By Amanda Ellen Nicola Jojo
“Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” is perhaps the most predominant figurative expression of the permanency of family businesses. The proverbial saying which is attributed to American industrialist Andrew Carnegie insinuates that wealth rarely survives a family business past three generations because for a family-owned enterprise, legacy is often defined from the perspective of wealth distribution.
However, an emergent body of research indicates that family owned operations outperform non-family owned ones in every sector across the globe over the long term. Family owned businesses represent a critical component of economies by generating significant business activity and prosperity.
The Entrepreneurial Magazine Editor Amanda Jojo (AJ) caught up with the award winning business woman with over 12 years experience, Tsitsi Mutendi (TM) who is the co-founder of African Family Firms, an expert in family governance, family business advisor, family office consultant, facilitator speaker and author. Tsitsi has been to most parts of the world in a bid to achieve her goals. Her story is a testimony that the much-cited-third-generation curse does not always prevail.
Below are the key takeaways from the interview:
AJ: May you please tell us a brief background of yourself. On your foundations of the woman you are today, what are your values?
TM: I am a third generation family business member. Meaning I come from an enterprising family background. Both my grandparents and then my parents owned family businesses and I now own my own family businesses. I believe in the power of family businesses and the impact they make on communities and societies. My values as a business owner and an individual are
1. Integrity – you cannot go anywhere if you do not have integrity. It is how we build our name and our reputation.
2. Humility – We all learn from each other and no one is better than the other person. We all bring value to the table. So no matter how much better you may feel or see you are stay humble. Allow others to lead and step up to help.
3. Honesty – Whilst the truth may not always be what we want or need to hear, it is necessary when building up trust and relationships. I try as much as possible to be honest as it is the cornerstone of collaboration.
4. Hard work- Without it we cannot be successful. Be mindful of how you fill up your days because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. I believe when we are working hard and smart we are productive.
AJ: Your passion for developing multi-generational business is unmatchable. What triggered your desire to follow this path and why did you decide to start a business venture in that area?
TM: I wouldn’t say I started a business venture in this area as much as I would say I developed a calling and discovered there were others similar to me who helped families like my own and those I saw whilst growing up to transition the challenges of working as families in and with a business. Once I realised I had the opportunity to share what I learnt and help others navigate this space I jumped right in and started doing the work. And as everyone in my industry knows, “if you have met one family, then you have met one family. No two families are the same. Each one is unique, so I get the honour and privilege to learn from their knowledge and experience whilst I share the tools that I know that may assist them navigate their journey.
AJ: You have been a distinguished leader and entrepreneur what important lessons have you learnt from your entrepreneurship and leadership journey? What does it mean to you to be a courageous leader in these times?
TM: Thank you for the kind words. It’s encouraging to be seen by those outside the trenches of the everyday grind. I would say I have many lessons that I am learning every day. But some of the most powerful for me have been
1. The African proverb “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go with others” I truly believe in collaboration and team work. When we work alone we miss out on great ideas and lessons that come with being a part of a collective who are pushing for the success of the vision.
2. No is the beginning of a negotiation. It is always important to understand why “No” the response give is. It may be because of many reasons other than the assumptions made by the person on the receiving end. Understanding why may turn the No into a Yes and may lead to a fruitful relationship. 3. Be solution orientated. In a world full of problems, the true success story is the person who works on finding and creating solutions. Take the solutions focused approach to all that you do and you may find there is more opportunities than there is threats or disappointments.
4. Self-care is not a luxury. When you put yourself first you are not being selfish you are instead creating a version of you who can pour into other people in a positive way. When we are stressed and angry and frustrated we only spread more of that. However when we are happy and content we also spread that and create spaces where others can thrive. As a leader this is necessary so that you can do the hard things and be objective and exemplary as you lead your team.
5. Rome was not built in a day. Anything that will last the test of time and change will take time to build and it it must be on a strong foundation with sturdy material. Success does not come overnight. It comes over many years of hard work perseverance and resilience.
AJ: African Famil y Firms is the biggest African Business Association on the globe; can you tell us the services offered by this firm and what is the secret behind its success? In addition tell us more about your other ventures?
TM: African Family Firms is a community based non-profit organisation whose focus is to bring together African Family Businesses and Family Offices to explore how these important organisations can continue to grow as multigenerational businesses. Family Businesses are the bedrock of global economies, so it is pertinent that they find the right resources to support them as they continue to build out industries and economies. The four pillars of AFF as listed on our website are Community, Education, Research and Advocacy. All working towards creating the right support, resources and networks as well as opportunities of current generation leaders and as well as future generation leaders of African Family Businesses, from the mom and pop start-ups to the multinational conglomerates, all these organisations are led by fearless and innovative families and by so doing they create jobs and create innovative products and services that change our communities and our lives in many ways. I am the co-founder of AFF with the amazing Nike Anani. Outside AFF, I have my Family Advisory practice Nhaka legacy which works with Families to set up Family Governance as well as to set up impactful philanthropy initiatives. I am a third generation family business owner. I have 3 other businesses, a 14year old publishing firm, a 5 year old primary school, and a 4year old Tech firm. I hope to continue growing the family businesses I have founded to be multigenerational so that I can fulfil a dream my parents and grandparents had when they started their own ventures.
AJ: How was it like establishing a business as a foreigner and how did the community receive your products or services?
TM: As long as I am in Africa, I will never be a foreigner. I realise that the continent has its challenges and we have been at times plagued with Xenophobia. But I chose to stay in Africa and travel to its different regions sharing the work that I do because I know that as a continent we have a lot to build and the only way we can do so is through collaboration. Similar so I have found myself in different regions of the world because of the work I do and in my various capacities and I have found that if you bring solutions and new perspectives to the right spaces, people may at first be unsure because all things new draw scepticism. But with time the value of what I bring to the table allows the doors to open.
AJ: How has been the experience of working away from home?
TM: I enjoy the opportunity of being exposed to places and spaces that allow me to grow and learn.
AJ: Do you see yourself expanding your business to Zimbabwe or investing back home business wise?
TM: I am heavily invested in Zimbabwe and it is my base.
AJ: Challenges are part of the package that comes with entrepreneurship. Kindly share with us the challenges that you faced or facing in your journey as an entrepreneur.
TM: There is a saying I once heard that Pioneers get shot. Being a pioneer in a variety of products and services in most of my businesses has been a challenge. Educating customers and showing them the future of our products and services is not always easy and it takes time and resilience. As I continue to break the ceiling I have sometimes struggled with reminding myself that I am doing this because I want my next generation family members to succeed and I want to add value to the communities I serve.
AJ: Do you have any social responsibility initiatives?
TM: I work with a lot of families in setting up philanthropic ventures that are impactful to the communities that benefit from them as well as defining for the families that give in the various ways they decide work for themselves and their family.
AJ: Kindly share with us any other projects that you have in the pipeline?
TM: I would like to continue growing the organisations I am currently invited in and hopefully see new innovative ideas coming from them.
AJ: Kindly share your milestones with us.
TM: 2010 DanTs Media was launched, in 2011 JEWEL Magazine, arguably Zimbabwe’s biggest Glossy Magazine was established, 2012 MUCHA couture began making African print ready to wear which was later distributed by Edgars Stores, 2013 Edgars Club Magazine was relaunched in collaboration with DanTs Media, 2017 Mutendi Montessori was Launched, in 2019 African Family Firms was Established, in 2020 DanTs Digital was Established, 2022 the work continues.
AJ: As a role model yourself what advice would you offer women who want to be game changers? Are there any strategies you can share to help these women overcome obstacles to advancement?
TM: 1. Know yourself –Know your strengths and weaknesses and ensure you play your strengths and balance out your weaknesses.
2. Success is up to you– You need to walk in faith that you are amazing and that you bring value to every conversation or project you participate in. Make sure you bring your best foot forward and don’t be afraid to walk away if something contradicts your values or self worth.
3. Obstacles are opportunities for growth. Resilience is part of growth. When you fail get back up knowing that you have learnt something. Failing is part of the journey to growth. You are not always going to win. You will lose and face challenges. But these will be your vital lessons to being better than you were yesterday