Family Business

Opportunities and challenges for enterprising families in south east asia


4 min




While most family businesses issues are universal, the prescribed resolutions often vary depending on culture. Listen as Yuk Lynn Woo Chen, Roy Chen and Kenneth Goh talk about the cultural context, through both opportunities and challenges, of family businesses in South East Asia.



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Yuk Lynn Woo Chen
If there is any leader that I would aspire to become, I think I really want to become the family leader, to help all the families become who they are supposed to be, and to help them realize that they do not have to be in the family business to be somebody. And to hold the family together is more important than holding the business together. I think it is very key.

Kenneth Goh
The challenge going forward for South East Asian businesses and maybe to a broader extent Asian businesses, it is not going to be difficulties in economic opportunities, I think the economic opportunities are there. It is about whether we have the relational capabilities, the relational resources, and the relational resilience to be able to exploit those economic opportunities. And as the family grows, as well, it becomes ... View More more complex. In Asia especially, we tend to think that the informal family structure is the norm, that it is culturally justified. If we use culture as an excuse to stop experimenting with new ways of organizing and managing our family structures, that is my fear for Asian family businesses.

Asian businesses are very progressive in their business practices, that is a given. And I would like to see more of that progressiveness being adopted into our family practices. So for example the idea of having family meetings, having a family council, family owners council, these are very progressive ideas when you adopt them to the family structure, but they are not new in a business context. So we need to be open about having these ideas come into the family. We should not see them as Western practices; I believe these are very universal, good management practices.

Yuk Lynn Woo Chen
There are two areas where I think there will constantly be challenges. One is the communication, learning how to mature in communicating. We are supposed to already know our roles and so are expected to perform them without communication. The other thing is I think the role of women and the gender issue. These will be challenges in our culture.

Roy Chen
How to incorporate the next gen members into the family, not necessarily just in the business but in the family, right. The need not only to help the family, but help the family look to give back. Use what they have to impact the communities where they are operating in, where they are residing in. And families, especially the ones who have benefited, who are in a position of wealth and influence to properly steward that, not only in the context of the family, but in the context of the society.

You can draw on other families but you know, often times they are constrained in terms of the time, in terms of the location, in terms of sensitivities perhaps. And I think for all those reasons having outside advisors is important. When you are in the family, of course depending on what stage you are at, you know, it is constantly evolving, constantly changing. But being a family member, sometimes you can benefit a lot by having a non-family member, without the history but with understanding and with experience, to come in and offer a different perspective, to put things into context. The services, the products that they offer, the differentiation is not huge. Where they can really add value I think, is on top of the investment, the wealth management aspect, is to look into two particular areas. One is facilitating a family to look at succession issues, look at you know, creating the harmony within the family, how to include the next generation in their process as they grow. But also I think another point is, even share values about giving, about impacting their community, which is very much in the minds of the of the next generation.