By: Andisile Klaas

Port Elizabeth - Nelson Mandela University’s Enactus with the Family Business Unit hosted “Transforming a Business into a Family Empire”, an event aimed at encouraging students to take their loved ones into their entrepreneurial journeys to create generational wealth. The event took place on Wednesday, April 4th at the South Campus’ Main Building Council Chambers.

“Transforming a Business into a Family Empire” was another presentation of the Nelson Mandela University’s Enactus amongst their Entrepreneurs Connect events and it further pushed their agenda of entrepreneurship and this one mainly focussed on the family business. The panel for this event included current Director of The Family Business Unit and lecturer, Dr Shelley Beck; former Director of the Family Business Unit, Prof Elmarie Venter and the Department of Business Management’s HOD, Mr Tony Matchaba-Hove. The Nelson Mandela University’s Family Business Unit also prides itself in being the first and, currently, the only unit of its nature in the continent.

The panel took questions from the attendees on family businesses amongst others and answered based on each panellists’ expertise whilst delving deeper into the dynamics that makes the family business differ from other business structures. The family business, like any business structure, faces challenges like funding and lack innovation that might make it fail to break into new markets. The panel took a broader approach and discussed factors like nepotism, expectations, innovation, family culture, succession and the 3 family components; the family, the business and ownership.

The challenges of the family business, as discussed by the panel, include the lack of innovation, funding and not being able to differentiate the business, the family and ownership. For a chance at success, the business needs to consider getting an external advisor to be the different voice other than that of the family.

“Transforming a Business into a Family Empire” also shed the light on the family business on an African context. Mr Matchaba-Hove stated that the African business structure wasn’t as aggressive and competitive as the Western structure as the main principle was Ubuntu is at the heart of their operations. He also stated that these businesses found success through collaborating and forming good relationships with competitors; integrity and reputation is key. What also set the African family businesses in the governing style, the elders act as advisors and overseers while a board of directors is elected for the Western business structure.

The big takeaway from the event is building a family brand through a way that suits each family as the business is not a one-size fits all and the continuation of the family doesn’t come from operating in the same field, the family business can operate in different fields at the same time.

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far go together" – African Proverb

Above: The ENACTUS Society Executive with the Family Business Unit (FBU) members Dr Shelley Beck (FBU Director), Prof Elmarie Venter (FBU Member) and Mr Tony Matchaba-Hove (HoD: Business Management).