Succession Stories welcomes Nike Anani back to the show. Nike is an international award-winning entrepreneur, succession specialist, and legacy planning expert for future-focused business families. She’s the host of The Connected Generation, a top 10 podcast for family enterprises globally. Nike joins Laurie Barkman for a conversation on how families can better connect, collaborate, and create to encourage diversity of thought to co-create the businesses of the future that they envision.
Listen in to learn more about:
- Why founders need to invest in relational factors for smooth transition
- Having conversations on the future of the business early enough
- The importance of connection and emotional proximity
- How empathy fosters collaboration and co-creation
- The difference between legacy and sustainability, transforming and transition
Nike Anani Succession Stories E60: https://smalldotbig.com/succession-stories-podcast/60-founder-succession-to-the-next-generation-nike-anani/
Laurie Barkman on Connected Generation Podcast E100: https://smalldotbig.com/succession-stories-podcast/innovative-growth-podcast/innovation-growth-and-selling-the-family-business-laurie-barkman-on-the-connected-generation-podcast/
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Nike Anani is an international award-winning entrepreneur, succession specialist
and a legacy planning expert for future-focused business families. She’s on a
mission to help businesses move from lifetime to legacy, so they build
family enterprises of the future. She has over a decade of family enterprise expertise as a second generation owner and family office pioneer. She’s the host of The Connected Generation, a top 10 podcast for family enterprises globally and Nike is co-Founder of African Family Firms, a non-profit community of family enterprises.
I was thrilled to have Nike back on the show and host a conversation with her about her new book, Lifetime to Legacy. The premise of the book is that it is insufficient to focus on protecting the future of your family enterprise. We talked about how families can better connect, collaborate and create to encourage diversity of thought so they can co-create the businesses of the future that they envision. If you are a business owner, next generation member, or non-family staff, you’ll be sure to find value in this episode of Succession Stories with Nike Anani.
Nike Anani, it is awesome to have you back on the show we spoke about a year ago. At that time, there were a lot of amazing things happening in your life and since then you’ve written a book, your family has moved across the world, you’ve created some amazing assets that you’ve been sharing with everyone and I’m so excited for you to be here today and talk about the new book that you’ve launched, and I’m so honored that you’ve wanted to come back on the show.
Well, thank you so much, Laurie, it’s awesome to be back. Thank you for having me and it’s also been a very busy year for you. Congratulations on the award, the communicators award and for going over 100 episodes on the podcast, too. I know how it is to be a content creator takes a lot of consistency and hard work so well done.
Oh, thanks so much. It’s hard to believe you were episode 60 and now we’re airing over the episodes in the hundreds so amazing how time flies for us. When you came on, we talked about founder succession to the next generation, it’s something you’re very passionate about. I really want to encourage the listeners to hear that episode, if they haven’t yet already, because I think it’ll be a great companion episode to this one. Also, we should mention, this is our third conversation, I think, technically, right, because I was also on your show called The Connected podcast and it’s a fantastic show for family business owners and for entrepreneurs who are looking for inspiration to connect and I want to also encourage the audience to listen to your show, not only my episode, but other ones as well. Again, The Connected generation podcast. Let’s jump into why you’re here today, which is really to talk about this new book that you’ve written and it’s called Lifetime to Legacy. Tell me about the premise of the book.
Hmm. The premise of the book is that I strongly believe that it’s really important that families not only focus on protecting the future of the enterprises, but actually creating the enterprise of the future and I feel like in the space, there’s a lot of talk about the technical elements like the technical legal planning, the tax planning, the wealth planning. But really, we need to also focus on the quantitative aspects of multigenerational family business and family wealth planning. Looking at the relational elements, I believe that these are the foundations of business planning and wealth planning, which the technical planning sits on top of and it really was based on my insight experience as a business owner, as well as whilst consulting families,
I noticed that there were common themes and common threads that I would see, I would often be approached by a founder like in their 60s or 70s, that had spent a lifetime building a business that was very successful, but could see that there was a new season upon them and it was time for them to start thinking about what’s next or who’s next in our business but they literally didn’t know where to start and maybe they wanted one of their children to be next but none of them were by their sides literally or metaphorically, right, and this would lead to maybe the kids were had other interests, or were geographically located really far away and this creates a lot of angst over what to do to preserve the many years of hard work, wealth and legacy, but they didn’t know how to go about it. But they would often be, they would often have a trusted adviser, maybe an attorney, that would set up a trust, set up a trust to name your kids as beneficiaries and this sorts out the succession issue, but it does not, it doesn’t sort out the relational issues.
There’s a real need for families to come together to gain clarity of vision of mission of values. Where is this all going towards? What do we want as a family? What do we stand for? There’s a real need for a family to communicate over emotional matters, as well as over technical matters and there’s a real need for the family to collaborate and that was really the premise of the book was just to provide this practical handbook for families. There’s a bit of academic stuff in there.but really, it’s super practical and there’s a lot of stories and they’re based on my personal experience, as well as based on like I said, folks that I’ve served naturally, confidentiality remains to be protected the identities of whomever I’m talking about, but to really get folks to have something practical, with tips that they can implement in their families and in their businesses to build legacy.
That’s an important point that it’s practical, and it’s really meant for these multi generation businesses. Let me ask a question about that in terms of the reader, are you looking to reach, I’ll call it the senior generation or the next generation, or both?
I think honestly, I see three sets of readers, the senior Gen, the next gen, but also advisors and non family staff who, a lot of the time don’t have deep insight into the family dynamics in the family enterprise system, and may find it awkward to navigate that and to navigate how to assist their clients so those are the three sets but yeah, it’s not just for the next generation or the founders. There’s sections on, why is it difficult for founders to let go, and how can we help them through that? Sections on why is it difficult for next gen xers to grab on and champion change, and how can we also help them through that? Then there’s sections on gaining understanding of family enterprise systems and family dynamics so I see it as one that has tremendous value for those three sets of readers.
It’s something where it can be too late. Right? In our lives, we have only so much time on this planet, and 100% of business owners are going to leave their company one day and if we don’t have these conversations, there can be some fallout. Have you worked with clients and had maybe from your own experiences, case studies where, again, inspiring your book, that if you don’t address these things, while everyone is in the room, proverbially speaking or literally in the room, that there’s a real downside here?
Yeah, unfortunately, I have. I’ve had a case where a founder had built up a conglomerate of different businesses in different industries and set up a trust and the scope of the trust was the businesses as well as the family foundation and didn’t have any conversations with his spouse or the kids and so he transitioned and left four kids; two were married with kids, and his spouse. All the five, four kids and the wife are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the trust and take strategic decisions over the family assets but only one of the kids had had experience working in one of the family businesses.
Also the structure was quite complex, there was a lot of interdependency between various operating businesses, and there had never been a reporting mechanism in terms of providing financial reports to the shareholders, because it was all very informal when dad was in the room and the siblings were all very different, they’d never worked together, they’d never come into partnership before. Mom also didn’t have business expertise so taking strategic decisions together was a bit of a nightmare and they were squabbling in meetings and it was threatening not only the survival of the partnership, but also their family relations.
It got to the point where two of the kids were not turning up for family events, like for Christmas and things like that so that was a real worst case scenario, where it got to the point where I was tried to be pulled into the room to kind of to improve things, but two of the family members were not willing to cooperate with their family members anymore, so it’s really important that when we take a step back as business founders, we invest, yes, and the technical, do talk to your attorneys, draw up trusts and wills, and all these great stuff, but you must have these conversations. You must get into a cadence of articulating the vision and the mission and the values of the family and starting to co-create and it’s important that the siblings start practicing their partnership during the lifetime of the founder, where they understand each other’s personalities, perspective, priorities, preferences, and get into a cadence and a rhythm of working together because they’re moving from being just siblings to being business partners. Sometimes, like I said, like in this case, only one sibling had the expertise for one of the businesses, right? So sometimes they need time to train and coach and guide them in different elements of, say, corporate governance or industry specific experiences or softer skills, leadership and influence navigating family dynamics, conflict management and resolution and these things do take time to develop, so it’s really important to invest in the relational not just the technical.
Yeah, absolutely. One of the chapters you called the importance of connection and emotional proximity. Can you explain a little bit more about that?
Yeah, I’m very passionate about the importance of empathy. Particularly in fact, first because I think this is quite a complicated system where you have multiple stakeholders, and quite often in relationships, in any relationship is really to have productive relationships, it’s important to understand the perspective, priorities, and preferences of the next person and we’ll only get that if we draw near emotionally and, I guess, start to develop deep empathy for one another. A really good way to do that is to develop an empathy map and that requires a lot of listening, it requires a lot of observation, it requires a lot of non judgment and curiosity.
In the book, I share more about empathy mapping, and really it is just what is next? What is Laurie thinking, seeing, hearing, feeling, with respect to the family business? Maybe she’s lost her spouse, she may be the surviving spouse and she may feel like she’s completely out of her depth, has no expertise in this and this business actually is giving her a lot more anxiety than financial security, right. Whereas on the other side, you might have a next generation, feels he’s on path to being successor, and has a completely different perspective and priority. His perspective and priority might be to grow the business operating business to raise cash, or to get investments from institutional investors and things, so it’s only when we draw near emotionally and gain perspective on the next person’s lens through which they see things that we’ll be able to understand each other, and then communicate in a language that is native to the next person, when we’re communicating the ideas and then we’re able to really collaborate and co-create.
An empathy map is something that connects us emotionally, ideally, it seems like this senior member really has to create that space. Because that person sometimes looms large in the culture. And if they don’t open the door to that, let’s say, if there’s two, three children, the next generation in the business, who already are competitive with each other, because they’re siblings, and that’s what they do. They’re probably also very competitive in the work environment and so when the founder passes on, as you said, they left but I assume in that story, they died. It’s difficult, because then they’re left to wrangle with some of these issues themselves, and they may not have the tools to really, to really do it. That’s some of the things that I’ve seen is and if the founder doesn’t really create that environment, for them, I call them the founder of let’s say, the more senior generation, then there’s length, there can be lingering issues that are very difficult to solve, because also, folks are maybe in their 40s, 50s, and they’re set in their ways, it’s hard to change. Have you seen that, where people have been able to change using some of the tools and techniques?
I often deal with the next generation. And I work with them privately, one on one, and I educate them on the systems at play, so self family business, and you can control yourself and it’s really, by gaining mastery and learning more about your emotional makeup and awareness of historical events that have impacted the perspective through which you see things, your personality type and things like that. You can only have complete control over yourself. Right? I educate them on, “Okay, you can improve upon yourself,” and that can impact the system because it is a system, but you can’t control the next person. It’s very difficult when folks are set in their ways and it, I think, speaks to the importance like you were saying, the older generation to make space and make room to start to gain that understanding of the next generation but also there’s room for private work, like inner kind of self development, and then there’s room for collective kind of exploration of who are we, where are we going? I think it’s important to do the two.
One of the other chapters talked about the difference between legacy and sustainability, transforming and transition. I thought that was a really interesting insight. Can we talk a little bit about that? What inspired you to come up with that framework?
Hmm. It’s interesting. It was through my experience just in the family enterprise so I just, I guess we’re in a very dynamic world right now with the technological disruption, this industrial age that we’re in and I feel like it’s really important that families and uprising families are driving change, not just reacting to change and it’s important to drive innovation, it’s important to look for new opportunities. It’s important to always seek new methods, whether it’s investments or new joint ventures, and I think this is strongly colored from my experience living and working in Nigeria, which is a more dynamic environment than in the US but I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from that in that, because we faced so much more political and economic volatility. As a family, we’re constantly trying to drive change. Where’s the new area of growth, whether within the operating business or outside? I think it’s important not just to focus on maintaining and stewarding orders, but also looking at what’s next and growing. That’s, in my view, the distinction between sustainability and really, legacies or transforming. There’s a level of transforming as a family beyond just stewarding and that does require entrepreneurial skills, it requires a skill set, right for the family, as owners, and potentially as operators should they choose to operate their businesses to be able to drive this new opportunities from the owners council or from the boardroom. It requires, also, an eye for relationships, cultivating and building upon win-win partnerships, again, from the top and so yeah, I’m very passionate about families really thinking about, “How can we transform?” That’s not to say to abandon everything we’ve known, but just always keeping an eye on what’s next.
Absolutely, and you and I had a pretty deep dive on that when I came on your show so I want to again, encourage the listeners, we’ll put the link in the show notes, because we spent a good amount of time talking about some innovation processes that mature companies–not just startups–can use just because we are a more mature business, we’ve been around maybe 5, 10, 15 years, 20 years, doesn’t mean we can’t innovate. I think you and I spent a lot of time talking about that so I appreciated seeing that in your book. Again, just to underscore the way you see it is a difference of transformation versus transition. One is perhaps more transactional, right? These things are happening day to day. The other is more strategic and the point being we need to really come up with a strategy and plan around that. This is not easy stuff, right? This is not, “Oh, we’re going to take care of this in an afternoon.” You’re really advocating for a healthy communications process as business partners, and being able to separate from the call it the the interpersonal side of the family, when you’re in the workplace to really think beyond, right? Think beyond those day to day relationships so that you can and I think just to kind of use your words unlock innovation, creativity, intellectual diversity, to bring about transformation. The other question I have for you, Nike, is the next generation. One of the chapters talked about why next generations grapple with championing change, and how we can support them. Is this a message to the senior leaders?
Yeah, to the senior leaders as well as the next generation themselves, for them to gain insight into the challenges that they’re facing. I think a lot of the time, the challenge of the shadow of wealth and the success of a founder does create psychological, like emotional challenges for the next generation in terms of their autonomy and mastery, and their needs really, to be able to see that impact in the family enterprise.
A huge challenge also is that a lot of the time next gen-ers have watched and seen the previous gen turn water into wine, and they’ve watched the previous gen make decisions very intuitively, right? Not necessarily the geniuses in their head and in their hearts and they don’t know how their parents or their grandparents access this genius. They see decisions being made but they don’t understand the process through which decisions are made and that can create a kind of impostor syndrome and questioning of their competence and their leadership capability and so there’s a need for structured learning and structured mentoring, oftentimes, the founding generation are very entrepreneurial, they’re visionaries, very intuitive, and they may not be the best people to provide that structured learning, so they don’t have it in them. There’s a need to bring someone else that is well-versed and trained in those–that understands family systems, and also understands entrepreneurial leadership to guide them, encourage them in those areas.
I think also, a huge issue is the next generation typically are yearning for the new. They want to make an impact ‘yesterday’ and just yesterday, I was mentoring a few next gen-ers and I was educating them on the difference between an evolution and a revolution. Quite often as next generation we want a revolution we get is like, make this laundry list of all the things that are wrong, or we want to change everything that, “Mom this is wrong,” and what have you, and quite often revolutions lead to disaster, and may not actually bring about any change just borders in the system. Whereas if we pursue an evolution, we’re more likely to see greater impact and that’s back to what we were talking about earlier in terms of emotional proximity, understanding the lens through which everyone’s seeing things, communicating in a way that they will hear through deep understanding of, “What matters to Laurie. What are her top three concerns right now in the business?” And how can I ensure that as I’m communicating my ideas, I’m actually addressing those, and I’m able to capture her attention, I’m not lecturing at her. I’m educating her and giving her space for the two of us to co-create together what our future should be, so yeah, I go deep in that that chapter, on the challenges that next gen face, why it is that they often struggle with championing change, and also how they can go about and be more effective and impactful with that.
Super important. I think this is a great book for, certainly, generations who want to be more connected in their business, their family life, and as you said, also the folks who have been hired in from the outside to work with these leaders, and I want to encourage everyone to get the book. How can they find it, Nike?
Thank you, they can find it on my website, that’s nikeanani.com/book. On there, there’s a trailer where you can learn more about the book, there’s sample chapters, as well, so a few chapters where you can read for free and there’s also the link to the book on Amazon, so it’s available on Amazon for delivery worldwide, so wherever you are, you can place your order on Kindle or hardcopy.
Wonderful, and I know you have many quotes in your book, and I love to ask, again, if you have one that you would like to share?
Yeah, I love Peter Strople, ‘legacy is leaving something in people not just leaving something for people’. I think quite often when we think about this space, we can think it’s about leaving assets and that would lead to why families would just draw up a trust or a will, foundation, and it’s done. But it’s not. It’s about skill. It’s about leaving, depositing a skill in the next generation and really about passing on this legacy of entrepreneurship, of collective wisdom, collective learnings, collective know how, which stems from not only the triumphs of the family enterprise and the founder, but also the trials so let’s have those conversations on the good as well as the bad and trying to discover who we are collectively.
Thanks so much for coming on the show Nike, it was great to reunite with you here online and catch up with you because it’s been about a year which is crazy that time flies. Again, congratulations on the launch of your book.
Thank you so much for having me.
Listeners, thank you so much for tuning in. You can always catch Succession Stories on any of your favorite podcast players or YouTube. Don’t forget to like and subscribe to the show! If you want to maximize the value of your business and plan for future transition, reach out to me for a complimentary assessment at meetlauriebarkman.com. Tune in next week for more insights from transition to transaction. Until then…here’s to your success.