‘A sense of responsibility’: Family, community and nation in Oman

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Sayyid Nasr bin Badr bin Hamad Albusaidi - Non-executive director, SABCO, Conglomerate, Oman

SABCO was set up in Oman in 1977, by Sayyid Hamad Bin Hamood Albusaidi and his two sons, Sayyid Sami and Sayyid Badr. The business was founded with a mission to provide local infrastructure and employment, and play an active role in nation-building.

Forty years later, it’s a diversified conglomerate headquartered in Muscat, which now includes members of the third generation as owners.  It has interests in sectors as diverse as luxury goods, media and energy, and - as is common elsewhere in the region – these different divisions allow family members to take a leadership role in their own specific business. But the company is also open to the contribution that skilled outsiders can make, and has a number of non-family executives at senior levels, including on the Group Board of Directors.

Sayyid Nasr is the grandson of the founder and serves as a non-executive director on the board of one of SABCO’s subsidiaries. He believes the company has gained a lot from bringing in outside professionals; “It is possible we might even appoint an external CEO at some point in the future. But this is a journey that will take time to implement and in the meantime we are keeping our options open by encouraging suitably qualified members of the family to consider a career at SABCO.” But such positions are only offered on merit; “We will no doubt have specific training programmes for the family so that we can match the skills they have with the skills our businesses need. Our aim is to develop them as leaders, whether they end up taking such a role in SABCO, or in another corporation. In general, we are looking to grow our business by fostering a entrepreneurial spirit among all our employees – in effect, by growing our own ‘intrepreneurs’.”

Sayyid Nasr bin Badr bin Hamad Albusaidi - Non-executive director, SABCO

Sayyid Nasr bin Badr bin Hamad Albusaidi - Non-executive director, SABCO

SABCO has spent time and care on developing its corporate and family governance. There is an active family office, which has been looking after the family’s financial and other interests since the 1970s, but is now expanding to take on a wider remit. The family have also implemented a number of practical solutions to professionalise the business as well as the family’s relationship with it, including setting up a family council and other governance structures necessary to enhance communications between the various stakeholders. These forums are starting to meet more often, as the business grows, and the number of wider family members increases. “We are all agreed on our long-term goals - for example, we are looking carefully at how we nurture the next generation and bring them through, how we make it possible for family members who do not work at SABCO to keep involved, and how we balance the need for profitability, with the wider vision with which this business was founded.”

That vision is inextricably linked to a pride in nationhood, and a deep personal and family commitment to Oman. “We feel a sense of responsibility to create jobs and make a positive contribution to society. But that is not a burden; it is a privilege.”

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