‘Learn from me’ – Connie urges SA to talk about wealth creation and family business legacy

Ferguson reflects on the difficulties she encountered regarding the business continuity after the loss of Shona.

Renowned actress, filmmaker, producer and businesswoman, Connie Ferguson, says South Africans need to engage more in conversations around wealth creation and business legacy, striving more to start their own businesses and talking to each other – especially their own families – about the legacy they hope to leave.

 Connie was reflecting on her own experience with Ferguson Films after the death of her husband, Shona Ferguson. She was speaking during a Nedbank Webinar on Business Continuity.

She shared how both she and her husband had always been business-minded, but never really wrapped their minds around what went into owning and running a business at that young age, let alone deciding what they would want from their business and how it would continue should one of them pass away.

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She told of how she ‘ran her own salon’ at the age of 13 and through her earnings from doing other girls’ hair, managed to buy tomatoes and potatoes for home.

“Because I owned a salon at home, I made money, I was able to buy tomatoes, and potatoes to help the family out.

“But that’s kind of how you trained. You work to feed the family. You aren’t initially mindful of wealth creation, or building an empire,” she said.

This mindset persisted, Connie said. “Despite identifying a businesses as actors, there was a lack of awareness regarding wealth accumulation and empire-building strategies,” she said.

Rest of your life

Connie said that it was only upon turning 40 – where she was 16 years into her career at Generations – that she asked herself: “Do I want to do this for the rest of my life?”

It was then that both she and her now-late husband put their heads together and started their own production company.

Connie said that from this she realised that financial education was crucial for wealth creation, preservation, and legacy building, especially for family-owned businesses.

“There was always a nervousness, given our background discussing wealth. It’s often taken for granted,” she said.

Involve the whole family

It was only after she lost her husband that Connie realised the importance of involving all family members so that they become familiar with how the operations are run.

“Losing Sho was difficult because he was a director but not only that, he was more of the main admin person also. So he was a big part of the engine that ran the business.

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“I remember when Sho used to have a lot of moments where we would sit our daughters down and go, ‘you guys need to understand this business. We are not here forever, you know, we’re not building for us. We’re building for you’.

Struggle for parents

“But you know, it’s difficult as a parent, and I’m sure a lot of parents will appreciate this. Because we build thinking we building for our family, right? You want your children to be able to take over from you and continue the legacy and have like a proper succession plan. But it’s difficult when your children are not really inclined to what you do,” she said.

“So, it becomes very difficult because then who do you go to? How do you adapt your succession plan to make sure that your business continues even when you’re not here yet, and that your children will still be taken care of even though they’re not actively involved in the business?”

Connie said she managed to rope her sister into the business who was the right person for it but it was a big lesson for family businesses to learn.

“As much as you are including family and having them actively participate in succession, they’ve got to have the adequate skills to cover that gap,” she said.

Learn from me

Connie wants South Africans out there to take a leaf from her book. She wants them to start having those conversations and planning for life’s inevitability.

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