his children to ensure their qualification as potential successors. And, of course, he would see where a more formal CG could be a help and not a hindrance. But in any case it would be strictly tailored to his personal intentions and the nature of the expected developments.


Experience shows that formalized CG in public companies does not function well without a large dose of informality. A Chairman and a CEO do not cooperate only on the basis of their “job descriptions”; they must go far beyond that in establishing a working relationship. For family companies the reverse is true: Informality alone will not suffice. There must be a modicum of rules for the sharing of information and for coming to decisions. The names of such groupings are secondary. They can be called Advisory or Shareholders’ Committees or Boards. But they must be tailored to the needs and intentions of the entrepreneur and other family owners; they must ensure for their members a set of informations and for defined areas a share in decision making. Only then will they develop the right “attitude”: to help but not to meddle.

من آراء المشاركين

  • يوفر برنامج إعداد أعضاء مجلس الإدارة أساسًا متينًا لإدارة الشركات للمديرين الحاليين والطموحين.

    ديفيد هاغلوند - المدير التنفيذي الأول ومديراستراتيجيات تمبلتون الحدودية وسوق الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا

  • "شكرا جزيلا لتقاسم مثل هذه الثاقبة عبر الإنترنت. كانت مفيدة وقيما للجميع "

    شادي راشد - باحث اقتصادي أول بوزارة التعاون الدولي المصرية

  • "جلسة جيدة ومنظمة تنظيماً جيداً جداً على شبكة الإنترنت حول كيفية العازلة وتقليل تأثير فيروس" كوفيد – "19, للحفاظ على استدامة الأعمال بالتنسيق مع معهد حوكمة و الجامعة الامريكية في بيروت / مخزومي"

    بلال حمادة - المستشار التنفيذي

  • "حضرت واحدة من أفضل الحلقات عبر الإنترنت. أحسنتم عملاً كلية سليمان س. العليان للأعمال ومعهد حوكمة "

    فداء كنعان – عضو مجلس إدارة – التعليم التنفيذي– كلية سليمان س. العليان للأعمال - الجامعة الامريكية في بيروت

  • "شكّلت هذه الجولة الدراسية الدولية رحلة مليئة بالمعرفة والخبرة والكفاءة المهنية، فقد تعلّمت فيها الكثير واستمتعت بالتأكيد بالوقت الذي قضيته مع زملائي".

    إبتهال الشمالي - مدير دائرة حوكمة الشركات في هيئة أسواق المال بدولة الكويت

  • تُوفر منتديات الإفطار التي ينظمها معهد حوكمة فرصة رائعة للحضور لمقابلة ممارسي الحوكمة وتبادل الأفكار حول القضايا والتحديات الحالية. كان فريق المتحدثين مكون من خبراء في مجال الحوكمة، والذين قاموا بمناقشة التحديات من وجهات نظر مختلفة حول "كيفية جعل مجلس الإدارة أكثر فعالية"، حيث كان النقاش ثري ومليئ بالاستفادة من قبل مشاركة الحضور وخاصة في الأمور المتعلقة بتنوع وجودة المعلومات التي يتم تقديمها إلى مجلس الإدارة لاتخاذ القرارات الفعالة. أنا أتطلع إلى المزيد من هذه المنتديات / الفعاليات التي ينظمها معهد حوكمة.

    سونيل إدواردز - رئيس مكتب التدقيق الداخلي - بنك الشارقة

  • "كان "منتدى الإفطار" بعنوان أفضل ممارسات مجلس الإدارة، والذي نظمه معهد حوكمة بالتعاون مع Diligent من المنتديات الناجحة والتي تتسم بالعمق والغنى بالمعلومات القيمة، والتنظيم المتميز.

    مصطفى إبراهيم عبد التواب – وكيل ومستشار الضرائب -  سكايلينزللاستشارات الضريبية

  • ليس هناك شك على الإطلاق في أن معهد حوكمة - كما هو الحال دائمًا - بذل جهودًا لا مثيل لها في إصدار أحدث تقرير له بالتعاون مع Diligent حول أفضل ممارسات مجلس الإدارة في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال إفريقيا. كانت المناقشات التي دارت في "منتدى الإفطار" مهمة ومفيدة للغاية؛ وتدفق الأسئلة من قبل المشاركين والإجابات القيمة من قبل فريق المتحدثين هو دليل واضح على نجاح معهد حوكمة المستمر. 

    ياسر الدباش - سكرتير مجلس الإدارة - مجموعة غباش للتجارة والاستثمار

  • ان المعرفة  ودراسات الحالة والتعلم التي يقدمها "برنامج إعداد أعضاء مجلس الإدارة " مفيده جدا وفعاله في  مراحل التخطيط الاستراتيجي والتنفيذ والإنجاز لخطط النمو في الاقتصاد الصعب الجغرافية السياسية الأوقات التي نعمل فيها.

    هشام دمشقي - الرئيس التنفيذي

    BAP LLC

    (مرتبط بشركات جنرال موتورز التجارية-واشنطن العاصمة)

  • يعتبر برنامج أمناء سر مجلس الإدارة المعتمد والذي يقدمه  معهد حوكمة وسوق دبي المالي دورة أساسية و ضرورية لتعلم حوكمة الشركات ونطاق ومسؤوليات أمين سر مجلس الإدارة وفهم متطلبات  الحوكمة والإفصاح في سوق دبي المالي وهيئة الأوراق المالية والسلع. وهي تعتبر دورة عملية تجمع بين أفضل الممارسات والدروس العملية الأساسية . لذا فإني أوصي بالبرنامج الأشخاص العاملين في مجال حوكمة الشركات، وخاصة في الشركات  المدرجة في أسواق المال.

    عمران الزماني-المستشار القانوني – دانة غاز (ش.م. ع.)

التغريدات الأخيرة

@معهد حوكمة
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