Family Business through Generations – Humaid Ahmed Al Tayer

By Rodrigo Basco

1All you need is trust,” said Humaid Ahmed Al Tayer, vice president of Al Tayer Group, in his talk at American University of Sharjah organized as part of the Guest Lecture Series by the Sheikh Saoud bin Khalid bin Khalid Al-Qassimi Chair in Family Business. Trust is the building block of family businesses and is the main intangible resource integrating family-business relationships and securing continuity from one generation to another.

Humaid Ahmed Al Tayer shared his personal experience with management students in the fundamentals of family business course. As part of the third generation of his family’s business, our guest acknowledged the importance of managing generations’ expectations, goals, and ambitions by defining a clear family firm corporate governance structure linking the needs of the family and the firm. Nevertheless, he warned students to be wary of using pre-defined solutions, highlighting that “one size does not fit all.” He encouraged the audience to adopt the best possible solution (e.g., organization, structure, policies) emerging from family members and other stakeholders, stating that when the family is able to generate its own solution to owning, governing, and managing the firm, most family members will recognize and respect the agreement.

2Before any agreement or rule is established, family members should generate trust not only among themselves but also with non-family employees, customers, suppliers, creditors, the government, and so on. When someone from the audience asked, “How is someone able to get trust from others?” he answered cheerfully, “Trust is about compassion and sympathy for those that are around you and working with you. It is about your family culture. It is about achievement and to what extent you respect your own and others’ words. It is about respect, and finally, it is about your behavior.”

Management students interacted with Humaid Ahmed Al Tayer through a ping pong of questions and answers. Al Tayer encouraged students to lead their firms by integrating all family members in the process, and gave advice on how to avoid nepotism by establishing clear rules between the family and the firm and by creating space for dialogue. He defined his own family as a “family-first family,” which uses the firm as an instrument to keep the unity, legacy, and history of the family alive. However, his family firm has a business-first orientation.

In his final remarks on how to give sense to the family business, Humaid Ahmed Al Tayer emphasized the importance of reflecting on the following question: Why are we working in our family firms? “You are there [in the firm] for the family and not because of you,” Al Tayer said. Commitment to the entire family business project—its past, present, and future—is why individuals must lead the challenge of writing at least one more page in their family history book.

4Al Tayer’s talk is an initiative headed by Dr. Rodrigo Basco, Chairholder of the Sheikh Saoud bin Khalid bin Khalid Al-Qassimi Chair in Family Business, aiming to disseminate new knowledge and real experience to management students and the future leaders of family firms in the UAE, GCC, and MENA regions.

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