"Status and possibilities" were the keywords of the past, today it is "meaning"


Dünya | May 27, 2019

The Dünya article, “’Status and Possibilities’ were the keywords of the past; Today it is ‘meaning’,” quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Burak Gorbon on family businesses, leadership and preparing for the future. The article is excerpted below.

Burak Gorbon who began his career in 1994 at Gorbon Işıl, which was founded by his grandfather, as the head of the department in charge of Business Development and Strategy, is today the partner responsible for the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey in Russell Reynolds Associates, a company that focuses on placing and evaluating world’s leading high-level executives. He advises tomorrow's leaders and prepares companies for the future.

I asked Burak Gorbon what was wrong with his grandfather's company and, if he had a chance to go back in time, what advice he would give to the managers of the day.

Gorbon's recommendations are worth considering for companies that want to stay strong in the future…

Accountability must be a company value

“Turkish companies do not have a much different course of development than companies in other parts of the world. Yet, they are young especially in comparison with European companies and they are just in first or second generations. For that matter, many family companies are just beginning the process of transitioning from the first to the second generation and the founders are still at work. The biggest challenge ahead of our family companies is to successfully complete this transformation and intergenerational transition, and to have a contemporary approach to corporate governance and family-business relations. I come across two different categories of family companies. The first one is the families that are not interested in this matter and suppose that intergenerational transition will happen by itself. The second one is the families who value corporate governance and intergenerational transition. I do not prefer to comment on the sustainability of the companies in the first category. Throughout my career, I have seen that these issues do not get resolved themselves.

In terms of sustainability of the companies in the second category, there are three important issues:

First of all, the relations and responsibilities between family members, meaning the shareholders, executives, and board members, need to be defined in a transparent manner. Secondly, it needs to be underlined that institutionalization does not merely mean employing professionals, and a professional management system should be well-defined for each executive. It is very important that accountability of every single person is considered as one of the company values. Third, it is necessary for the shareholders to increase their knowledge and competencies in the basic topics regarding company management and to attend training programs to address their deficiencies when necessary.”

Companies that add value to society gets the best workforce

“It is important for the new generation, and in fact for all of us, to do something meaningful or to have a purpose, a target -beside making money- in the job that one has. I see that this evolution happens naturally. Today, those of the new graduates with the highest potential are grabbed up by the companies that have “a purpose” other than making profits and that add value to society. This trend will gain traction. Each company questions itself in this respect and rightly so. If the key business term of the past was "status and possibilities", I suppose the one for this age is "meaning"....

If I could go back in time, I would give 3 basic tips to Gorbon Işıl

1. The relations, powers and responsibilities between shareholders that worked in the company and those that did not should have been regulated in a transparent manner. There were difficulties in decision making.

2. There was a definite need to include independent, experienced, and knowledgeable individuals who would be respected by family members to the board or advisory board.

3. Decisions regarding the assets of the family members should have been separated from the decisions regarding company management. For instance, pledging family assets as collateral for corporate debt is a decision that involves the entire family, not only staff and executives of the company. But, in our case it was intertwined.

“The era of I know everything well, has stayed well behind”

Burak Gorbon lists three main factors that distinguish the future leaders from the others:
1. Leaders who have internalized their mission, are passionate about their job, and run toward the targets that they believe in, come to fore. In order to be successful, it is necessary to analyze very quickly and efficiently and to transform this analysis into a strategy. The only way to do this is to focus on and concentrate into your business.

2. The second main feature is to be able to grasp the details, yet also being able to see the bigger picture without getting lost in detail. Successful leaders have a natural ability to distinguish between important and the unimportant.

3. The third feature is to be able to focus on the organization, on the results and in general on their environment and surroundings more than their own selves. In a world that changes so fast, it is very important to weigh what you know or not, to be open-minded, to see your deficiencies and to be able to engage in active learning. I am talking about an understanding of leadership that is able to take important and difficult decisions quickly when necessary, express opinions in a forceful manner; yet, more modest in general and open to learning. The era of “I know everything well” is now behind us.

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"Status and possibilities" were the keywords of the past, today it is "meaning"