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’.

Legacy – what is it and why is it so important?

Recently our Rector Ross Terranova delivered an excellent talk – one of a series called ‘On Giants Shoulders’. The person he spoke about was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was martyred at the end of WWII by personal order of Hitler. During his brief life (40 years) he saw what was coming as early as 1933 and made it his mission to stand up for the true meaning of the Christian faith against a back drop of the new order of Christianity preached by the Nazi Party, as it gained momentum.

The talk was riveting. The series was inspired by the ignorance of the history that recounts the lives of brave people, who shaped our understanding and beliefs, and some who sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of truth. I’m always looking at how my own faith affects who I am, and in business what I value, and how my faith informs many of my business decisions.

The legacy and teachings of Christianity are written in the Bible; for Muslims it is the Quran, Buddhist teachings are recorded in the Tripitaka, Sikhs have their Vedas and Jews record their beliefs and philosophy in the Torah.

In my opinion these are legacies that were left hundreds and thousands of years ago to the people, and for the benefit of the people in their various jurisdictions. These legacies have been handed down through the generations and are so strong, so believable and so valued. Each philosophy is written in a way that the teachings never vary through the centuries. We adhere to and celebrate all of the significant rituals and occasions without deviation. And importantly our faiths will survive and thrive for centuries to come.

We are in auspicious company here, but in our small way all of us running our family businesses are leaving a legacy, either by design or default; positive or negative. We think about a legacy as something that is left behind after the death of a leader. Yes money, property and assets are included, but there is more importance in leaving a larger legacy of that which matters to your family, employees, future generations and to the world.

What kind of legacy are you leaving to the world? As the owner and leader of your family business, you need to determine this or else it will be determined for you. To record your legacy during your lifetime is far better than to have it written after your death when your person, values and life are exposed and you become the subject of unhealthy, vitriolic untruths that will damage your memory and crush your family and friends.

Your legacy isn’t an event, it is your entire life’s journey; the sum of your experiences in the face of adversity; people who have supported and inspired you to have the courage to carry on and others that have enjoyed your success and felt the benefit of your leadership. Your legacy has a chronology that will be lost forever if not recorded. Your legacy is your blueprint for life.

So why is this so important? We know that first generation entrepreneurs start the business; that the second generation nurtures, builds and grows the business. But the third generation have no recollection or empathy for the sacrifices made by the founder. Life has always looked like this: nice home, good school, influential peer group and the trappings of a good life. It’s a new normal. Hence the propensity to failure.

The stats say that only 4% of family businesses survive the third generation and I believe it is partly because the purpose, values and experiences of the founder have been lost in translation. We are in danger of undervaluing our brand.

I am on a journey to seek out the stories, legacies and triumphs of our amazing family business community. I had the privilege of writing, creating and producing a documentary for one unusual, brave, passionate man who in the face of adversity as an immigrant, came to these shores in the 70’s and overcame everything to become the huge success he is today. He has what I call a ‘Living Legacy’ written together with his family, captains of industry, his employees, customers and those in government and of influence. His legacy contains familial tragedy, worldwide conflict, personal sacrifice, opportunity, context and capacity to make the world a better place. He has come from nothing to everything. His legacy is recorded so his grand children and future generations will have the benefit of understanding and appreciating what has been and what has true meaning.

The power of a living legacy will instill the values and purpose of the family business for generations to come. We are defined by our parentage and heritage. By knowing where we have come from guides our future thinking, purpose and plans for living. There is a richness and pride in knowing your legacy. It reinforces your beliefs in right and wrong; gives you the courage to do more and achieve more in your lifetime safe in the knowledge you will have your own legacy to hand down to the next generation.

When I produced Dr Rami Ranger CBE’s Living Legacy Documentary he was moved to tears. It took our combined efforts to write, storyboard and showcase the achievements of this ordinary humble man and his extraordinary journey and success.


What will your legacy say?

·      25 years (one generation) after your death what will your family and the wider community and the world remember you for?

·      What difference will you have made to people’s lives?

·      How will your wealth change the lives of others less fortunate?

·      Who will know the secrets to your success?

·      Where will family be able to go, look, read about your life, purpose, achievements, values and hope for the future?

·      What are your wishes for humanity?