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What it takes to keep a family business afloat

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st September 2014 01:04 PM

The family has been the beginning of many successful businesses world over. Global brands like Walmart, Samsung, Fiat and BMW grew from small family companies to become billion-dollar empires.

What it takes to keep a family business afloat

The family has been the beginning of many successful businesses world over. Global brands like Walmart, Samsung, Fiat and BMW grew from small family companies to become billion-dollar empires.

By Michael Kanaabi

The family has been the beginning of many successful businesses world over. Global brands like Walmart, Samsung, Fiat and BMW grew from small family companies to become billion-dollar empires.


Thirty percent of the world’s companies whose gross worth is estimated at over $1b (sh2.6 trillion) in 2013 are family-controlled, according to a 2013 global survey research.

Locally, an there is an emerging class of indigenous Ugandans owning large family businesses although most are yet to go past their first and second generations.

The Mulwana Group of Companies founded by James Mulwana (deceased) is now being run by his wife and children, Wavah Group still under the control of the founder Gordon Wavamuno, Walusimbi’s Garage now run by his wife and children, Sekalala Enterprises and Ugachick started by Aga Sekalala senior, are emerging empires.

With some of these businesses already changing hands from the founders to the next generation, the challenge of keeping them afloat without the wisdom and expertise of the founder starts to show face.

How the thriving ones are doing it


Haider Somani, the proprietor of Metropolitan properties and forex bureaus, says you have to involve your children the business as early as possible.

“When they are young they see the way you run the family affairs with your spouse in the house, how you balance your books, maybe at meal time, and then begin to be inquisitive.

“My business was mainly in commodity and forex following my return from exile in the 1980s. However, when I realised their was a huge profit potential in real estate development I decided to venture there. To make the work run efficiently, I brought my son, Karim Somani, on board,” he says.

James Kiwanuka, the proprietor of Capital Outdoor Uganda Ltd, an outdoor advertising company says: “I brought my family in from the start. My children and wife know all the company’s financial details, how we work and the children are actually employed in the company as directors in various positions.

“The advantage with this is that since the children are involved in every aspect of the business, they can ably run the company without me. It also ensures the company’s long term growth and stability.

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