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Experts proffer solutions to transgenerational business challenge

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Experts proffer solutions to transgenerational business challenge

Why do businesses founded by Nigerian entrepreneurs do not survive the founders upon their deaths? Is there anything in the Nigerian gene that kills local businesses once the founding patriarchs take a bow? Why can’t we have our own local McGuiness, (founder of Guinness drinks)?

These and other germane questions were the fuel that drove discussions at the parley titled: Succession Planning, Talent Management and Inter-Generational Businesses in Nigeria, organised by Booksellers Association of Nigeria under the banner of just concluded 23rd International Conference of the Nigeria Book Fair.

In his opening address, the President of Nigeria Book Fair Trust , Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi expressed delight at the calibre of the discussants, and the importance of the theme, given the rampancy of deaths of Nigerian businesses.

The chairman of the conference, Mr. Dayo Alabi, managing director, Book Company, and former President of the Nigeria Book Fair Trust, and former managing director of CSS Book Shop, expressed his appreciation to the organiser, and also acknowledged the contribution of Dr. Kolade Mosuro for bringing in as discussants high calibre management gurus.

He expressed delight that the panel would come up with enduring panacea for the ills bedeviling companies founded by Nigerians, wondering why the country can not boast of a legacy company, which is over hundred years with the exception of Alabukun.

He cited many examples of foreign legacy companies that have survived for more than 200 years. Cambridge University Press, according to him, was established in 1534, while Oxford University Press started in 1586, and they were all established by individuals.

The keynote speech, delivered by Professor Adegbemi Onakoya, professor of business and applied economics and development economics, in an anecdotal style, gave a brilliant rendition of causes of failure of legacy businesses, proffering solutions. Onakoya started by defining legacy companies as those that survive their founders and are still doing well.

He asked a rhetorical question regarding the misfortunes that befell such promising companies in the 70s and 80s. He said: “what happened to Standard Brewery, Onibonoje Publishers, Ilesanmi Press, Aromolaran Publishers, Iwopin Oku Iboku paper Mills, Fagbamigbe Publishers? These companies have all collapsed!

He stated that it was time to determine short and medium terms action plan to ensure companies survive. To stem the tide, he implored company founders to come up with a formula that will attract top talents in the recruitment and selection to senior cadre.

Right people must be selected and groomed for leadership position, such was the case at the Nigeria Brewery. To mitigate risk and ensure continuity of business, he said, talent management helps to identify leaders within the company, who have the capacity to drive the company’s goal and vision.

Many a blue chip company collapsed because of corruption. He noted that some top officials, especially managing director would acquire shares of their companies without paying for them through rights issues.
He recounted his own personal experience, when he was sacked as head of finance for standing up against corruption.

Succession planning also known as replacement planning is of two categories. Emergency succession planning and long time succession planning.

If someone is leaving in emergency, they identify a person to replace the person leaving, this, he identified as emergency succession planning.

He cited the example of Bolaji Agbede immediately drafted to replace Herbert Wigwe at the Access Bank.

For companies to have good succession plan, founders must be less emotional, and they must also have quality supervisors to monitor employees and, values they are bringing to the business.

Succession planning can motivate a new generation of leaders. Apart from Alabukun, Onakoya cited the success stories of Punch newspaper founded by late Aboderin in early 70s. Unlike companies founded by business mogul Moshood Abiola, which did not survive him, Aboderin laid a solid foundation for succession.

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He also cited the case of Aliko Dangote, nephew to Dantata, who is grooming his children to succeed him, same goes for Subomi Balogun, who had given his children necessary management training in the best school, and today, they are running the First City Monument Bank. In contrast, the Celestial Church founded in 1948 by Oshoffa is in crisis and factions.

Redeemed Church, he said, has managed to survive because the founder anointed Enoch Adeboye as his successor before he passed on.

Eddy Fajemidokun companies also survived because of good succession planning.

Hassan Odukale is another success story, he said. Other success stories according to him are Patriarch Olorogun Ibru. He groomed his brothers and put them in place.

Ekene Dili Chukuwu Motors did not survive long after the death of founder Ilodibe, none of his 14 children could manage the business. But in the same transport sector, Good Is Good has become a success story unlike Ekene.

The Sanusi Group was a disaster, as the two sons of the founder battled themselves in court.

Dr. Biodun Adedipe, chief consultant, BAA Consult said since 1998 he has been consulting on succession planning. He narrated the story of Mr. Adegbite MD of Wema Bank, who asked him for advice on succession at the bank, informing him that three executive directors were planning to succeed him.

Adedipe said he ran a management test on the three, finally advising Adegbite on the most promising one.

He advised against bringing in family members or relatives to companies, cited his own example, where early on he resolved not to hire relatives.

His daughter, who joined the company started from the scratch, saying it’s not a wise management decision to allow your child you are grooming to take over to start from the top. Such child needs to pass through the ladder in order to succeed. Today, he has handed over his company to her, after she had passed through the ladder, adding that she has not disappointed.

“You must walk through every position in organization if you want to succeed “, he said.
He emphasized the importance of policies documentation, which must be well communicated and implemented.

He said when he wanted to resign from FCMB in 1994, Subomi did not want him to leave. He began business in 1994. He retired from his company in March, 2024 , handing over to his children.

He said for legacy companies to survive, there must be reward for contribution, not for yes man or just for the mere fact that one is working in the company.

You must search for people in the organization, who have talent and groom them to succeed out of the talent pool, he noted. He said such people must be placed in different responsibility to know their competence.

“Don’t make mistake of putting your children on senior level. Let him join at lower level and learn from others..”

Chief Babajide Olatunde Agbeja
gave similar advice of the need to groom successor.

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An insurance guru, he said he took his daughter to his friend to groom and guide. He said while his daughter was being groomed he stepped down and appointed a managing director, who for 16 months did not bring a single business.

“There is advantage of having competent people around you. Be determined to employ only quality staff.

In adopting top managers you must be strategic. He said he took his three managers to Lagos Business School for training.” You must employ sharper mind than yourself”, he said.

Apiafi Kalada, MD , Wider Perspectives Company said succession planning is not for those about to die. He mentioned the importance of feedback in the success of company. He noted that through the feedback from his employees, he was able to improve himself, which benefited the company.

He said his staff told him that he was always playing with phone and on WhatsApp. Training is key. Some of them are freshers. It doesn’t matter.

He noted that performance appraisal should not be on sentiment.

“There must be performance appraisal. Don’t promote person because he’s your relation or that you like him. Be gender neutral. You must have a strategy plans”, he said.

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