Clinton Armour of ANEW shares his insights and expertise on running a family-owned business in South Africa
Most of the largest companies in any economy are family-owned companies, and, on average, family-owned companies perform better and last longer when compared to other businesses. Clinton Armour, CEO of ANEW Hotels & Resorts, shares why he thinks being family-run has played a huge role in their success even during a global pandemic.
Many of the biggest businesses and multinational companies in the world are family-run, and most of us don’t even know it, including Nike, Volkswagen, Samsung Electronics and Walmart. Traditionally, family businesses are built on strong relationships and genuine care for one another, making for a more personal experience. When those characteristics are linked to hospitality, it makes for an exceptional product. While leisure travel is still rooted in location, there has been a trend towards visitors looking for more authentic experiences and a more hands-on approach, which, oftentimes, is what smaller, family-owned and operated businesses can provide. That said, there are considerable strengths in family businesses, but there can also be weaknesses.
When running and operating a family business, there’s a lot to think about, especially when you consider the personal and business dynamics that come into play. At ANEW, we’re very fortunate to have a level of trust in each other, which is crucial when running a business. Open communication is also high on our priority list because as the business grows and inevitably changes, so will the roles within the company. It is, therefore, vital to create a structure and formalise key roles. No designated roles within the family can lead to a potential weakness where people get involved in different business areas that won’t necessarily be of value to the growth of the business or the individual. So, businesses need to structure good communication and define key roles, ultimately eliminating any potential weaknesses that stem from working with family members. Then, there’s only strength that follows.
The benefits of family-run businesses should also be noted. There’s been a tremendous amount of success stories with family businesses getting involved in communities. For years, family businesses have been tapping into those little pockets of excellence and have become a benefit to the community around them. It is vital as a family business, certainly within a South African context, to realise the importance of transformation and assisting and benefitting the communities around where the sphere of influence is.
It can also be said that family businesses certainly have a competitive advantage, especially in the face of challenges. Let’s look at the COVID-19 pandemic and compare a family-run business like ANEW to a major corporation. We could adapt very quickly and be more agile in our approach to mitigating a potential disaster. We could steer the ship much quicker and make rapid decisions because of the system we’ve created. In times of strife, most healthy families come together to support each other, and that’s what ANEW’s approach was. And while everybody has undoubtedly felt the impact of the pandemic in one way or another, we hope that the vast majority of our staff have really felt comforted being part of our brand and our family during this time.
At ANEW, we’ve got a very particular set of values that we aspire to live and work by. These are honour, integrity, teamwork, excellence and courage. Honour and integrity in everything we do, how we serve our guests, our staff and the community. Teamwork and excellence go hand-in-hand as we’re dedicated to being as meticulous as possible and exceeding expectations. Finally, the courage to not only face but embrace challenges in our way and use these opportunities for learning and growth. I believe that living by these values certainly contributes to our business’s success. As we grow the brand, we continue to make those characteristics and values a part of everything we do.
Ultimately, if you believe in something and you’re determined and passionate about your business, it can become a success. Do your homework and speak to mentors and industry professionals from whom you can learn; people who’ve run the race for a long time and who have industry and business knowledge to pass down. Also, one of the biggest misconceptions business owners have is that a company needs to be successful right away. There’s no quick fix to success; it doesn’t happen overnight. Everything is a learning process. As a business, ANEW has made a point in learning and growing from the challenges we’ve faced. I think the biggest flame in those times of discouragement and hopelessness was our ability to push through and accept the lessons being learnt. Remember that, in those difficult times, without realising it, there are seeds that are being planted that will come into fruition later. So keep pushing through, and of course, don’t give up.