Sunday, October 13, 2013

Family Business: Hugh Raven's & my father's family's

I had the (rare) opportunity of attending a public lecture on Family Enterprise. I say 'rare' because my usual timetable would only allow me to leave the campus after 5 pm.  
Jointly organized with the Scottish Family Business Association the lecture held yesterday was the third in its inaugural series.  Hugh Raven of Ardtornish Estate (Scottish GaelicÀird Tòirinis) talked about his family enterprise; from its historical background to its most recent evolvement.

Essentially an inherited family business, the Ardtornish Estate has now been a famous holiday destination and expanded its business to other areas with a range of enterprises owned by Raven's family since 1930. 
Raven was passed on his current MD position from his brother who lost a battle with cancer.

Pretty much the first talk I ever had on family enterprise, I find it interesting to hear from the seemingly quiet, thoughtful middle-aged man on challenges the family business dealt with, why the recent decision on restructuring and formalizing the governance of his family's business was made.  More to this, I gain the practical knowledge on the local practice and terms like Trust, the Scottish local association for the family businesses, etc. 

Seven years ago, just several hours after flying in from Osaka returning from his trip, my father died at our home.  He was 51. It was a sudden loss for all of us as it usually is on heart-attack cases.  I heard my mom blaming the situation that him being too busy for months following his death and one of them was because he had to deal with the mess in his family's business.  

Not only I'm an ignorant person (having this combination of phlegmatic-melancholic temperament), in our culture it's more common for us children not to know too much about conflicts in our extended family.  Well, at least I grew up with my mom keeping us away from such agony of having to know how our aunts and uncles may not be as nice as they seem to be.  But when my father died, I found myself asking my mom about my dad's family's business and surprised to know how messy it had been since my grandfather died almost two decades ago.  

Understanding my father's family background has helped me to better understand the current situation the family is now facing.  My paternal grandfather was a wealthy man, but the loss of one wife after another made him re-married twice and I could see how it broke the family apart. From the seven children, only few successfully went to obtain a university education. Years after their childhood most of them have to struggle to meet ends meet in their present lives.  

Hugh Raven mentioned about risk-taking in family business.  And one of those risks is... emotional risk.  Being the only son after his brother's death, he told us how he is surrounded with the strong domination of women, his sisters.  We heard him sharing about going out to meet each of them as he was having ideas and new approaches that he was making on the business, to make sure that everyone's well informed on new developments, regardless of the reactions he may receive from them. 

While our family lives in Jakarta, all of my parents' families live in Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia.  My aunt is now single-handedly managing the human resource company there.  
I'm not sure how much she involved her other siblings or, as what Raven says, taking into account experts advice (such as experts with legal knowledge).  As Raven puts it, with good governance, banks would be more confident in lending you money and you'll get the ability to keep the business going. 

Without my father's presence, how we've always lived in different cities and that I grew up not close to my father's family, practically I have lost my connection with her and her other siblings.  I don't see myself being an entrepreneur, but should I reach out to her and ask her on how the business is going?  I don't even know how to emotionally risk that.  
As I thought about it, I came to realize that even keeping the struggling company has been for an emotional, sentimental reason: it was our father's, and so we are to keep this running. 

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