Senaca East Africa (B): A Family Security Business Grapples with Expansion

By Peter Francis, Julie Makinen, Micheline Ntiru
2023 | Case No. E852B | Length 5 pgs.

Senaca East Africa, aka Sentry & Patrols, is a Kenya-based security guard firm founded in 2002 by John Kipkorir, a longtime member of the Kenyan police. At the time, there were only a few well-known Kenyan-owned security companies, and crime was rising. After some early stumbles, Sentry & Patrols grew rapidly and John’s wife and daughters joined the business.

Part A of this case details the family’s early struggles to grow their operation, develop expertise and define their roles in the business. It follows the first eight years in operation, during which John’s wife and eldest daughter became full-time employees. It traces their journey up to the point that Sentry & Patrols was approached by a European firm about a merger. The tie-up prospect offered risk and reward. By that time, Sentry & Patrols had become one of the best-known guard firms in East Africa, with more than 1,000 workers. But cash flow was tight, clients were slow to pay, and the company was struggling to expand. This case examines the challenges of defining roles in a family business and setting up effective governance structures. Case A ends with the family mulling the merger offer.

Part B of this case details what happened after the family agreed to the merger and changed the company name to Senaca. Initially, the tie-up brought benefits. The company grew to 1,500 guards and landed contracts with universities, hotels and companies such as Nokia. The business diversified, expanded to Uganda, started a guard training school, and launched a technology arm. The company invested in equipment such as cameras, body scanners, security gates and electrical fencing for their new clients. However, this period presented the Kipkorirs with many challenges. John Kipkorir’s other daughters became involved with the company, but over time, their decision-making power was eroded by their European partners, and the business nose-dived. This part of the case challenges students to think about family business structures and decision-making. Part B concludes with the Kipkorirs’ partners fleeing, leaving them with the grave decision of folding the business or trying to revive it.

Part C of this case focuses on the family’s decision to reclaim the business and resurrect it, and their efforts to professionalize and grow the enterprise while developing succession plans as John and his wife reduced their roles in the company.

Part A: E852A: Senaca East Africa (A): A Family Security Business Grapples with Expansion

Part C: E852C: Senaca East Africa (C): A Family Security Business Grapples with Expansion

Learning Objective

This case is designed to help students learn concepts useful for understanding the challenges faced by family businesses, including defining key roles and implementing effective decision-making procedures, board structures and more. It highlights key challenges faced by small family businesses in developing countries in evaluating opportunities to partner with international firms. It also highlights the challenges of running a family business in Africa.
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