Perspectives from ISB

The story of the Al Fahim Group, today one of the oldest and largest family business conglomerates in the region [UAE], began with a problem many of us are familiar with – cars getting stuck in the sand.

In 1960, Abdul Jalil Al Fahim, who two years earlier had opened a small food and textile shop in Al Ain, noticed that the first vehicles being imported into the emirate of Abu Dhabi were frequently being damaged by sand. With fewer roads back then, he shrewdly switched his business to automobile parts and accessories.

Although Mr Al Fahim passed away in 1996, the family empire he left behind continues to flourish, with interests stretching from automobiles to real estate, energy and travel. But it’s not just the family that has stood by the business over the decades, plenty of its employees have too. Last month, Al Fahim Group held a week-long series of awards ceremonies to honour the 147 employees marking five-year anniversaries with the company.

Of those, 27 who had been with the company for more than 20 years took to the stage at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel to receive a gift from the chairman of the family supervisory board, Abdullah Abdul Jalil Al Fahim: a certificate and gold coin weighing the same number of grams as the career years celebrated.


The “long service awards ceremony” has been held annually since the 1980s, says the group’s director, Khaled Al Fahim, 39, a grandson of the founder. “This ceremony is an important way to ensure staff from our 13 companies feel part of Al Fahim’s extended family,” says Khaled Al Fahim. “The reason people stay with us is because they feel part of a family. It’s about us being involved with the employees and with the community on a personal basis.”

A study in 2012 by Boston Consulting Group and HEC Paris Family Business found that family-run businesses stand a greater chance of survival in a volatile economic market because they focus more on resilience than performance. The researchers found executives of family business tend to invest with a 10- or 20-year horizon, concentrating on what they can do now to benefit the next generation.

Khaled Al Fahim says the group is still steadily growing year on year. He says retention of staff is crucial to the goals of the business, “especially the mechanics, as it takes a lot of time to train them … You need to retain staff because getting qualified people to replace them is extremely difficult.”

Source: Hill, Jessica., The National, December 12, 2016;

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