In Summary

Maintaining longevity in a family business while driving innovation can be a tall order. Richard M. Walusimbi finds out what successful family businesses have in common

Every new generation brings with it new advances that must be embraced or the business risks being left behind – but our new age of technology is developing at such a rate that it would be fair for the smaller businesses to find this more concerning than exhilarating.

Entrepreneurs embrace change
No matter how often or quickly change happens, those with an entrepreneurial spirit are by definition instigators and change-makers. These are the business owners who can see the benefit of early adoption before the crowd – and thus establish a stronghold over a new way of doing business before others have found their footing.

At first, it could seem like advances in technology could put the smaller family enterprises out of business, for reasons ranging from adopting new systems, being too expensive, to the very technology itself making the business obsolete.

Since family businesses can act quickly and on a smaller scale, they are able to mold the business to suit the times much quicker than a larger corporation could. Even a family business a few generations in is still in essence run by an entrepreneur, who is able to jump on opportunities as they arise.

Technology allows everything to run smoothly
It might be assumed that family businesses would be stuck in their ways when it comes to processes, with a “this is the way Grandfather did it, so it’s how I must continue” attitude. But that is not the case. Many family businesses acknowledge that technological advances have assisted them in managing business and its processes. Added to this is the ability to engage with customers through a range of new channels to suit both the business and the customer.

In the past, family businesses struggled to compete with the bigger players in the industry with their big marketing budgets and market reach. However, the early adoption of social media technologies to market business has enabled small family enterprises to connect with new customers like never before. It has been such a leveler to competition; so much so that now they grow at a faster rate than that of large competitors. The main obstacle in the adoption of new technologies is the cost. But if family business owners can surmount this, then they can easily come out top against key competitors by identifying developments in the industry and jumping onto them before anyone else does.

The writer is the audit manager at KPMG, chartered accountant and member of ACCA & ICPAU. E-mail: rwalusimbi@gmail.com