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Kevin Tan on Finding the Balance in Leading the Family Business

By Alyanna Silvestre
Published January 25, 2021

Your family can be your own worst enemy.

While this expression is more commonly used in personal settings, its truth is highly evident in the complicated world of family-owned businesses. The incorporation of the family model undeniably brings unique advantages to an organization as it places them in a better position to achieve long-term growth. However, a great number of family corporations continue to struggle to achieve multi-generational success.

Taking a closer look, the same threads in the family model that are thought to bring success can also unravel the foundations of the business if not properly managed. The desire to put the family first instead of the interest of the business, as well as the lack of structure, balance, and unity within the ownership group, can severely damage the effort to build a strong family enterprise.

So, as several subject matter experts would recommend, family business governance must be activated to ensure that the journey of a promising family-owned business will not be compromised.

Family Business Governance as Told by a Family Business Successor

In ICON Executive Asia managing director Patt Soyao’s previous exclusive interview with Mr. Kevin Tan, the CEO of Alliance Global Inc. (AGI), the tycoon discussed the gravity of embracing family business governance. He started by stating that being a family-owned business does not necessarily translate to making it exclusive to family members.

Through family business governance, the ownership circle is given the avenue to assess the core values and direction, among others, that the company is subjected to. In his case, Tan shared that competency and sound ambition must be the standard criteria imposed upon anyone showing interest in managing the business. This means that qualified family and non-family executives or professionals are to be considered to run the business as they are equally important for the growth of the company.

Upholding such a standard may seem simple in the eyes of an outsider but some family-owned businesses find it difficult to maintain an objective approach when it comes to family members. They tend to worry about the professional and personal repercussions of familial conflict. However, they must be reminded that a lasting legacy is built through the abilities, ambition, and vision of the right professional — part of the family or not — because their talent and drive will propel the enterprise to greater heights.

“Not everybody will have the chance to work for the company. It’s not a birthright. It has to be earned.” — Kevin Tan

In his interview, the highly successful CEO shares that in AGI, the ticket to enter their doors and climb the career ladder is based on meritocracy. Family members who are interested in claiming a position must prove themselves worthy of the spot they are vying for — whether through achievements, credentials, experience, and the like. Meanwhile, relatives who do not exhibit any form of interest or passion to become part of the company are not forced to join.

Taking family governance a notch higher, it is ingrained in each employee of their company that as soon as the governance and succession plan is in place, it must not be disrupted nor changed to accommodate anyone who suddenly comes into the picture. In his own experience, Tan realized that the governance plan must remain firm. If the family and important non-family executives follow it faithfully, success from generation to generation will be attainable.

As we’ve said in the beginning, your family can be your own worst enemy. But with a solid family business governance in place, they don’t have to be.

For a unique opportunity to gain further insights from Kevin Tan on leading a family business towards long-term success and preserving a business legacy, we invite you to join us, along with the second-generation Tan himself and esteemed global family business experts like Prof. Enrique Soriano from W+B Advisory Group and Dr. Josh Baron from Harvard Business Review, in our upcoming exclusive executive event titled Family Business Continuity: Ensuring a Fail-Proof Succession Plan.

Set to take place on August 19 (Saturday) at Crown Plaza Manila Galleria's Grand Ballroom B from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., this exclusive executive event, organized by W+B Advisory Group in partnership with Icon Executive Asia, offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn from industry leaders and engage in meaningful discussions. Secure your spot now to gain valuable insights and practical strategies for ensuring the long-term success of your family business.

Limited seats are available. Reserve your place today. Register HERE!

For additional information and to access exclusive event promo discounts, please reach out to Marivi at Icon Executive Asia via email at

Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent any mentioned entity’s official policy or position.