Francis Xu Ping


Leading & Transforming Family Businesses - China







By Francis Xu Ping

Leading & transforming my business substantially

What is the average life expectancy of an organisation? A study in 1996 by de Rooji calculated the average life expectancy if firms in Japan and much of Europe, regardless of size, at 12.5 years. Another study by Hewitt in 2004 indicated the average life span of companies to be 12-15 years. A study by Professor Chen Fang in 1999 on Chinese firms, the average life span is 7-8 years for group companies in China. How so short an average life of a company!

Under globalisation, business sustainability has already become a key important issue either in research or practical firm operations.

As one Chinese proverb goes, ‘wealth does not go beyond three generations.’ Currently, family businesses in China have been reaching new growth stages. Each leader envisions a proud future: a firm with an expanded scope that succeeds in delivering value and creating wealth for many generations to come. But the strategies that helped to drive profits and mitigate risk in the past will not be sufficient to transform that future vision into reality.

To overcome above-mentioned challenges and achieve success substantially, I must transform my family firm – passing down great core family value, strengthening governance, increasing innovation, and designing sound growth strategies that take advantage of local and global opportunities.

The family firm was founded by my grandfather and his brothers in 1898. Now, the company is run by my cousins. The firm’s main product is traditional design and making of cloth shoes. I do feel proud of such a company with history of 119 years! I have shared what I’ve learnt from professors and classmates with the cousin who is in charge of the family firm. I have even suggested that he goes to Oxford himself.

Learning at Oxford helped me overcome the strategic and organisational challenges facing today’s family businesses in China. Exploring the best practices from family firms in China and globally, I’ve improved my ability to build competitive advantages, optimise organisational performance, execute smooth leadership transitions, and create a stronger family business.

Some actions have been taken in our company. Although it takes some time to see the tangible output, especially for a big company. But, the below matters are key important for us for long-term growth and transformation:

  • Separate ownership with managerial power;
  • Found a Committee for business transformation, we call it Next-Generation Committee. This Committee is responsible for selection & cultivation of next-generation leader;
  • Found a Family Fund to encourage young generations to make start-up and innovate;
  • Sharpen, brighten and concentrate our core value and core competence; make decision to sell those business that are non-related and low-profitable;
  • Check and re-think what we have not done well in social responsibilities;
  • Invite world-class consulting firm to help us on current relations and process to ensure performance increased continuously;

Learned professors from Oxford teach with excellence by way of the case study method. MPs and successful family business leaders are invited to share with the candidates on government policies and business leadership lessons and experiences. Also the candidates, from diverse fields, can share, teach and learn among themselves.

I also appreciate the warm and professional work by the administration staff from the university. This learning experience was of great help and unforgettable in my life journey.

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