At KPMG, women are important to us. In our new “Agile Minds Women in Family Enterprise” series, we seek to tell the extraordinary stories of women in Ghana braving the odds and excelling in family enterprises.

Drawing on the stories of five women working in large-scale family enterprises, we learn about the gender dynamics of running a family business as a woman. They tell us of the impact they have had on their businesses and their outlook on taking their enterprises forward.

We also delve into their unique journeys, treading the fine lines of family and business, challenges and hurdles they have had to overcome in their quest to honour and protect their families’ business legacies, and how they juggle all these with numerous other expectations including marriage and motherhood.

Women in family business

Kakra Duffuor-Nyarko

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), StarLife Assurance Limited Company

‘I had the opportunity to intern in various departments of the organization from front desk to customer service, underwriting, accounts etc from the tender age of 17 (and every summer holiday thereafter) until I finished my undergraduate degree. This peaked my interest quite a bit! This interest matured into a desire to develop financial solutions, especially insurance policies that benefit individuals, families and organisations.’

‘After extensive research and conversations with my mentors (and parents) during my undergraduate course coupled with my natural flare for maths and science I decided to pursue my career in actuarial science.’

‘After fully qualifying as a fellow actuary, it felt right that I apply my knowledge and acquired skill set to the place/ organization in which that desire was borne.’

‘Coincidentally after completing my postgraduate studies in actuarial science & management there was an opening in the Company for actuarial resource and I applied to be considered. My qualifications were a perfect fit to the role, so I was given an opportunity to prove myself. I was also privileged during that time to have been given a training contract with the external actuarial consultants which afforded me the opportunity to trained under a qualified actuary to further prepare me for my role as the Chief Actuary.’

‘Working in a family business actually multiples the pressure you put on yourself to not only succeed (and show everyone that you more than deserve to be there !) but to also build on the legacy for the future generations. It becomes incredibly important therefore to ensure that the right and robust structures, systems and corporate governance structures are in place to ensure success with longevity.’

‘Well naturally working within a family business setting does create some blurred lines but this has been mitigated with a robust corporate governance structure. Of course, there are times in which you may not see eye to eye on the business side but my parents taught us at a very very young age that “Family” comes before “Business” even in a Family Business. So just as the Bible says, we try not to let the sun go down on any negative feelings we may have due to differences in opinion. It does also help that as the larger family we all get to meet at least once a week to have lunch and fellowship with each other. This does help with strengthening the family bond even when there are differences on the business side.’

‘It's also always challenging balancing work and home issues as a career woman. I do well to make sure that I don't concentrate on one area too much for the other to suffer. That being said, I have an extremely supportive family network and they have contributed to my successes. It has been a daily learning experience for me as I try to satisfy my family’s needs in the midst of running a successful company.’

Boatemaa Panin Barfour-Awuah

Chief Executive Officer, Star Assurance Limited Company

‘Star Assurance was the first company set up in 1984 and started operations in April 1985. Growing up, I heard so much about Star Assurance at the point I thought she was a sibling. There were daily briefings about this startup and the more I listened the more I realised I wanted to be part of it. I didn’t necessarily want to be an insurer but I had an innate desire to be part of the company and to be of service. What struck a cord for me even at that young age was to ensure that the clients that walked in and patronised our products and services always left with a delightful experience. I wanted to give them something more than just an insurance policy.’

‘After my A levels, I took a gap year to experience what working life was all about. Of course, for me, my gap year had to be at Star Assurance.

When I started university I would always come home and for those long 3 months, I would return to Star.’

‘Initially, my career plan was towards becoming a lawyer. After a successful degree in History / Politics, I decided to pursue an MSc in Management before proceeding to Law School. This highly specialized program introduced me to critical areas such as Strategy, Business Analytics and Intelligence, and Project and Performance Management.’

‘This was exactly what I needed for Star Assurance. I went on for a seconded masters degree in Accounting and Finance because I wanted to acquire 360 degrees of knowledge in running a business end to end.’

‘To a large extent, my career was influenced by how I could create value for Star Assurance, both the company and the clients.’

‘With the right knowledge and competencies, passion, and divine direction you would always make an impact and create value.’

‘Challenges are part of life. How you handle them makes the difference.

Star Assurance started as a family business, but its evolution has meant putting in place corporate structures that will ensure the sustainability of the company as well as safeguard the interests of all stakeholders.’

‘Stakeholder analysis Is very key. Yes, my family does have a significant interest in the company but so do clients, the regulator, etc. A huge part of my role is to efficiently manage all the stakeholders. Sometimes it’s tough but it needs to be done. As much as possible I try to balance the interest of all stakeholders bearing in mind the sustainability of the company.’

Shika Obeng Kamara

Director FC Beauty Group

Right from her school days, Shika’s parents always involved their children in the business: after school, weekends, etc. It appears there was some kind of intentional, subtle indoctrination, which made Shika and her siblings feel that they were part of the business. It was important for them to know everything about the business in order to take over one day.

‘I have been with my parents since 2008. My mum has fired me a number of times and employed me a number of times with better offers. When you have a results-oriented mother, even when you use your initiative, your results must speak for itself. We go through the usual things that family businesses experience, ie. who is going to be the primary successor? How do you evaluate what impact one person has vis a vis their birth order?’ We have had difficult conversations about succession from time to time, and it hasn’t always been easy. However, I believe these discussions and interactions have helped us tremendously to assess the impact that we make individually in the areas in which we operate, the talent each person has and the training we need to be able to achieve our leadership potential.

 Sometimes there are blurred lines between the office and the home front. Whether in the office or at home, during parties and celebrations somehow discussions about work always manage to creep in.   In the coming years we are going to be more intentional about taking family breaks just to relax and reenergize, so we don’t keep doing the same things over and over again, because it is important to take some break.’

Adjoa Kusiwaa Boateng

Entrepreneur/Fintech Enthusiast (Formerly with Homefoods Processing Co Ltd and The ‘H’ by Homefoods

‘I started working in the family business when I was 15 years old. I left for university and returned to the company after my national service in 2006. My interest was sparked by going through the financials one evening. I realised it was quite a viable business and joining my mother would move the business to the next level. I was right. In the 6 years that we worked together, we were able to move the business from a 100,000 USD business to 7million USD. I left the business in 2012 to find my own path in Financial Technology - also partly because it’s not easy working with your mother 😊.’

‘After 7 years, I rejoined a new subsidiary of the family business which was a start-up West African Restaurant chain. After 3 years, the subsidiary has moved back to be fully managed by the mother company.’

‘I believe I have made an impact on both stints. Bringing in new ideas and business models while relying on my mother's over 30 years’ experience.’

‘Working with your mother is never an easy thing. 😊

On the one side she is my mother and on another side, she is my boss.’

‘For now, I have taken a back seat. I am not involved in the business. But when I get called on to help out with the restaurant side of the business, I do my best to help.’

Asantewa Prempeh

Business Development Manager, BlackPark Ltd.

‘I noticed my mother’s company was growing and she needed the help to manage the growth. She had used her talents and intuition to get her that far and she needed help with implementing structure. That’s where I came in.’

‘Before I fully assumed the role that I’m currently in. I went through all the departments. So you could say I worked my way up and that helped a lot to understand the challenges the business and staff had. And it helped in thinking of how we could do things more efficiently. That way when anyone came to me to say a task wasn’t possible, I would explain to them how it could be done because I had done it before.’

‘When your boss is also your mother you’re always working. Sometimes I try to set boundaries but more often than not, I see myself crossing them. The positive side of this is after the 9-5, you have time to discuss big picture stuff and it’s a plus when the person to discuss it with is in close proximity and within reach.’

Connect with us