The Unconventional CEO – Dynasty

The Unconventional CEO

Chapter 90 – A special note for those owner-CEOs – an entrepreneurial species which I regard with the highest admiration. They are the backbone and future of any and every economy. Each of us has had a look at our progeny at some stage and wondered about two divergent choices, each of which comes with its own set of consequences and implications.

Should junior be led to on a path that will include furthering the corporation’s future? One that will jump-start a possible dynasty?

Or else, should she be given the option of choosing her own future, knowing that Daddy and Mommy can afford to pay and help to lay the groundwork for it, and in all probability will do so?

I am faced with this very situation: with three blonde darlings and three hard choices. I have some ideas that could help, should you be set on building an empire to outlast you.

Decide early whether each youngster should follow the path to your throne. Leaving the vital talk until they turn 16 would be way too late. My friend Manny operates four large Spar supermarkets and his son has been accompanying Dad to open the stores since he turned two years old.

The first store is opened at 5 am. Young Pedro is now nine years old and is still doing the rounds before school. He works at one of the stores in the afternoon. He has no hobbies and plays no sport. The choices were made. The family is supportive and young Pedro is waxed for a career and an ambition to expand Dad’s, and ultimately his, empire.

Imprint the special ideas you have on a budding mind. The normal and mundane interactions in business are beyond boring for a fertile mind. The extraordinary, the insightful and the wise things would be seeding an imagination that can, and will, embroider the fact that there is a head start in the making. The love of the enterprise often lies in the specialness of how it is steered and how things are done in special ways.

Prepare for a timeline that will suit all parties. Patriarch Anthony just brought David into his farming operations. David finished studying Rural Development in the UK and is returning to the non-metropolis of Viljoenskroon, farming population 3 000. His will be the fifth generation to run the farm. The business includes 5 000 hectares under cultivation, piggeries, factories and over 200 employees – a veritable empire. Anthony is 68; David 26. The overlap and the handover have been well planned. David will choose a South African wife – not a British girl, who would possibly find the transition to a small town community unfulfilling. Don’t do the King Lear thing, either. It would be best if Dad found something else to do after the handover is complete.

Keep your expectations reasonable. We saw three generations of not-Henry Ford and countless examples of junior Big Shots – where offspring could never hope to take off and fly from the shoulders of self-made Billionaires. It may be hard to find the fine lines between spoiling and preparing, hunger and satisfaction, expectation and killer-pressure.

As a very, very late bloomer, I am thankful that my kids were born relatively late in my life. To have had a 16-year-old waiting for Dad’s first breakthrough in hope of a later empire would have been stressful. Your goal should be to expect the best and prepare for the worst – to serve as a gentle and guiding light from their first day of school, until the keys are handed over in an elegant transition.

Along with her piano lessons, my eldest aims to type at 45 words per minute and lives for Lego Architecture between ballet and tennis. I guess she will enjoy the real estate development I have planned for her. The Second Born? Perhaps the mining supplies operation. The Third Born? Perhaps the telco business. Then again, I need to keep my expectations reasonable, even in a world with shrinking numbers of good jobs and a compliance culture that is demeaning and soul-destroying. We want the best for our children and it will help in preparing them for the real world if they can get to choose from some fantastic and exciting options.


The Unconventional CEO offers succinct, compelling advice from successful CEO Mario Pretorius, to you The Cape Messenger reader.

The book is available to purchase in full from the Amazon store.

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