Tuesday, May 17, 2011

MNC or Family Businesses?

As a consultant, often there is a lot of work that ones does with professionally managed family concerns. These are huge enterprises, with businesses generating a few crores, a legacy that can be traced often to the early 1900's and a plethora of businesses that may often range from mining to selling mobile chargers, the sheer spectrum is amazing. 

However, the 'professionally managed' tag to me seems very hilarious a term. in my limited experience, it often takes a large amount of egolessness for the chairman/ceo who is the son of the legacy to be just that. the CEO and not become the mafia god. 

Let me explain 

Family owned business, with an active chairperson have almost got an anal string on the decision making process. By default this implies that all the routine tasks of everyday funtioning are delegated while the key actions that may make or break a company held safe. Having made the decision, implementation is delegated without often delegating the requisite power/authority/resources that go with it. Result lop sided growth, where the employee tries hard to be the change, and is thwarted by meddlesome processes of detailing each action to an non involved boss. 

Getting to more fundamental basics, it also often causes an employee to become subsurvient. In most actions, there is a 'homage to the legacy' that becomes critical. The lifestyle of the owner becomes the informal environment of the company.

Take for example, a large flashy company that has risen the ranks, and over the past 20 years invested lots into brand building. AND MADE IT. everything about this company now, from the office, the branding, the company employees, the language is about LARGE! making it big, noisy, flashy, scale.. IMPOSE. The employees too are that, agressive, loud and culturally adopting the practices of a winner

Cut to company 2. Same industry, different mindset. Here the conglomeration was headed by a family that exhibited humbleness in its dealings, but the family name was to be protected at all costs. It was not unnatural to see some head of business, walking up the family chairman and bowing low before the start of the day. Somehow something about it also did not seem ass licking, but more like 'parampara' ..... Would have made me smile, but the location of it in an annual conference was more jarring than soothing.

In all these establishments, addressing one by their first name is frowned upon, luxuries like secretarial assistance are common, the pace of work is intense but one understands the needs of family and self time, there is a laid back attitude that the offices speak of, where the machineries clank in a rhythm of their own creation. Productive but unhurried. 

Walk into any of the other MNC"S the classical Pepsicos, or the new age banks and the very first difference is in the intangible office environment. Silent cubicles, layers of security men, casual attire yet feeling of movement subtly in the air, the conference rooms having strange names and the feeling of 'namelessness' of employees. 

The company seems larger than the person. and the individuals recognise their impermanence rather thrive in it as it allows them to do and leave. Not attachment is the motto. Or rather fuck this shit, the moment the shit crosses and unknown line.

In contrast for all its slowness, the family business seem to have got something right in the relationship building department. Agreed that the people who have stuck on over the years, are conventionally older and of another generation but there has to have been something more than money, that made them stay. 10 years., 15 years or sometimes even 20 years are the durations that one sticks on in these jobs.

As a wannabe corporate person, in my early 20's I found the stifling atmosphere of lordmandship that hovered in family businesses unbearable. As a consultant, I find the love and concern of these families towards their business, adorable. As long as I am not 'under the thumb' of anyone its fine, but the thing is, each of them offer something to you. If you know what makes you tick, it makes decision making much easier. 

Mafia-ed u are in any case!