In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on the concept of good governance within the business world. Here, Michael Warrington, CEO of AX Group, shares that values of good governance are deeply embedded in the DNA of the family-owned business, adding his insights into why ethical and responsible practices not only benefit the company, but also create positive impacts for its stakeholders, workforce, and the wider community.
AX Group is widely known within the local business community as being a family business, with the second generation of the Xuereb family now firmly involved in the running of the company. As CEO, how do you approach the unique challenges and opportunities related to governance within a family business context?
First of all, through experience gained working in the corporate world, I can attest to the fact that the aspect of family brings a unique and valuable dimension into a company. However, this dimension also presents certain challenges that are not present in non-family businesses. The business and the family are interrelated and interdependent. One does not exist without the other. Business matters can have significant impact on the family and vice versa.
One of the key reasons for this is that businesses often fail to address the family’s needs. If the business doesn’t embrace the passions or interests of the new generation, if it overlooks their ideas, or fails to integrate them into the business effectively, they can lose interest, which ultimately leads to the failure of the business.
Good governance is therefore crucial to safeguard the vision of the founder and ensure that it transcends across generations. It ensures that everyone in the family is aligned towards a common goal and is pulling in the same direction. In essence, governance in a family business context is about balancing the unique needs and perspectives of the family with the long-term interests of the business. This requires a delicate balance, and it’s something that we take very seriously at AX Group.
How is AX Group preserving the family element within the company?
We consider ourselves fortunate that Claire Zammit Xuereb and Denise Xuereb, the daughters of our founder Angelo Xuereb, have not only embraced their father’s vision but have also built upon the solid foundations he set up.
As they have grown within the company and taken on more significant roles, they have undergone the necessary training and education to become highly specialised in their respective areas of interest and responsibility. They have also immersed themselves in the dynamics of the Group, taking the time and energy to fully understand how the business is run across its varied divisions and business units.
We are proud of the diversity of our business interests and the strength this creates. It also means that anyone entering our business has to commit to a steep learning curve in order to understand the different world of hotels, healthcare, construction, energy, real estate, and more. Claire and Denise have risen to the challenge admirably and have prepared themselves well to carry on the legacy of their father.
How has AX Group ensured that it continues to uphold Angelo Xuereb’s vision for the company in the present and future?
Fundamentally, I believe we are achieving this through our ongoing commitment to fostering a company culture that’s guided by our three core values of creativity, determination, and integrity. These values have been integral to our business from the very beginning, and they remain as important today as they were when our founder Angelo Xuereb established the company.
Our commitment to creativity means that we are always looking for innovative ways to develop new solutions, identify different lines of business, and pursue new opportunities to move the business forward. Our determination is what keeps us patient and resolute during the development of long-term projects that we believe will deliver exceptional quality and exceed our clients’ expectations.
Finally, integrity is at the heart of everything we do at AX Group. We believe that operating with transparency, honesty, and fairness is essential for building and maintaining strong relationships with our customers, partners, and communities. This ensures we remain committed to acting ethically and in the best interests of the environment and the communities we serve.
How does the Group leverage the value of creativity to promote sustainable practices and drive positive environmental impact across its operations?
Creativity is deeply ingrained in our governance principles. We continue to seek out new and forward-thinking concepts in the market, whether it’s developing innovative properties, products, or services. But perhaps more crucially, we believe that creativity is not just about developing completely new ideas, but also about identifying incremental changes that can make a big impact.
One great example of the power of creativity is demonstrated by fintech companies that have effectively disrupted the traditional banking sector and are responsible for revolutionising how people interact with their personal finances on a day-to-day basis. At AX Group, we aspire to achieve similar outcomes by leveraging creativity to challenge the status quo and modernise our offerings to better serve our clients.
We are constantly looking through our processes and identifying gaps or opportunities that do not require starting from scratch, but instead can be improved with a creative spin on an existing concept. By continuously reviewing our processes and looking for opportunities to innovate, we have been able to achieve significant improvements across our operations. One example of this approach is our transition towards paperless internet banking, which allowed us to completely remove cheques from our business. We were in fact one of the first local businesses to move towards paperless internet banking.
We also looked at ways to reduce waste within our hotels, such as replacing soap miniatures with refillable dispensers and eliminating the use of 90,000 plastic bottles per year, resulting in a reduction of approximately 11,000kg of C02.
We are committed to using our creativity to identify more sustainable solutions and to continue implementing them across all our divisions. We know that even seemingly small changes can make a difference, and we will not hesitate to move in new directions when we see an opportunity to create positive change.
How does AX Group strive to foster a culture of innovation and creativity among its employees?
We are always receptive to anyone among our workforce who comes along with a new idea, no matter how big or small. We encourage our employees to question things so that together we can find ways to remove time consuming processes and improve their productivity and engagement at work.
For example, to make our operations more efficient, we are constantly evaluating our processes and looking for ways to improve productivity. This includes investing in specialised software and the training of our people to streamline tasks and reduce time-consuming manual processes. Our goal is to take the drudgery out of our employees’ work and empower them to focus on delivering high-quality service to our clients. Moreover, we believe this will create a more satisfying work environment for everyone in our team.
Ultimately, we believe that by fostering a culture of creativity and encouraging our employees to think outside the box, we will continue to be at the forefront of our industries and achieve success in the long term.
How does determination drive and shape the operations of AX Group?
Perhaps more than any other principle, it’s determination that has brought the Group to where it is today. While many businesses may falter in the face of obstacles, seeking quick fixes to complex problems, at AX Group, we are committed to staying the course when we believe in a project. Our long-term commitment to projects such as the Verdala development or Hilltop Gardens, demonstrate this steadfast determination to see things through to completion.
These large-scale projects were not easy, requiring many years of hard work to secure the necessary permits, develop sound plans, and coordinate the necessary resources. But our determination and patience paid off, and both these developments are now shining examples of highly innovative projects that have introduced something new to Malta.
We are not discouraged by delays, because we believe in the projects we undertake, and we know that when the time is right, we will be ready to bring our vision to life. It’s this determination that propels us forward, inspiring us to push beyond our limits and achieve even greater heights.
Finally, can you speak to the importance of integrity in governance and how it relates to AX Group’s values and practices?
Maintaining integrity is always crucial for a business, regardless of its current reputation or history. A single misstep or mistake can damage the trust and credibility that has taken years to build and erode the goodwill of the company. That’s why it’s vital to foster a culture of integrity within the organisation, backed by appropriate checks and balances to ensure mistakes and oversights are avoided.
Integrity is at the core of everything we do at every level of our business, from how we interact with clients to our hiring practices, and from implementing equal opportunity policies to establishing robust IT protocols to safeguard our business and our clients from data breaches and leaks of sensitive information.
It’s essential to continually reinforce the importance of integrity within the company to keep it strong, as one bad decision can cast a shadow on the entire AX brand. Therefore, we must consistently adhere to our values and maintain ethical standards in all our dealings, both internally and externally, to ensure the longevity and success of the group.
(From Left) AX Group Founder Angelo Xuereb, AX Group Hospitality and Care Director Claire Zammit Xuereb, AX Group Construction and Development Director Denise Xuereb and AX Group CEO Michael Warrington
The Chief Officer Business and IoT explains the key elements that help Melita Business stay at the forefront of innovation
Joseph Gerada delves into the Family Business Office's role at the upcoming Transeo Winter Summit
The HR professional weighs in on the ongoing debate surrounding Malta’s foreign workforce