Saturday, 5 September 2015

Worry about the Next Generation

Who's going to take over Dalian Wanda if Wang Jianlin's son won't?
Economists must find it interesting to watch how businesses develop in China, as private companies only began running again three decades ago.

As we have seen, some family-owned businesses have flourished spectacularly, the best example of which is Dalian Wanda run by Wang Jianlin, who recently purchased World Triathlon Corporation, which runs Ironman Triathlon Races for $650 million.

However, Wang's son, Sicong, has already said he does not want to take over the cinema and property conglomerate.

Wang Sicong's dog has two Apple watches. Does yours?
Maybe he's too busy playing with his dog, whom he recently purchased two Apple watches for each front paw.

However Wang Sicong is not alone in refusing to join the family firm. A study has found that only one in five of the mainland's second generation is keen to take over, which may spell trouble in the next decade.

The majority of second generation rich or fuerdai (富二代) would like to start their own business, while the rest would rather take traditional career paths.
The research was conducted by Peking University's Guanghua School of Management, and led by its associate dean, Professor Jin Li. The school is also launching a program in conjunction with the University of Oxford and Harvard Business School, aimed at executives of family businesses in China.
"Chinese family businesses are at a historic turning point," says Eric Thun, an associate professor in Chinese business studies at Oxford. "At the same time as confronting the challenges in the domestic market that are common to all Chinese firms, many are making leadership transitions from the first to second generation."
The study covered two years, based on interviews with more than 500 family-owned Chinese firms. Only 20.5 percent of those surveyed expressed an interest in following in their parents' footsteps, while nearly 70 percent wanted to start their own business; the rest wanted a traditional job like a doctor or lawyer.
Wang Sicong has set up his own gaming company
This latest finding spells trouble for China's economy because family-run businesses play a major role, with more than 85 percent of the country's private companies are family-owned. By July last year 747 of these firms were listed on the mainland stock exchange.
It's also an interesting contrast to family-run businesses in Europe and North America that have gone through several generations; but if not many second generation kids in China don't want to take over the family business, what's going to happen?
As expected, the profiles of the fuerdai reveal more than half of them have studied abroad, two-thirds of which majored in business management -- knowledge that would serve them well in guiding the family firm forward.
However, the study found many appeared to lack self confidence in dealing with businessmen from their parents' generation as well as senior staff within their family firm's management.
Another important issue is the kids feel too much pressure in living up to their parents' legacies, which could threaten business stability, the report said. This is the opposite thinking of the parents, who are focused on the best interests of the family and have high expectations for their child -- only child in most cases.
About two in every five entrepreneurs hoped their children would take over the business, while 55 percent said they would allow professionals to manage the company, but still have the family has main shareholders.
It sounds like there is no real nurturing of children to grow into the family business. In many multi-generational family businesses, young children are always encouraged to help out on the weekends or summer holidays, not just to have an extra pair of hands, but to see how they like the work.
And with many studying business management, but instead wanting to do something else may indicate the parents were trying to plan their children's career path without the kid having much say in what they wanted to study in university.

But the intimidation the fuerdai feel in taking over the business is palpable -- Chinese parents always seem to have very high expectations, sometimes to the point of being unrealistic. Wang Sicong has had a habit of shooting his mouth off, making outrageous comments that must leave his father red in the face with embarrassment.
So in this case maybe it's a good thing Sicong has decided not to take the reins of the family business...

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