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Get your head out of the clouds, Rome was not built in a day...

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

Succession and Estate planning is a long and complicated road, littered with highs and lows. In my first article, we explored the fact that Family businesses, which compromise of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), are critical to the survival of most economies globally. When summarised, these businesses are the lifeblood of the past, present, and future successes of all economies. We also explored the statistics of Succession and Estate Planning and how it affects these businesses going into the future. Lets talk about foundations.


We have all heard of Rome, the ancient empire built by the Romans. A fact you may not know is that the city of Rome gave its name to the great civilization we now know as the Roman Empire. Let me be clear about the fact that back in the 8th century when the first foundations of the city began, the story did not start with a sudden great city. According to the founding myth of Rome, the city was founded on 21 April 753 BC on the banks of the River Tiber in central Italy, by the twin brothers Romulus and Remus. The reality is, it probably started with a group of people, who belonged to the same family who then got together with other families, and decided to live together for whatever good reasons they may have had.


Moreover, they then decided on who would live where, and who would do what to make their community live harmoniously. The founders most likely considered different sites for their city, but this particular site was chosen because it was to their advantage. Eventually, other families joined them at this site, and a hierarchy was formed. Through history, we learn that this settlement developed a desire to grow and become more prominent, and eventually, the small village became a vast empire with a complex structure and management. From its foundations in the 8th century BC and the abdication of the last Roman Emperor, the empire lasted for 500 years. Yes, 500 long years. More-so, the buildings of the ancient city still stand until this day in 2019. Significantly, the organized and structurally sound organisations built during that time, like the Roman Catholic Church still stand and are one of the wealthiest organisations in the world. 


You may be wondering what all this has to do with you the small business owner. Well, if you look at the beginning of my narration, I spoke about the beginning. It was a family or group of families who set up their home by a river and decided that this was where they would like to build. Today, you may be that family or visionary head of your family. Alternatively, you may not yet have set up your family. However, whoever you are, you have a clear picture of your needs. Also, the setting up of your business was based on a solid reason. It could have been more money, solving a societal problem, or just following your passion. Whatever your reason, you are now in a space where you have a small to medium-sized business. A business that has, many possible futures. Whether these futures are successful or not depend on the following:


Do you have a vision for your future?

Most small business owners start their business as just a side project or something that "may" make some extra money. On the other hand, some start their business with a picture of grandiose etched in their minds. No matter what category you fall under, be assured that you must have a clear picture of what the end will look like for the business you have started. Do you foresee it as just a side project that won't go past you and your kitchen counter or your dining room? Alternatively, would you like your business to expand into something bigger? What is the biggest you can see your dream becoming? What is your Rome? You have to see your vision clearly and write it down somewhere. Because your vision is the beginning of your empire. Most importantly, a dream written down becomes a goal.


Are you surrounding yourself with the right people to help you build this vision?

When the first settlement of Rome was established, I'm confident that the settlors were a group of people who had a similar mission or at least, believed in the vision of the founders. They wanted the same future and worked together to make it possible. 

Are you surrounded by people with the same vision as you?

When you hire people to join your business or invite people to join your board, do they see the same vision? 

Do they want to reach the same goals? They may have different skill sets, obviously, (as they have different functions in your business), but are they focusing their skills and knowledge to build the empire you envision? If you bring onto your team, people who will drive your vision, you will spend a lot less time trying to manage your team, and instead, you will focus on those critical areas that need your expertise to drive your vision forward.

Many business owners, at all levels, believe that they can do it alone. However, history has proved that trying to tackle significant tasks needs the right, tools, skills, and expertise. The two primary human resources you need in your business are: 

In-house skills. Those who run the business every day and know it intimately and know the business vision clearly. 

External skills. Those individuals, who are not tainted by the politics of the organization and come with knowledge from outside the business box, aimed at driving the business goals forward.


Take a look into your business and ask yourself based on the narrative of Rome, whether you have a vision that can grow into the next million-dollar corporation. Does your company bring a product or service that will change the business landscape? Have you managed to draw to you the right group of people to help you to build your vision alongside you? Ensure you have the right tools and guidance for setting the foundation in place to make this happen.


Rome is a wonder, but right here in Africa, we too had great cities and civalisations like the Ancient Egyptians and the Ancient Rozvi Kingdom whose cities have survived in ruin to this day for us to see that we can build greatness.

Like this Comparison and narrative, over the next few weeks, I will be introducing you to a few business owners who may sound familiar to your situation or that of a business you know. Hopefully, after I share their stories, you will be better placed to help yourself or find assistance that will help build your solid foundation..


#FamilyBusiness #Succession #Estateplan

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