Departed city tycoons Mabirizi and Zzimwe business empires are in the news. The empires are falling apart. Zzimwe and Mabirizi are merely a mirror of many a Ugandan (African) business that do not live beyond their founders.
The list is long. But, the Nalukolongo based Ssembule Empire suffices. Ssembule comprised of a Steel Rolling Mills (SSRM). It had an Electronics section.
Christopher Sembuya wowed Ugandans when he revealed that he started it all with only Shs300, 000. In its heydays, SSRM was so promising; it even attracted loans from the PTA Bank.
Along came death one of the founders. The empire started developing cracks courtesy of unpaid loans and mismanagement. The empire has since changed hands to Frank Nekusa.
Compare and contrast the above with James Mulwana’s booming empire to see the curse that has inflicted damage on many companies left behind by their founders.
James Mulwana (1936 – 2013), was a businessman, entrepreneur and industrialist. He was the Group Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer of the Mulwana Group of Companies with interests in farming, plastics, manufacturing and real estate.
Why Mulwana’s has been an exceptional case. Read on for possible answers.
Mulwana knew he would die
Death is inevitable. To know this is to have wisdom. It prompts one to groom his or her successors. In business sense, it inspires the founder to train his people about what makes and breaks business.
Mulwana did. He started early enough. His wife Sarah was his partner. Primrose Mulwana his daughter was a director too. He even groomed Geoffrey (his heir) and Sarah his wife.
“We shall manage without him,” she told mourners. Sarah knew exactly what the mourners’ concerns were. She spoke to their emotion. She knew what she was talking about. Mulwana Empire is booming!
Mulwana lived a modest life. He did not squander his wealth. He did not throw money in faces of people Micheal Ezra style.
Those values earned Mulwana admirers. Admirers are crucial when it comes to supporting businesses. He did not die with those values. Mulwana charted a course which he wanted his family to keep long before his death.
Who has seen Mulwana’s children squandering money in bars Bad Black style? Who of the family members cruise in top of range cars? They are not squandering money on booze nor are they wasting time boozing. They are minding their empire.
Mulwana left behind one wife. We did not see women fighting for the title of his widow. His empire was not divided between farms of women and a stadium of children. It remains in one piece.
Before Mabirizi could find his rest, his extended family was pulling his empire apart. His polygamous family was fighting for his wealth. The heir had acquired a top of range vehicle. One that his dad did not own in his lifetime!
Money was disappearing from bank accounts. Mabirizi’s imported rice– worth hundreds of millions of shillings– was disappearing.
In short, Mabirizi’s fortune was being chopped between widows and tens of children. God never makes a mistake.
He warned that a family divided cannot stand. The rest is history.
Respect for Workers
I asked Sarah what has helped her to steer the family empire. She quickly replied, “My workers.” Mark Sarah’s answer. She didn’t mention loads of money his husband left behind. Not even her own acumen.
I asked Mulwana one time why he was pampering his laborers. He corrected me: “They are not my laborers, but key partners in business.”