Interview with Leilanie Mohd Nor and Mohar Yusof
Throughout much of’s history, race and economic prospects have been closely intertwined. Perhaps at no time was the issue more evident than during the racial riots of 1969.
As a response to the civil unrest came the 1971 Malaysian New Economic Policy which sought to eradicate poverty amongst the Malaysian population through improvements inand by giving them greater access to the economic machinery. One of the many direct and indirect results of this twenty-year policy was an increase in Malaysian family-owned business that sprouted up.
Today a husband and wife team of university academics and business consultants seek to educate, guide, and advise theseowned businesses as they navigate the rocky waters of succession to the second and third . Leilanie Mohd Nor is the National Leader of Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices (STEP) based out of the Universiti Tun Abdul Razak in Kuala Lampur where she is on the faculty. Her husband, Mohar Yusof is the & Family Office Advisor and a professor at the .
Tharawat Magazine sat down with Leilanie and Mohar to explore the challenges and opportunities that exist forowned businesses in .
Why did you start getting interested personally in thetopic, what pushed you into this?
L: One day, the President & Vice Chancellor of our University, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, came back from a trip to. He gave me a newspaper clipping on the richest man in , a founder. About the same time, our decided to embark on the Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices (STEP) project. In 2008 I went for my first STEP meeting in and began my PhD on family . It was very much the push by the Vice Chancellor to look into family businesses as a factor that contributes to the economy that got us where we are today.
Did you both grow up infamilies?
L: My mother started ain the 80s. She used to import furniture from the , India, and Pakistan. She started when I was 12 years old so I was very much involved. We had about five outlets located in Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam and Seremban. There were challenges and hardships but at the same time it gave me an understanding of how hard it is to run a . As we talk to owners of family businesses today, we understand what they go through and the challenges they face.
M: In my case, mystarted a in the 80s. At that time there were not many Malay businessmen. After I graduated in 1992 with my bachelor degree, I joined the family . My didn’t talk much about family matters so we mostly talked about . I learned from trial and error even though my was there, he allowed me to make mistakes. I the value of . So when I talk now to family businesses, especially those in the second and third generation, we try to encourage them to communicate with their .
Is that lack of communication a common problem that you see? Does it stem from conflict or other aspects?
L: I think it’s a combination of conflict and communication. Perhaps being Malaysians, the openness to discuss real issues becomes a challenge because we are always trying to respect the other person and trying not to hurt anyone. We are afraid to say the wrong thing and because of that, there’s a lack ofwhich breeds conflict and then it spirals down from there.
Is there an advantage right now to being a family-ownedin or is it something that is rather difficult to manage?
L: There are a lot of programs which are carried out by the government that supportactivities. I must say they are really supporting but they are mostly targeting the younger . They are pushing for technology-based startups and are probably trying to find the next . Most of the family are in their second and this is a critical moment where something needs to be done to ensure their .
M: It’s not the government that’s looking for ways to help the familybut it’s the . There are some private initiatives that are taking place among family themselves who are concerned with the and want to start a dialogue.
Do you feel working in a family owned-is something that fits the ?
L: I think so. People tend to start withbecause perhaps that is the most convenient, when you have support from family members. often comes from , co-founders are often .
Can you tell us why yourowned tend to be in the second and third in ?
L: The governments initiative in the 70s did a lot to spur theto encourage more people to start . So there were a lot of young in the 70s and 80s and today many of these are in their second .
M: Especially those owned by the Malays. The Malays are probably a little bit ahead of the Indians in terms of the age of their family. The Chinese owned family started earlier because the Chinese immigration to British Malaya was encouraged by the British for labour in the mines in the early 1900s.
Today, we know that the majority ofare family-owned. We can also see that of the listed in the stock market; more than half are family . Unfortunately, many family do not survive, especially those that are founded in the first by .
Do familysee themselves at an advantage in Malaysian society?
M: I think that a lot ofdo not see the advantages of being family-owned. And I guess that is because of the lack of on business , family , and succession. Even bankers and investors do not see the uniqueness of family .
L: Perhaps an advantage for the familynow is the fact that they are closely-knit. As a , we are very collective rather than individualistic so it is a good fit. We tend to work together to make things happen. I think our closeness, our respect for elders, that is an advantage because the younger generation feel they are responsible to take on something from their and take it forward.
M: I agree with Leilanie, I think that even though we are multi-racial, but when it comes to values, these family-ownedtend to be the same regardless of races. Caring, integrity, they want to be sustainable, to remain in the family and so I think if we can get everyone to come together, that will bring about a lot of opportunities.
Tell us a little about your research. How are you developing the familyactivities at Universiti Tun Abdul Razak?
L: When I did my PhD it was on theprocess in creating new ventures for the second generation. In doing that I then delved into communication, values, and trust because that seems to be coming up a lot in the context of family .
M: Together we have been doing a lot of studies on family, especially with the STEP project. The other area that I’m looking at is the succession planning, family , and wealth management. We have also launched a dedicated website familybusiness.my which serves as a knowledge resource for all things family in Malaysia. Our family office advisory company, BinaPavo, is also growing.
At the university, we have been talking about having a Center forand Family . At the moment, we are the only two speaking at the seminars and conferences so we also need to figure out our own succession, I guess. We are trying to get the young academics to be involved and get more PhD students to come and work with us.
L: We have designed a program with a concentration in familyand we hope sometime in the near that we will be running it for our students.