It takes a village to raise a child

A year ago I attended our local Church Away Day. We do this every year and it’s a wonderful get together for sharing, enjoying each other’s company and for breathing new life and ideas into the Church Family. How can we make our faith relevant in the everyday lives of our local community? How can we reach out? How can we be useful? In today’s very secular society, Christianity and in particular Churches are in danger of becoming ‘not for me’. Yet my faith is something I cherish and thrive on.

Okay so without being a Bible basher I looked at my experience, skills and how I could help others. I wanted to give back and be able to own and drive something of value. I wanted to do something that needed little organising and with just a few helpers. And so ‘THIRD TUESDAY was hatched. From my own experience coaching young talent, giving work experience to kids at school and mapping out futures for friends of my own children, I found that for every smart, off the blocks, ready willing and energised to go seek, find and enjoy their future cookie, there are those who have little or no confidence and don’t know where to begin. I too didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school. More importantly, I had no one to ask me ‘If you could wave a magic wand Anita, what would bring you the greatest happiness’? ‘What dreams do you have’?

The thing about running a family business is that it’s local. You are part of your local business, family, school, faith community. We all have ideas about being big, going global and so on. What’s needed from you is often under your nose. We say ‘what can I do’? ‘What if’? We decide to do something and then make it happen. We are all busy, and there is never enough time. I love that those who can, do.

THIRD TUESDAY is a relaxed meet-up for youngsters 16+ to tap into advice and support on options for the future. It’s exclusively for students who may be in school, college, university and don’t know what do do next.  We explore future options ie Uni, apprenticeships, college and careers. They can learn practical skills and tools for CV building, create that fab profile, prep for an interview, learn how to fill in application forms. They get great ‘you’ time, advice, training, mentorship and peer-to-peer support. But the hook – the meet-up is a safe place to share your troubles. Share what pressure looks like, money worries, how to build confidence and why take a risk?

I sat in our Church Centre with tea, cake, flip chart, sticky labels and pens not knowing who if anyone would turn up. To my surprise, they came! My wonderful friend Jenny helped out and my beautiful daughter Olympia agreed to be our very first speaker. She was to bare all. Her own journey from School to where she is now working in our own family business has been emotional and colourful for sure. And what an ice breaker. The group said they were embarrassed and frightened about pitching up. They had no clue what to expect but had nothing to lose. My heart went out to them and suffice it to say the evening proved a great success. I even gave them all homework! Let’s see who turns up next month. We will have another real-life story from someone who’s confidence rose from rock bottom and now leading a life they want.

Confidence was a the biggest issue for everyone. Compounded by social media, parents, expectations, peers; it seemed all compared themselves and in so doing had decided they didn’t stand a chance. I’ve got a really successful method of building confidence instantly. I will share it at another date. For now, I’m grateful, joyful and hopeful I can make a difference. It’s worth the risk. As Richard Branson once said ‘The biggest risk is not taking any risk’. Note to anyone reading this and is hesitant – just do it; because you can. 

Nepotism – so what?

It’s rare when someone gets the opportunity to talk about their family business that we get to know the person they really are. Recently I listened to a talk where the speaker, a family member, mesmerised us with ‘Me and my Aspergers’ This is an amazing man who left corporate employment to join his family business because he was fed up of being bullied, belittled and thought of as strange. He has high functioning autism – that means he is a genius! He told his story: Finding my way, proving the sceptics wrong, the love of my life, my big break, parenthood, getting diagnosed, joining the family business, the benefits of autism, the future, helping others, practicing mindfulness and being around positive people. He had a few wobbles, was articulate, we listened. He spoke of his success and how he flourished in the family business environment. By merit, he is the IT expert, dealing with internal IT, troubleshooting and managing clients. His autism he said was a benefit – he is totally focussed on the job at hand and won’t let go until it is finished and perfect. Wow, that’s what I call quality control – in this day and age – priceless!

How do you split a lemon?

Conflict in a family business goes with the territory. It’s the thing that produces creativity and innovation. It can be the impetus for change and can lead to breakthroughs in ideas. In fact, it can be a good thing. On the other hand and especially within a family business it can be destructive, divisive, alienating, heartbreaking, and worst still it is insidious and has far-reaching effects within the wider family and through the generations. We all know the stories of famous household named family firms that have endured embittered battles and even murder: Samsung, L’Oreal, Thorntons Chocolates, Adidas & Puma, Gucci to name but a few.

So how can families resolve conflict? Where to begin? MEDIATION is one way of resolving conflicts. Traditional ways include:

  • Fight: physically, verbally or legally. The strongest, most articulate or wealthy mostly win
  • Negotiate: not everyone is good at negotiating. Emotions can get in the way. People find it difficult to hear what the other person is saying. They often have preconceived ideas and misperceptions about others
  • Go to arbitration: let someone else make the decisions
  • Runaway or give in

MEDIATION provides a way forward that enables people to negotiate based upon a proper understanding of the needs of all parties. These negotiations are based upon what is fair and reasonable and upon the needs of everyone. It seeks a ‘WIN-WIN’ outcome. MEDIATORS can help parties to work together on solutions and to see their dispute as a shared problem that needs to be resolved. In short, the process of MEDIATION is fairly simple. Meet, listen, feedback, explain options and agree on next steps. If only things were as simple as that!

QUESTION: How would you split a lemon?

#familybusiness #conflictmanagement #mediation #negotiation #fairness #love #succession #wealth #power #leadership #strategy #winwin #expertise #trackrecord

At the end of the day, you hope for the best… and prepare for the worst

As I sit and write this my heart is thumping and I feel sick. In July just two months ago Adam Cattermole and his family rocked up to our National Family Business Awards collecting the highest accolade to celebrate the very best a family business has to offer. An amazing family and an astonishing business. Today I have tears in my eyes as I read Adam’s blog and I don’t have the words. If you are a family business, read on. I go on about this all the time – family first. Don’t ever forget it. Adam you are in our thoughts and prayers. Stay strong.

#familybusiness #loveiseverything #familyfirst #shithappensbigtime #inourprayers #sonhusbanddadleader #nevergiveup

My greatest achievement are my children

I’m privileged to work with two of my daughters in our family business. It’s a joy and they represent for me all that’s brilliant in being able to bring on the next generation and see them flourish. For me, transition of the business to Amalia and Olympia wasn’t easy, but I admired their passion to take the business to a new level I could only dream of. Amalia presented a strategy for the future that she is excited about and will transform us into a global brand. It’s one thing to have an idea, its another to make it happen. I believe in ‘us’ and am excited at what the future holds in store for the whole team and for Family Businesses Leaders everywhere.

I often talk about how important legacy is and that I care that women, as well as men, should build their legacy so that future generations can benefit, know their roots and be proud to be part of something worthwhile. I thought I’d share with you Amalia and Olympia’s touching and unexpected speech about their thoughts on the life of this crazy woman they call ‘mum’. All I can say is that I wish from the heart that every Family Business around the world could experience what I experienced that night. There is nothing in this world better than to be appreciated by your children. OMGA. Being a parent and furthermore setting up in business with your kids, doesn’t come with a handbook. We just dive right in and go with the gut, trusting, teaching, leading, supporting, loving, believing.

10 years ago, our founder and mum, Anita Brightley-Hodges took a gamble. When we started, nobody took family businesses seriously. They were the poor relation in the business world, perceived to just be small corner shops and old fashioned companies. But I think what we’ve seen here tonight has blown all of that out of the water. Without Anita’s belief, vision and absolutely dedication to flying the flag for Family Firms, these Awards, this community here tonight, simply wouldn’t exist.

She has spent the last decade turning up to every event, meeting, conference – in fact she’ll go to the opening of an envelope if it means she can tell everyone in the room about the importance of Family-owned Businesses! Anita has made it her mission to meet some of the country’s most inspiring leaders of family firms – to learn from them and bring their experience back to share with our community.

As well as these incredible National Awards, Anita is also the brainchild behind The National Family Business Conference. An annual event in London where leaders of Family Firms can meet, share and learn from each other. We all know that being in business with your family can be ‘challenging’ to put it politely! So how amazing is it that, thanks to Anita, there’s a place we can all meet together and support each other?

On top of that, Anita has made it her mission to get as much airtime and coverage for Family Firms as possible. Speaking at business, leadership and entrepreneurship events, featuring on webinars, podcasts, appearing on local TV and writing for the National press. In fact she has been voted one of the top 20 most influential business leaders in Kent. For Anita, all of this means that she’s flying the flag for Family Businesses and getting their voices heard.

Having heard all that, you’d think there wasn’t much time left for anything else….Wrong! Anita believes that in order to be a good business, your business must do good. That’s why she’s passionate about fundraising for amazing causes such as Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, Caudwell Children and of course Alzheimer’s Research UK. But Anita’s true legacy lies in the digging of 30 borehole drinking wells in Uganda through her ‘WellGood’ campaign which has literally saved thousands of lives and transformed communities in East Africa.

Since Anita founded these Awards 10 years ago…. We have celebrated over 1,200 finalists, honoured over 100 National Champions and helped to raise over £170,000 for charity.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you’ll join me and the rest of the Family Business Place team in being upstanding for someone who has changed the face of Family Business and put them firmly on the map. Our final Special Recognition Award goes to the Founder and Chairman of Family Business Place and The National Family Business Awards ….

Love conquers adversity

Every year at The National Family Business Awards at Wembley I have the privilege of nominating a very special Special Recognition Award at the end of the evening. This Award is not about financial performance, a strong growth strategy, or being an industry leader. This unique Award is to honour and recognise a family business which has inspired us in other ways.

The Company we chose this year to receive this accolade only began in life in 2013; yet it has grown from strength to strength in a very short space of time. This dynamic husband and wife duo put their everything into making it a success. So…… when disaster struck back in April, and one of the worst things imaginable happened, it was devastating to everyone.

Watch this video to experience inspiring leadership; exceptional staff loyalty; extraordinary community support and most of all, love. Love between a husband and wife who lost everything. Love shown by a team who refused to give up. Love from a community who rallied around to get the business back up and running. And love from customers, suppliers, friends and family who have unwavering belief in this family firm:

The 2019 National Family Business Award ‘SPECIAL RECOGNITION’ we presented to the irrepressible, courageous, determined, awesome Karl and Cathy Mason founders of Masons Yorkshire Gin:

The Tricky Topic of Entitlement

Today was one of those fabulous sunny warm unusual English summer days. And working from my home studio reminds me more than ever how fortunate I am to have this life working with a passion at something I believe in. I feel I can make a real contribution to the family business sector and what could be better than seeing and working with two of my daughters every day. That’s what we call the ‘family factor’ and I can look back and join the dots that say this was meant to be.

Another wonderful thing was I had a coffee with an amazing, brilliant, successful businessman who ran his own premium winery as a family business. We got talking. This is a person who has a life running many businesses around the globe; uber successful but no stranger to failure either. In my book a serial entrepreneur and maverick. An awesome and somewhat intimidating character. But I just had to be myself. What the hell.

We got talking about family business, the challenges, issues, ups, downs, risks, failure, success et al.  We then debated the subject of succession. With my knowledge and experience of knowing and working with family businesses of all sizes across all sectors, I’ve come across so many differing views on the whole topic of succession.  This particular gentleman having bought and sold many family firms was whole heartedly against succession to the next generation as a concept. The adage of ‘shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves’ rang true. And in fact he said himself that he would ensure all his kids had a house and car as a gift from his own success, but that was it! All of his children had to make their own way in the world, just as he did. No hand outs, no extra perks. If they want to come into the family business they have to work their way up just like everyone else. And in fact this is written into their family constitution.

He has seen enough toxic bad blood, bad decision making and wrong turns, so much so he bought one such family business for £1.  Reading this you may find his approach hard core. But it does beg the question ‘is succession to the next generation always the right course of action?’  How many times have I had the conversation around merit versus entitlement?  And I have to conclude there is no place for ‘entitlement’ as a business strategy. I believe it will always end in tears.

When I work with family businesses on exit strategies one of my questions to the next generation is ‘would you be prepared to buy shares in the business’?  The answer is always a big giveaway and I have to be prepared to say it like it is.

Research tells us that there are 4 reasons why anyone would want to join the family business:

  • You have a passion for the business (since I was a youngster I always knew I wanted to join the firm)
  • Our family name is above the door (the feeling of guilt would haunt me forever if I didn’t sign up)
  • Our family wealth would be at risk (it has always provided a good income for the whole family in the past)
  • I can’t get a job anywhere else

Once we can understand the thought process of the next generation and where they are in their attitude to joining the family firm, we can then work with this.

My conversation over coffee was indeed hard core, but it was also refreshing to hear something different. Succession isn’t an option seeing the world through his lens. How many of us dream that our kids will one day join us, take over and flourish as stewards for generations to come. How proud would we be?

The reality is that in this day and age we have to explore all options. This is healthy and wise. Playing ‘what if’ with each exit scenario will inform the goal and outcome. The world is so different to what it was 5, 10, 20 years ago. Our children’s aspirations are not ours, nor ours, theirs.

Luckily for me, this is what I do; in the hope that I can bring consensus and harmony to the family and protect it considering the business. My mantra remains ‘you can always get another business, but you can’t get another family’.