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Growth, Sustainability and Inhibiting Factors of Family Owned Businesses in the South East of Nigeria
Ifekwem, N. E. Department of Business Administration, University of Lagos Akoka-Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria E-mail: email@example.com Tel: +2348033253217 Oghojafor, B. E. A. Department of Business Administration, University of Lagos Akoka-Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria Kuye, O. L. Department of Business Administration, University of Lagos Akoka-Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria Absrtact This paper presents and discusses the various challenges in family owned businesses in the South East of Nigeria. The attitudes of business owners in the region and inadequate planning often lead to the limited life span of most businesses. The responses from two hundred and fifty small business owners/executives in the South East of Nigeria confirmed that family owned businesses suffer many management and attitudinal problems ranging from individualistic spirit, lack of planning and basic information, lack of political awareness, wrong line of business, and poor book keeping among others. The implication is that businesses start and fail, rarely succeeding the owner. It is strongly recommended that business owners should invest heavily in training and courses locally and abroad to sensitize, orientate and change their mindset as well as adequately develop their management skills and abilities. It is also imperative for business owners to adequately scan the Nigerian business environment so as to identify the opportunities and threats therein, and develop the various techniques that will help them to adapt to the changing environments as they emerge.
Keywords: Growth, Sustainability, Family-Owned Business,
Nigeria is a country made of thirty six states and zoned into six geopolitical zones namely: North West, North East, North Central, South East, South West and South South Zones. The South East of Nigeria, one of the geo-political zones, is made up of five states namely Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo, and Abia. They are predominantly Igbos, ethnically. Igbo culture impacts the enterprise culture. The Igbo individual is that equalitarian and republican who is very enterprising but without firm economic base and economic power and also lacking in political power and perspicuity. He does not have all it takes to operate, compete and succeed in present day Nigeria (Nwankwo 2000). 149
In the journey of Nigeria’s first generation entrepreneurs, the early Igbo tycoons like Odimegwu Ojukwu and others who went from produce buying to becoming a transportation magnate made sizeable fortunes. It is true however that few of the early wealthy families have been able to sustain wealth past one generation, many of the ventures have in fact failed rather than change ownership (Utomi 2008). Developing economies like Africa and Asian countries have come to realize the value and significant role family owned businesses play in their economic development. In these countries, much of the entrepreneurship activities and wealth lies with family owned businesses hence, they are becoming the fastest growing sector of the economy. They are seen to be characterized by dynamism, witty, innovations, efficiency, and their small size allows for faster decision making process. In some countries many of the largest publicly listed firms were family owned. Indeed, Charkrabarty (2009) maintains that many businesses that are now public companies were family businesses. A family business is a business in which one or more members of one or more families have a significant ownership interest and significant commitments towards the business’ overall well being (Charkrabarty, 2009). According to Charkrabarty (2009), a firm is said to be family owned if a person is the controlling shareholder, that is a person (rather than a state, corporation, management trusts and mutual fund) can garner enough shares to assure at least 20% of the voting rights and the highest percentage of voting rights in comparison to other shareholders. Family business may have owners who are not family members. Family business may also be managed by individuals who are not members of the family. However, family members are often involved in the operations of their family business in some capacity and in smaller companies usually one or more family members are the senior officers and managers. Nwankwo (1990) is of the opinion that when family business is basically owned and operated by one person, he or she usually does the necessary balancing automatically. For example, the founder may decide that the business needs to build a new plant and decide to take less money out of the business to live on for a period of time in order for the business to generate the cash needed to expand. In making this decision, the founder is balancing his personal interest (taking cash out) with the needs of the society (expansion). The people of the south East of Nigerian are believed to be hardworking and enterprising, and family owned business is a common phenomenon in this part of the country. The question is how many of these businesses survive the founders? There is probably a high level of small business failure in the South East of Nigeria. Factors responsible for these failures may include poor management, lack of basic information and planning, wrong line of business, poor book keeping, and inadequate start-up capital, among other environmental factors. Since the vital aspect of any business is its survival and growth, this paper examines the necessary strategies for the survival and growth of family owned business (FOB) in the South East of Nigeria. The study, among other things, examines succession planning, management, finance, internal and external environment of business, and other challenges that family owned businesses face.
2. Review of Literature
2.1. The Role of Family Owned Business in Economic Development Many management and economic theories and concepts are relevant in discussions of economic development without the exclusion of developing countries. The developing economies including African nations are yet to attain technological and industrial threshold. Most African countries generally have remained increasingly poor in spite of their abundant resources with incidence of poverty rising from 28.1% in 1980, 65.6% in 1986 and further to 70.6% in 1999 (Neshamba, 2004). Even now, the trend has not changed. For any meaningful economic 150
development to take place the trend must be reversed and strategies for development must take into account the people’s historical socio-cultural and institutional realities. In making a case for planning African economies, Neshamba (2004) argued that meaningful economic development must aim at total transformation of the entire economy from traditional subsistence society to a modern monetized, industrial and self sustaining economy. This transformation can only be achieved if the small-scale enterprises (family owned businesses included) are encouraged to grow through the provision of the badly needed financial and other resources. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in its monetary policy circular No. 36 declares that the role of small scale enterprise (FOBs inclusive) in employment generation, skill acquisition, output growth, enhancement of local technology and mitigation of rural – urban drift cannot be over emphasized (CBN, 2002). The few large scale multinational companies, state corporation etc where they exist have failed to provide employment to teeming unemployed Nigerians. For example, in Nigeria, the frequent upheaval in the oil rich Delta region caused by dissatisfied and frustrated youths of the locality is a manifestation of the failure of the multinational companies. If the impact of these multinational companies can not be felt in the localized operational areas, their capacity in providing the catalytic impetus needed for national economic development becomes very much in doubt. Family firms introduce dynamic personalized control that is different from the institutionalized control in non family firms, significantly affecting the strategic orientation and processes of these firms (Charisman, Chua,and Sharma, 2005). 2.2. Financing Family Owned Business and Sources All businesses, not withstanding size, need adequate funds for start off and for healthy operations. Most family owned businesses like many small scale enterprises have greater disability in sourcing the required funds because of institutional inadequacies, their inability to provide necessary collateral and access the capital market. Finance is an indispensable ingredient in any business establishment, the size not withstanding. It is the life wire that determines the success or failure of the business entity; a lubricant that insures the proper functioning of the system. Ardener (1995) reiterated that every new business requires finance to get started just as existing ones need the same for expansion and growth. Sources discussed relate to both new and existing family owned business and are broadly classified into internal and external sources: Internal Sources Ardener (1995) asserts that whatever the form of business organization, the promoters are required both by business ethics and commercial prudence to provide reasonable part of their start up capital. The types and sources of their contributions to the new venture depend on the type and legal form of the business organization. So, in family owned businesses, the owners majorly rely on what they can provide. For a more formal organization such as cooperative society, internal sources of funding include share capital contribution, thrift savings, special deposits and loans from members etc (Akeredolu-Ale, 1975). According to Akeredolu-Ale (1975), retained profit accounts for half of the total finance used by the business sector in recent times. In business the undistributed profit constitute dominant source of internally generated fund. External Sources For small scale businesses in Nigeria, important external sources of fund include trade credits, shortterm loans/credits, factoring and prepayment. Trade credit is in effect a loan made by supplier when he delivers goods to the buyer in anticipation of payment at a future date to the extent that goods delivered do not have to be paid for on receipt. The company receiving the goods obtains credit for the period allowed before payment. Odueyungbo (2006) asserts that trade credit constitute the largest source of short term finance for business firms collectively. However, trade credit carries some costs which have 151
to be considered. Besides building higher prices, trade credit carries opportunity cost in terms of cash discount foregone. There is also possible deterioration in credit rating or loss of future credits as a result of stretching accounts receivable beyond the net period allowed. Another source of external funding is bank credit facility which may be overdraft or loan. Such facility could be granted on clean basis or against security depending on the company’s asset base, the operating level and results, the integrity of key officers and associated accounts. 2.3. Environmental Strategy in Family Firms A firm’s environmental strategy is referred to a firm’s strategy to manage the interface between its business and natural environment (Kanter, 2009). Family involvement and unique family dynamics impact organizational strategy and performance (Sharma & Sharma 2011). Environment strategies focus on meeting legal requirements and implementing pollution controls. Family businesses pursuing such strategies are driven by instrumental factors such as avoiding legal sanctions or penalties and negative impacts on a firm’s image or reputation (Russo & Fonts 1978 in Sharma 2011). Sharma and Sharma (2011) argue that family involvement in business influence the attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control of a firm’s dominant coalition. In non family firms, it is very difficult to link individual level beliefs, values and attitude with organizational level strategy without examining processes that translate these beliefs into deep rooted and pervasive organizational and cultural change. In contrast, in family firms, the long tenure of the leadership and the controlling family influence on the firm’s dominant coalition allow easier permeation of individual and family values into the firm’s resource allocation decision.(McConaughy2000). 2.4. Typology of Family Firms Indications are that the kind of assumptions made by a family and their behaviour can generate a certain orientation in a family firm. Ward (1987) opines that the differences are strong enough to warrant the development of a typology of family firms. Table 1 below depicts the postulated assumptions in family and business oriented family firms at the boundaries of Ward’s continuum.
Table 1: Likely Assumptions and Situations in a Family First Group Vs Business First Group
1 Family Assumptions Family First Group Business First Group Are more rigid in their views. A rigid family Are less Rigid in their views. More likely to allow things to struggles to prescribe the rules of the game as well as evolve. Are more likely to take risks. Crave to preserve the spirit of its outcome control. Are less likely to take risks. Would like to maintain risk taking that sparked the business initially. business in its present condition. Are more likely to strategically plan. Believe in ‘equality of opportunity’. Believe that after a Are less likely to strategically plan. Believe in ‘equality of results’. Provide each child certain point individuals should make their own way in the the same chance, regardless of ability. Job as a world and deserve no extra help in the supply of jobs for the birthright. family. Independence. Grant each member freedom to follow own Dependence. Think geographical separation implies emotional separation and is therefore a bad idea. path. 2 Family and Business Situations Family first Group Business First Group (i) Smaller Business Wealth. (i) Larger Business Wealth. (ii) Smaller Business Size. (ii) Larger Business Size. (iii) More Family Members. (iii) Fewer Family Members. (iv) Low-Tech Business. (iv) High-Tech Business. (v) More need for personal service (v) More need for invention / research Source: Adapted from Ward (1987)
Ward (1987) argues that the situations of the firm and family can influence the orientation. If, for instance, the firm is small and the family is large, a business orientation must prevail. As the table indicates, Ward suggests that business income, size, technology and necessity to innovate along with the number of family members working in the firm impact on the orientation
Face to face interview was carried out with two hundred and fifty small business executives in Onitsha, Anambra State and its environs to find out the challenges they face operating family businesses. Interview was done individually and in groups. Onitsha is a major business town in the South East where business people from all the five states of the zone are represented. For the purpose of sample selection, efforts were made to ascertain whether there was a comprehensive and up to date official list of small businesses in Onitsha but none was available. Therefore, quota sampling became an option. Onitsha and it environ, with numerous markets and business outfits, were divided into five zones and assigned to five Research Assistants. Each of them was mandated to directly administer copies of the questionnaire on the respondents in her zone. Samples were spread out across the entire zones and efforts were made to ensure that the variety of small businesses (for example in terms of size, type of product and type of business) were included. There was a hundred percent response rate due to the fact that the responses were taken directly by the research assistants.
4. Findings and Discussions
The research revealed some factors that could slow down the growth or cause the failure of family owned business in the South East, Nigeria: 4.1. Lack of Basic Information and Planning The ability to carry out a successful business plan is still lacking in most family owned business in the South East of Nigeria, and this act as impediment to their survival and growth. Planning as the key to every business be it small or big, new or old was very much absent. The study revealed that 193 out of 250 (77%) started their business without any formal documented business plan. Each business plan is peculiar to its nature of business and will be different from others (Burns 2007) Lack of planning influenced most family businesses to register as small businesses with the consequences of being put in high tax brackets. Authorities charged with the duties of facilitating the creation of small businesses instead use loopholes created by the small business persons themselves to siphon monies from them, thereby scaring many businesses from registration. In the course of this research different reasons were given by the respondents for not planning their businesses. Some said it was expensive, others said they were discouraged by government policies, while majority complained of lack of knowledge and complexity of information to be analyzed. They also argued about the possibility of rigidity. That is, after having invested in planning, there will be resistance to abandoning it considering the inconsistent Nigerian Business Environment. Agreed that planning is expensive, but literature suggests that planning is a good management practice and beneficial to business (Gibson, and Cesar 2002) and a road map (Burn 2007). Business plan as a well analyzed piece of information relating to the opportunity eliminates uncertainly and so reduces risk (Wickman 2001). Oghojafor (1997) asserts that planning is a formal process whereby specific objectives are set and detailed resources together with ways or method of accomplishing these objectives are established. He also maintains that planning involves an advance consideration and arrangement of what is to be done and how it is to be done. 153
4.2. Lack of Political Awareness The findings revealed that a typical Igbo business man has a lot of apathy to governance and what is happening in government, not realizing that politics is who gets what, where and when. In support of the findings, Nwankwo (1990) asserts that the Igbo man cries and complains of marginalization, and his mindset convinces him so. He alienates himself from the Nigeria socio–political chess board, concentrating only on his business, thereby separating business and politics which hitherto should go hand in hand. The Igbo business man, the Chinese of South East Asia, the Vietnamese and Jews in America, as people, are usually unable or unwilling to get involved in politics and other social prestige activities, rather they become obsessively involved in economic pursuits, something Utomi (2008) calls “the emigrant economic ethic”. Politicization of the institution charged with the duty of facilitating small medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria has contributed in impeding the growth and survival of family owned Business in the South East, Nigeria. Most national institutions charged with the responsibility of promoting SMEs were promoting party politics instead. This undermines the government’s effort to facilitate the growth and survival of these businesses. In selecting people for small business financial assistance, selection is based on personality rather than ability. This often stimulates corruption. Whereas, Evans and Leighton (1989) point out that whoever becomes a business person is decided not by personality but by entrepreneurial ability and the incentive systems. 4.3. Individualistic Spirit / Orientation to Joint Stock Enterprise From the study, many other factors found to be responsible for this short coming include individualistic spirit, lack of trust, and power tussle (since every one want to be the leader – Managing Director) among others. Utomi (2008) emphasizes that Igbo tradition of individualism make them more easily attuned to markets and free enterprise orientation. Utomi further stated that whereas Igbo people did not take the sense of community to the collective extreme that is discouraging individual venturing into institution building that should provide strong pillars for continuity in business. This position was supported by 78% of the respondents who vow to maintain individualistic spirit as against sense of community. They strongly argued they would do better being alone in business than in joint business. Due to the individualistic spirit and for the fact that resources are not pulled together, most family businesses in the South East are devoid of modern scientific business practices and effective succession to corporate status with an apparatus of modern business management practices, corporate vision and objectives of progress or profit, survival and development (Nwankwo, 2000). Furthermore, Nwankwo believes that what today parade as Igbo Business men, are petty traders, single one man businesses or family businesses that do not operate on modern line. They have limited life spans because of lack of succession, the business fall sick when their owners fall sick, and die when their owners die. Utomi (2008) further stressed the need for joint stock enterprise when he lamented that there must be something in the DNA of Igbo man that makes it difficult for them to run joint stock enterprises. According to him, if you left enterprise at the level of the owner and his children (for instance, Okeke and sons), it would be fine, but once others have an interest in the venture, crises become imminent. Serious work has to be done to initiate Igbo man into governance culture for joint stock enterprise to enable all become more comfortable with pooling resources in building better capitalized companies that can win the big battles of wealth creation. Such companies have a better chance of succeeding their owners.
4.4. Inadequate Startup Capital Financing family owned business and sources of fund has been extensively discussed earlier since finance is the life wire of any business. This Research confirms that most of the businesses were started with inadequate capital. This significantly contributed to financial problems and quick exit of many family owned businesses. Majority of them (75%) were found to have their start capital from personal savings and contributions, some from short-term loans since getting long term loans from the bank was difficult due to lack of planning that meet the bank’s requirement. According to Burns (2007), to obtain a bank loan, the business owner will need to establish a relationship of trust and respect and also present the bank with a business plan. Most Igbo family businesses are started with little money, they rely on hard work and it takes them a long time to succeed. These beliefs were found to have enslaved most of them, forcing them to engage in many forms of odd jobs and irregularities during business operation to earn money and inject in the business which consequently make business performance difficult to evaluate. Most times the correct amount of start up capital may not be identified due to poor book keeping and this is important to bridge the initial gap between existing knowledge and resources necessary for business survival and growth. Levitskey (1996) states that most business learning takes place during the process of startup requiring finances. Thus it is extremely important that the start up capital is well calculated to provide for occasional surcharges. 4.5. Record Keeping Book keeping helps to generate information needed to manage a business. Though, book keeping does not contribute directly to business profit, its importance cannot be undermined. This research discovered that most family owned businesses in the South East of Nigeria (74% of the respondents) do not maintain any form of accounting records and those who tried to keep records keep misleading or haphazard record. The reasons for not keeping records are attributed to fear of high tax and mostly ignorance of the need. The absence of good book keeping makes the evaluation of business progress difficult both for the family business and the authorities concerned. Booking keeping is very important since people require information in order to assess whether they should confer legitimacy to a given business outfit. When a society does not understand how a small firm earns its progress, they misinterpret the business the way they like. This can be devastating especially in African society where business progress or failure is very often associated with superstition. Isidro (2006) confirms that good record keeping over performance, basic information and planning help to keep the business in track avoiding all ills that can result in high taxes and high inventory holding costs. 4.6. Attitudes towards Human Capital Human capital if well utilized goes a long way in enhancing business ventures. According to Utomi (2008) most Igbo entrepreneurs are penny wise pound foolish where the deployment of human capital is concerned. He stated that there are empirical evidence of the low quality and high turnover of staff in most family businesses in the South East. Considering that labour is cheap and abundantly available, these entrepreneurs hire the unskilled, pay them poorly, invest in training them to get the job done while the staff see themselves as just managing until they find a better job. Once they find something better they move on and the various circle of investing in training continue at the business. This has proved to be very expensive for the businesses that do not seem to realize they would save a lot if they invested more in hiring the right people and paying them well so that they stay much longer and the firm profits from deploying & hiring quality human capital with attendant productivity gains. Most respondents (78) admitted they use mostly family members who may be ill qualified or ill skilled.
4.7. Wrong Line of Business Many family owned businesses were found to be in the wrong business and this resulted in capital shortages. Carter (1982) argues that many businesses fail because the line of business is not well chosen to fit the climate prevailing in the economy during that time. Isidro (2006) stresses the importance of understanding the need of the business environment. Opportunity identification has to relate to the requirements of the environment. Isidro further advise that the first requirement for being a successful business person consists in choosing lines of business, where this does not happen the business suffers. In the course of this research, it was revealed that many family owned businesses seldom carry out feasibility studies to enable them identify the need of their business environment, to enable the choice of an appropriate business line. 60 percent (150 respondents) of the businesses were started without any feasibility study. For example in the course of this research a case of an inappropriate business line was discovered. There is this family owned business outfit that carried a heavy stock of motor spare parts for sale in a remote environment where most people use bicycles and few motorcycles. Only the traditional ruler, a medical doctor who runs the only clinic in the village and the principal of the community secondary school own cars. When asked “Why did you decide to start selling motor spare parts here? He gave the following answers: “I spent four years with my Uncle in Lagos learning trade on motor spare parts. At the death of my uncle, I could not afford to pay for a shop in Lagos hence I decided to relocate to the village but since a year ago when I stocked the goods only one or two has been sold, I do not know why business is not moving here”. It is obvious that the above respondent went into a wrong line of business. He could as well learn a trade on bicycle parts or some other product that is needed in the environment. The consequence of wrong line of business is always financial crises as cash is tied to inventory. 4.8. Lack of Secession Plan This research was able to identify the non-availability of succession plan in most family businesses. 70 percent of the respondents have no plans on who succeeds them. Those institutions which would have deepened the roots of enterprises seem to be compromised by attitude towards use of professionals. Professionalizing business succession and planning, trust in ownership structure that makes a broad block of stakeholders committed to ensuring smooth transition of enterprise leadership from one team to another (Utomi 2008). Utomi (2008) further stated that modern successful enterprise go through certain processes that involve three main activities: opportunities identification, commercializing the venture and institutionalizing the venture. This research observe that the entrepreneur of the south east of Nigeria tends to do well on the first two and due to lack of succession plan the business is rarely institutionalized. It was identified that most Igbo family businesses are like one man business that do not operate on modern lines; they have limited life span because of lack of succession. These businesses fall sick when their owners fall sick and die when the owners die. Due to lack of succession the businesses hardly survive their promoters or owners.
Table 2: Response to the Questions on the challenges that slow down the growth of Family owned businesses in the South East of Nigeria.
Frequency 193 180 195 175 185 195 Percentage 77 72 78 70 74 78
Lack of basic information Lack of Political Awareness Individualistic Spirit Inadequate Set up capital Book keeping Attitude towards human capital
Response to the Questions on the challenges that slow down the growth of Family owned businesses in the South East of Nigeria. - continued
150 175 60 70
Wrong line of business Lack of succession plan N = 250 Source: survey, 2011
5. Conclusion, Implication and Policy Recommendation
An economy that is made up of businesses that have limited life spans, absence of corporate culture and growth structure can neither progress nor survive the vicissitudes of local and global competition. An economy characterized by berserk individualism, atomization of growth pillars and perverted value systems surely has no place in the evolving globalization of the 21st century characterized by mega conglomerates. There is the need for both policy makers and small business owners to address the issue raised. There should be a change of focus, a change of mindset and a change of the paradigm of policies and approaches hitherto pursued. This can only be achieved with appropriate programmes. There are a number of growth and development implications of this research. For family owned business in the South East of Nigeria to grow, the research suggests that there is a relationship between business planning, owner’s attitude and performance. The findings suggest an orientation and educational programmes to change the mindset of business owners to enable them graduate from atomistic sole proprietor, family business devoid of modern scientific business practice and effective succession to corporate status with an apparatus of modern business management practices and corporate vision. It further suggests some imperatives for policy makers concerned with promoting small business growth and sustainability in the South East. This has implication for the welfare and economic growth of the zone, Nigeria at large, and the much publicized fight against poverty. Government needs to motivate small business persons. They should be empowered to enable them identify business opportunities. Getting the right information about business opportunities is an area that the government needs to motivate family and small business owners. The awareness must be created. Such information outlets should be given wide publicity. In a developing nation like Nigeria, small businesses cannot be ignored. They contribute enormously to the economy and need to be strengthened.
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