What’s Your Top Tip for a Happy and Successful Family Business?
Family businesses come in all sizes and sectors, with many operating for hundreds of years. In Suffolk, the five oldest family businesses include Webb & Son in Stowmarket which started trading in 1711, Aspall Cyder, near Debenham, which was established in 1728, as well as Haverhill businesses, Herbert Group which started in 1760 and D. Gurteen & Son which started in 1784. Farthing, Singleton & Hastings (now Farthing Funeral Service) comes in at fifth having been established in Ipswich in 1840.
We asked four business leaders to share their thoughts on the key to having a happy and successful family business.
Paul Milsom, Milsom Hotels & Restaurants
“A robust and professional company structure”
Paul Milsom is Managing Director at Milsom Hotels & Restaurants, a family owned company consisting of Le Talbooth Restaurant, Maison Talbooth and Milsoms all based in Dedham, as well as The Pier at Harwich and Milsoms Kesgrave Hall. The business also has Milsom Weddings and Milsom Catering who cater in many venues in Essex and Suffolk.
“Family businesses are great when they are going well, and everyone is enjoying working together, but they can be emotionally very challenging when going badly. Making the correct decisions at these difficult pivotal moments often determine the longevity of the family enterprise, but if you’re not careful, these can also lead to some serious long-term negative ramifications on family relationships.
“To ease this, it is important to have a robust and professional company structure with regular board meetings and management meetings that include all the family, as well as the other key employees. You should also consider having a non-executive director or using an outside facilitator can be extremely helpful.
“On a personal level it is important for the family to continue to have fun. Of course, you should work hard together, but play hard too and make sure you develop lots of ways you can spend time together that are not work related and where work is not discussed.”
Prema Fairburn, Cardinal Healthcare Group
“A respect for each other”
Prema Fairburn is Managing Director at Cardinal Healthcare Group which comprises the Baylham Care Centre, Barham Care Centre, Primary Homecare and Cardinal Healthcare properties. She runs the business with her three sons: Adrian, David and Jonathan.
“My experience of running this family business has been pleasurable. I do hear from other business friends that they have problems working with family members and I am sure it happens.
“The most important aspect of running a business whether it is a family one or with others is the differing personalities that are involved. We are very fortunate in that our temperaments are very similar, and we share a common goal which is agreed jointly every step of the way. We also took time to recruit a strong and professional management team to support us and who remain loyal and committed to our vision and the company ethos.
“ The team has helped to reduce some of the stresses that we would otherwise have experienced, and this has played an important part in maintaining our health and wellbeing. We are a very close-knit family and we meet up regularly for just family fun time and shared holidays.
“The key to our success is that we respect each other and recognise the strengths that we have in the different areas of our businesses.”
Luke and Liz Farthing, Farthing Funeral Service
“A mutual vision you want to achieve”
Luke and Liz Farthing are joint directors of Farthing Funeral Service which was formerly Farthing, Singleton and Hastings. Having celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2015, today the business operates from three offices in Ipswich, Felixstowe and Debenham.
Liz Farthing said:
“Luke and I have been together for 37 years which is plenty of time to find our areas of common ground. A vital key to success is having a mutual vision of what you wish to achieve. Whilst sharing this vision, Luke and I have different skills which complement and enhance each other when we work together.
“Luke was raised in the funeral business with his parents and this has given him a deep and detailed understanding of all the requirements for a funeral to take place. My role in the business is to ensure we provide a sensitive and welcoming environment where people can relax. We both believe in the importance of the detail. It’s knowing each other really well that counts!
Our commitment to our clients to provide a sensitive, compassionate and professional service is reflected in our personal values, which translate into our working environment. Along with our long-standing staff who understand, share and carry out our approach to delivering an excellence of service, our daughters Hannah and Sarah both contribute within the creative and online aspects of our business.
Our commitment is to making a difference together.”
Sophie Fulford, Winsor Bishop
“Nurture an environment that is supportive and collaborative”
Sophie Fulford is Managing Director of Winsor Bishop, a sixth-generation jeweller and a working mother of three. Winsor Bishop’s heritage is a long and prestigious one which dates to the 19th century. Since 2001, it has been owned and run by the Croydon family with Sophie taking over as MD when her Father, Robert, passed away in 2011. Under her helm, Winsor Bishop is now the largest Rolex and Patek Phillippe dealership in East Anglia.
“Although I am MD, I am co-owner and share the business with my sister, Tanya. We were both encouraged by our parents to be independent and focused and I think it is incredibly important that you nurture an environment that is supportive and collaborative.
“Key words and phrases that come to mind are forward planning, organisation and trusting your instincts. There is nothing quite like family familiarity for sharing the values, aims and the direction you want the business to go in. However, it’s also important to be united in moving the business forward.
“Darwin said, “those who evolve to be the best are not the strongest, fittest or fastest, but those who can adapt to change.” If there is one thing that I’m proud of, it’s our ability to show others that change can be good, exciting and a journey that all of us at Winsor Bishop are on together.”