Don't Try To Fit A Square Peg Into A Round Hole – Denise Xuereb

Marie-Claire Grima - 1st October 2018

The decision of whether to be part of the family business at all is not an automatic one, and is indeed, one of the most important decisions of all, said Denise Xuereb, AX Group’s Construction and Development Director.

Speaking at the Malta Chamber’s A Family Affair conference, Ms Xuereb said that the key to success was by not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – meaning that the succeeding generations had to take up the role not out of obligation but out of choice.

“Many people in Malta don’t distinguish between shareholder and director. One can remain a shareholder but not necessarily be an executive or non-executive director,” Ms Xuereb said, adding that not everyone necessarily had the expertise to move the business forward, and that there was nothing wrong with having a non-family member at executive level.

Ms Xuereb said that there needed to be time allowed for the process, and that the first seed for transition dated years back. “The extent of which non-family members are involved varies from one business to another.” She said the company implemented the necessary organisational and financial structures, including an audit committee and a board of directors. “We needed to have the right checks and balances in place. We were thinking of children and further generations.”

The second generation of a family business is only as successful as the first allows it to be, Ms Xuereb stated. “It’s not easy for the founder to accept that their time is nearly up, and that they might have to take a step back to, but in our case, my father had the foresight to start early. He would ask for my opinion, and encouraged me to pursue my own solutions even when we disagreed. He said we would need to be able to stand on our own two feet, even when he was out of the picture.”

Ms Xuereb also shared some tips on navigating the relationships involved in a family business. “You have to keep work at work and family family. Arguing at work not bad thing, but then you may end up facing that same person at family event. You can’t bring sisterhood into the boardroom – you have to maintain the distinction between family and home. It’s not easy, but as long as everyone tries to keep the two apart, it can work.”

Stating that there were no hard and fast rules to follow in success, Ms Xuereb said that what can work for one may not work for another. She concluded by sharing three key thoughts – “respect the core values of the business; know your personal strengths and limitations; and accept that change doesn’t happen overnight.”


Marie-Claire Grima

When it comes to succession within a family business, it’s better to recruit an outsider if there is no natural leader within the family that’s approved by all the successors, said Joe Zammit Tabona, Director of the Xara Palace Hotel Co and Infinitely Xara.

27th September 2018

In a statement to all media issued on Thursday, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry welcomed the recent publication of the white paper to establish a building and construction regulator.

20th September 2018

Last tickets remaining

19th September 2018

Welcoming guests to the Malta-India Business Forum, the President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Mr Frank V. Farrugia said that cooperation between Malta and India was translating into a better exploitation of Malta's geographical position, facilitating the trans-shipment of goods from India to Southern Europe and North Africa.