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Five Minutes With…Lynn Zovighian, MD, Zovighian & Partners

Five Minutes With…Lynn Zovighian, MD, Zovighian & Partners

The broader participation of women in their family businesses will instigate an incredible change in the private sector, says Zovighian.

In a nutshell, what does Zovighian & Partners do?

We are a family-owned private practice that supports the next-generation in developing respected participatory and decision-making roles in their family’s businesses, wealth, and philanthropic interests. So in a nutshell, we advise on succession, provide education and coaching, help professionalise wealth assets, and help set-up, manage, and restructure family offices and investment arms.

What is your company focusing on this year?

2014 will be about putting the right blocks in place to spring board from start-up mode to organised business-building mode. This year is about building a brand name and defining a new standard of excellence in the private advisory space. It will also be about learning as much as possible, both from the families and next-gens we support, and from our own experiences in translating vision into practice.

What are the current growth areas for your industry?

Our clients themselves are a significant contributor to growth: the next-generation are taking over their family businesses. Our clients understand the need to prepare themselves for succession, and are seeking out the right advice to become principal wealth builders and caretakers for their families.

The even bigger growth market is women. You cannot talk about next-gens without talking about women. The broader participation of women in their family businesses will instigate an incredible change in the private sector and society at large.

What are some of the challenges faced by family businesses in the region when it comes to handing over the reins?

How can I give my sons and daughters technical and emotional ownership of the family business? Where do I begin? How can I prove myself to my family? How can we bridge the cultural differences between ruling and upcoming generations? It is difficult to sleep well at night when these questions are constantly on your mind.

As a starting point, I think it helps to build your own knowledge base, surround yourself with the best (not cheapest) talent, and never accept anything that is less than excellent. I strongly believe that when it comes to family, good is just not good enough.

How important is a proper governance structure in family businesses? Do family businesses in the GCC realise the importance of having a proper governance structure?

Family governance and family business governance are all important. I think what is critical is that governance be viewed as a serious exercise and experience and not as a handbook or page on a family business website. Understanding how your family can bring out the best in itself is no easy task, and as families grow and evolve, that configuration will change. In many ways, the governance exercise never really ends.

Yes, many families in the GCC absolutely recognize the importance of good governance. I am always amazed when I meet and listen to families who have sought out the literature and advice to better understand good practices. They are right in putting the effort to be as informed as possible about such matters.

Do the region’s family businesses face a lack of governance structure?

Some families have put in place very natural and business-friendly governance principles, which they are able to breathe and live on a daily basis.

But we also find families who tell us their family constitutions and governance protocols do not really reflect their true being. They feel that they went through a governance exercise that was not intensive and thorough enough, and are still asking themselves questions such as: “Who are we?” and “Who do we want to become?” Some have told us the exercise moved too quickly to asking, “What do we need to get ‘there’?” without understanding what ‘there’ is and can be.

What we also hear from many families is they have stopped at the planning and creation of their governance documents, and are concerned about implementation and how to implement in the right way.

Why are women so important in family businesses and how is the participation of women in GCC family businesses growing?

We are seeing an increasing number of patriarchs inviting their daughters – who hold higher education degrees in top international institutions and have had serious professional experiences – to join the business at the management and board level.

There is a big difference between participating in a family business and becoming a sought-after and well-respected decision-maker in a family business. Family businesses, by involving their women, have the opportunity to transform their decision-making culture into one that invites accountability and naturally promotes a check and balance, because women do not fear saying “I don’t know.” Recognizing you do not know something becomes the opportunity to seek out knowledge, and women feel there has not been enough emphasis on proper knowledge building in their families in the past.

Is your company planning to launch any new services this year?

We are in start-up mode, so yes, absolutely! We are still rolling out our full offering, so much of it will be introduced to the market this year.

Will you be expanding into new territory?

At the moment, we have our hands very full with our client-facing work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and our intellectual capital-building work in London and Geneva.

But one market that I am really excited to take on very seriously is India. I am keen to seriously commit to Indian family businesses we know well, where their next-gens are extremely educated and ambitious and want our support.

All that said, our value proposition is a global one and one that crosses geographic borders. We like to work with families who are in the state of mind where they not only seek out our advice, but also respect it, and take ownership of it. So we will go wherever this state of mind takes us.

Will you be hiring this year?

Talent building and business-building go hand in hand. We run internship programs throughout the year. Until now, we have recruited four interns from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon and London Business School in the UK. Our call for talent will be on our website next month for this year’s summer program.

What’s your leadership style?

I would probably have to say a combination of transformational and coaching leadership. It is important to command the respect of those around you and mobile people together towards a goal they are inspired by. I find the best way to do so is to help bring out the best in people and to let them take ownership of certain projects to excite them while also enforcing accountability and responsibility.

What makes the perfect employee?

Our line of business requires an incredible amount of travel, passion, sensitivity, and technical capabilities. The perfect team member is one I can depend on to independently deliver at an agreed-upon standard of excellence. Even more, the perfect team member is one who is an ambassador of not only our brand, but also our passion and belief in impact.

Define success in five words…

To deliver and sustain impact.

Three tips for becoming the boss…

1.Have a vision others can take ownership of.
2.Learn to say no, especially to temptations that could have negative long-term ramifications.
3.Listen. Listen to those you like to listen to, and to those you don’t like to listen to. You will never know what learning opportunity you miss out on unless you keep both eyes and ears perked up.

When I’m not at work I like to…

Jog distances of 5-10km out in the sun, swim, visit art shows, absorb global happenings through Twitter, and spend time with the people I care for.

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