ANN Harbor, Michigan. A tired and exhausted Jack (names have been changed to protect the family’s privacy), group head of administration and human resource, was waiting for his turn to make a difficult announcement. The venue was the mini auditorium inside the head office of Company B, a P10 billion (US$200 million) family business with regional presence in Vietnam and Singapore. More than 300 head office employees sat patiently waiting to hear what they already knew: their chairman and founder K.B., who had led the company since 1986, had died that morning of a massive heart attack.
Jack was designated by the family to convey the message to the organization. He had been one of K.B’s original employees who opted for retirement a year earlier but was requested by the chairman to stay on. “My dear colleagues, most of you already know me. My name is Jack and I head the human resource department. Some of you are probably aware of what happened earlier.” Jack paused for a moment and took a deep breath. “Ma’am Lucy asked me to inform you that her husband, our chair and founder, died this morning.” Our beloved Sir K.B. was 65. Some employees began to cry softly. Others bowed their heads.
“Chairman K.B didn’t suffer,” Jack added. “And for that we can all be grateful. We will all remember Sir K.B. as a remarkable person who loved his family, loved every one of you and most especially loved this company that he founded more than 30 years ago. For and on behalf of the family and the board, I would like to announce that our main office will be closed tomorrow. The details of the memorial service will also be announced later in the day. As I speak, the board of directors have been convened and are now in an emergency meeting. They will make some pronouncements soon. My office will make sure everyone will be receiving updates via email and Viber.“
Jack encouraged the audience to ask questions but no one seemed interested to say anything. He looked around at the people gathered before him. Many employees were shocked, while some were in a state of disbelief. The mood in the huge room was gloomy. There was muted silence so Jack decided to end the impromptu gathering. “This is a very sad day for all of us and I want to thank everyone for coming in such a short notice.”
As he walked out of the auditorium, he was ushered in a corner by a group of worried managers. “We can’t believe our boss is dead! What will happen to us and the company now? Are our jobs secured? How will the company manage its loan? Who among the children will succeed the founder? Is Kirby (eldest son) qualified? Will ma’am Lucy take over? What will happen to our jobs? Will we be affected? What will we tell our families? What about our partners, bank creditors and suppliers? Who will talk to them now that the boss is no longer around?
We hope the board can tackle the three most pressing issues of job security, debt servicing and finding the most qualified successor.
To be continued...