BOARD TALK | iconic

Custodians of Prosperity: Franco's Path of Stewardship

By Alyanna Joyce Silvestre
Published March 06, 2024

In an era where family-owned businesses grapple with the challenges of adaptation and continuity, the delicate balance between tradition and innovation serves as a true test not just to owners but to heirs—one that Franco Soberano may have already cracked.

During the latest webinar hosted by W+B Advisory Group, Soberano offered profound insights into his leadership journey, addressing a pressing issue that plagues many family enterprises: the intricate dance between honoring tradition and embracing innovation. Born into the legacy of Cebu Landmasters, Franco's journey into the world of business was anything but conventional. Opting to carve his own path, Franco sought experience outside his father's company, eager to prove himself beyond the shadow of familial expectations. Armed with corporate insights and academic prowess, he eventually returned to the fold, ready to make his mark – and that he did.

But his return wasn't without its challenges. Upon rejoining the family business, Franco found himself in a clash of perspectives with his father, Joe Soberano. Their differing viewpoints sparked heated debates and tested the bounds of their relationship. Yet, amidst the discord, a glimmer of understanding emerged – a recognition of shared values and a mutual commitment to the company's success.

Now serving as the Director, Senior EVP, and COO of Cebu Landmasters, Franco imparts invaluable insights garnered from his experiences—a testament to the importance of humility, professionalism, and continuous learning–which includes tips for founders dealing with intergenerational succession and next-generation successors poised to take on leadership roles within family-owned businesses:

Cultivate patience, humility, and a zero-entitlement mindset.

True succession within a family business, leading to decades of success, is a gradual process that demands time, dedication, and patience—one that must be devoid of any sense of entitlement or privilege based on bloodline alone. Next-generation successors should be ready to glean wisdom from seasoned leaders and secure their positions through diligence and commitment rather than assuming entitlement due to their family ties. This approach fosters an environment of mutual respect and collaboration among different generations within the family and the company, which aids in ensuring a smooth transition of leadership and the preservation of the family business's legacy.

Recognize that it's never too late or too early to start preparing for leadership.

Whether a successor is still in school or already working within the family business, initiating leadership development early is crucial. This may entail pursuing relevant education, gaining work experience outside the family business, or seeking mentorship from experienced professionals. Beginning early allows successors to gradually cultivate their leadership abilities and gain confidence in their capabilities over time.

Regarding the possibility of commencing leadership training later in life, every moment offers opportunities for learning and growth. Thus, even if a successor embarks on their leadership journey at a later stage, they can still make significant progress through dedication and commitment. The key lies in taking proactive steps to initiate the process.

For the preceding generations, providing exposure to the family business and guiding the next generation through its fundamentals are beneficial. This early introduction fosters a sense of responsibility, ownership, and passion for the business, ensuring continuity and sustainability across generations. However, it's important not to overwhelm them. Imposing too much may stifle their creativity, impede their exploration of interests and talents, hinder their personal growth, and potentially deter their full engagement in the business when they decide to participate.

Founders should not adjust to the next generation; instead, it's the responsibility of the new generation to adapt.

Succession within a family business is a two-way street for both founders and successors. While founders should not feel compelled to conform to the preferences or expectations of the next generation within the family business, it is crucial that they remain receptive to new ideas and perspectives, fostering an environment where innovation can thrive. Meanwhile, while it is incumbent upon the new generation to adapt to the existing framework established by the founders, they must not shy away from challenging the status quo and introducing fresh approaches to drive growth and sustainability. The key here is for the founding generation to be firm yet open, maintaining the core values and vision of the business while embracing change and evolution. Similarly, the next generation of leaders should be respectful of the founders' legacy and innovative in their thinking, honoring tradition while charting a course for the future.

Embrace the concept of stewardship.

For family business owners, their businesses represent more than just commercial ventures; they embody the culmination of their hard work, vision, and values—they are their legacy. So, with respect to that, Franco underscored the significance of taking care of the business not just for the present generation but also for the generations to come – hinting at the importance of becoming stewards for the long-term sustainability and prosperity of the business. In other words, in contrast to simply being owners or managers or heirs and successors, Franco believes that it is crucial to elevate the role within the business to that of a caretaker of something greater than themselves, committed to preserving and nurturing the business for the benefit of both current and future stakeholders. This mindset shift from mere ownership to stewardship fosters a sense of responsibility, integrity, and long-term vision that is essential for the sustained success of family enterprises.

By embracing the concept of stewardship, family business owners can ensure that their businesses thrive not only in the present but also endure for years to come.