How family businesses can create a meaningful future

30 September 2022

Family businesses have been at the forefront of change in the UAE for generations, thanks to their commitment to the vision outlined by the nation’s leadership. 

Historically a driving force for advancement, they remain a staple component of the UAE’s commercial ecosystem today: synonymous with trust and recognised for their vital role in driving job creation and economic growth.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in some 70 per cent of business leaders in the UAE forming a stronger connection to their purpose, according to a November 2020 KPMG report entitled A different service for a new reality.

In an era of global uncertainty, purpose is the North star, defining why a business exists and guiding family businesses as they move to transform and innovate in order to stay relevant and competitive – both now and in the future. 

Further, consumers, employees and shareholders alike are increasingly paying attention to how companies go about their business: from operating models and treatment of their people to the values they display.

Alignment of corporate and personal purpose is now imperative across all stakeholder groups, and future success for family businesses will depend as much upon being recognised for their social contribution as their commercial leadership.

Aspirational view

For some, this will mean a seismic shift in mindset, which must be borne out of strategic intent. To make this shift, a clear and articulate vision of the future is a valuable, and indeed essential, tool.

If purpose is the North star, providing direction, a vision paints the picture of the future; it is an aspirational view of the destination along the way. For every stakeholder touchpoint, a vision brings alignment, structure and clarity, especially during times of unprecedented change. 

Al-Ghurair Investment has built a 60-year history founded on its pivotal role in the country’s evolution and for making bold moves with a progressive mindset. Today, we embrace that legacy into the core of who we are, and look to our next chapter, launching an all-new vision that incorporates our history and our future: ‘Pioneers in the pursuit of better to enhance life, every day’.

Pioneering passion

The UAE’s ongoing transformation has ushered in a new era of opportunities for family businesses, energising us to always stay one step ahead of the times.

That means embracing change as a constant and being agile in our ability to adapt and respond to market trends and movements. 

Our transformation journey emphasises innovation, driving us to make bold moves that disrupt – thereby consistently raising the benchmark and expanding consumer choice.

From a legacy built upon groundbreaking moments: establishing the first flour mill, the first canola seed crushing plant, the first cement company and being first-to-market with a multi-use mall, we retain our pioneering spirit and have bold intentions to add many more firsts to our future story. 

Future success will depend as much upon being recognised for their social contribution as their commercial leadership

John Iossifidis, Al-Ghurair Investment

Pursuing better for all

To remain at the forefront of development, family businesses need to continuously up their game to become better for customers, employees, shareholders and society.

Customer priorities and behaviours are shifting, and brand loyalties are continuously being tested. In a recent customer intelligence report, four out of five UAE consumers have switched brands at least once in the past year.

There are growing expectations around improving customer experiences. Managing digital touchpoints, customer insights and data analysis are critical. It is encouraging to see family businesses in the region treating digitalisation as a top strategic priority going forward, with cost reduction no longer the primary driving force. 

The focus should be on shaping customer journeys that resolve pain points and build moments that not only satisfy but delight. 

Finally, for every business decision made, family businesses need to keep an eye on the country’s future, investing in sectors that drive local economic development and social advancement for generations to come. 

Through our partnership with the Abdulla al-Ghurair Foundation for Education, we invest in and enable the development of Emirati and Arab youth, building better livelihoods through education. Furthermore, conscious mindfulness towards sustainability is an increasing imperative – focusing on circularity, waste reduction and managing carbon footprints.

Enhancing life, every day

From the beginning, we pledged to enhance life in the community by entering sectors that are core to customer needs, that advance society and make a meaningful contribution. All our efforts are guided towards facilitating the ‘ecosystem of life’ – feeding people, housing people, educating people or bringing communities together. 

Achieving sustainable change is not just about big, symbolic efforts, but the smaller moments, where our daily actions can make a genuine difference. 

We believe family businesses need to build a culture around pursuing ‘being better’ every day, whether through how they serve their customers or how efficiencies are built into internal processes.

We ask ourselves every day at Al-Ghurair: “What can we do better today?” as this is how we can fulfil our larger purpose and vision for the UAE.

In doing so, we seek to collectively lead the business into a new era of growth: becoming more progressive, people-oriented, value-driven and guided by a focus on sustainable excellence – all while creating value for all our stakeholders. 

The Al-Ghurair family is woven into the fabric of the country’s rich heritage and economic growth. I believe there is much to be excited about when I look towards the future of the UAE and our organisation’s role within it.
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