Over the past few months, the theme of what divides us and what connects us together as human beings has been under the microscope. While some choose to focus on how very different we all are, I am more interested in looking at what binds us together – the shared traits that cross over ethnic, racial and national divides. I’ve found time and again, that family and sustaining strong ties across generations is one such shared quality.
In my role as the steward of a second-generation family business, that singular goal of maintaining love and harmony is of prime importance and is what guides our decision-making. When my father established Al-Dabbagh Group in 1962, he went about laying the foundation for a sustainable business that would survive well beyond his lifetime to ensure that we as a family continued to reap the benefits of his work while remaining united and close knit. To do this, he fostered both a culture and a governance system that would contribute to that goal.
Conscious of the fragility of family businesses, often captured in the saying, “The first generation makes the family business. The second generation milks the family business and the third generation auctions the family business”, he understood that the first generation’s focus on income generation can be lost in the second generation’s interest in lifestyle, and finally the third generation’s complete loss of the original generation’s ambition. He wanted to change the ‘milking’ to ‘appreciating’, and the ‘auctioning’ to ‘growing’. To do this, he created the Family Protocol to govern relations among the future generations.
The ultimate objective of this protocol, formulated into a 24-chapter book to be used by the family members, was to establish a finish line for the family, one that would assure that love prevailed, and that would prevent any disputes and conflicts resulting from financial or material concerns.
Each chapter is designed to address a particular aspect that promotes the balance of our ecosystem and requires the co-signing of each family member, which today numbers around 60 individuals and is projected to grow exponentially over the coming generations.
While the Family Protocol addresses all aspects that govern the business and philanthropic activities, we believe that the culture of the family has to be designed to complement the protocol; to provide family members access to opportunities outside the family business. To ensure smooth transitions between generations, we established, Club 32, a foundation to support our family’s desire to raise a generation of responsible and committed global citizens who are more interested in realizing their own dreams than living off the family business.
Named for the 32 members of the third generation, Club 32 supports each member (along with spouses, children and grandchildren), in their efforts to achieve balance across ten different categories in life. We provide mentorship, networking opportunities, funding and activities that are monitored on a quarterly basis and awarded on an annual basis. When family members are busy achieving their own dreams and leaving the running of the business to professionals who are accountable for its success, it’s a winning formula for sustaining.
We host an annual three-day retreat, the Familypreneurship Forum, where we have all family members from the second, third and fourth generations together with global thinkers to discuss ways and means that help in grooming family members to become responsible global citizens to sustain our Giving and Earning activities.
The Familypreneurship Forum complements our Omnipreneurship Forum, which brings together leaders from across the Al-Dabbagh Group businesses as well as our major partners and clients. We use these events to channel and advance Omnipreneurship as an approach – looking at different components and how they can be applied to accelerate our impact.
Both as a family and a family business, we have a whole new set of global challenges to face but also, to embrace and we must remain dogged in our commitment to a sustainable future.