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?

Walk a mile in my shoes

I spent the weekend with a very dear friend of over 45 years. We had a blast. It was an extraordinary time as we both run our own family businesses and snatch a coffee or lunch maybe a couple of times a year. She is passionate about her business which has escalated beyond recognition and she is a leading light in her sector. I’m so proud of her achievements. The business is growing at a rapid pace and she is on it literally 24/7, 365. A total inspiration. I love her to bits and we talked about her business and the challenges as you do.

My business is a membership, events and consultancy one and hers is in manufacturing. At one point she got very annoyed with me and said how on earth could I ever imagine what she did, the plates she spins, the amount of staff she is responsible for, the competitive nature of TV and the amount of money she has to make to keep the business afloat. Of course she was right. You have to walk a mile in someones shoes …… lesson learned.

We did however speak about the important things we have both experienced, the ups and downs and downs and ups. You get the picture. But there are a few things we absolutely share that are vital to our well-being as entrepreneurs. REPUTATION is everything and the bigger you get, the harder it is to maintain throughout the entire workforce. TRUST is a rarity, but we are lucky that in a family business its a given with our family members. And JOY which is what we both have in spades.

I love her comments here:

‘As you go through life, there will be good days and what I prefer to think of as growing days. Sometimes, when the odds are stacked against you, and there seem to be more growing days than good ones, there is always the temptation to throw the towel in, walk away or even lash out. What I would say to my beautiful children is simply that


Don’t you just love that!

Time Honoured Skills: The Rarest of Finds

What is it about luxury goods that make us want, desire, covet and admire them? Is it the rareness of the wood, leather, metals, or the unique craftsmanship or recipe handed down through the generations? Is it knowing if you need to know the price, you can’t afford it? Is it the secret network of suppliers to trusted makers? Is it the name of the brand and knowing you can be part of the inner circle if you were just able to get your hands on it? Of course it is all of these things and more. But above all is that luxury is based on TRUST, LOVE, PASSION, KNOWLEDGE AND KINDNESS.

We trust that the products are made with authentic materials, of the highest quality and from the rarest of finds. We know that each and every masterpiece was made with love which oozes out of every grain, cloth, gemstone, casket and glass. Passion is in your DNA and you can’t live without a passion for your craft, come rain or shine, good times and bad. When putting your mark on a piece, each one is an investment of your knowledge and skills over several years, therefore you know that it was created and will be received with love. Most people don’t have the stomach for it in this easy come easy go world we live in.  And finally, luxury is produced only as a result of the kindness afforded to the family behind the brand, the way they treat each other, praise and nurture their people who in turn, gift this emotion to their customers.

Family businesses have been supplying luxury goods since the earliest of times and continue to hand their knowledge and craft skills through the generations. Boodles, Bremont, Chivas Bros, Russell & Bromley, Fortnum & Maston, Clive Christian, Sliver Fleet Boats, Lobb, Ettinger, Capstar Chauffeurs, The Goring, Le Gavroche, Bovey Castle, Britain & Co, Scott Dunn, Walkers Shortbreads, Highgrove, Floris, Johnstons of Elgin, James Purdey & Sons, and John Smedley are just a tiny sample of contemporary as well as multigenerational family owned enterprises that provide the world with some of the most iconic British made brands around the globe. And it is no coincidence the UK produces 10 of the worlds top 50 luxury brands in sales.

Luxury branded products come from a sense of place. The most valuable whisky from Scotland; world class cheese from Yorkshire, hand-made leather goods from Walsall, Glass from Devon, Gold from Wales, bespoke yachts from Dorset and the finest woollen-wear from Ireland. And more often than not they are thriving family owned enterprises.

Big is certainly not beautiful, it can be bijoux and priceless.


A new opportunity, purpose and confidence booster.

In celebration of the 5th year anniversary of Micro Biz Matters Day on Friday 11 January 2019 and in recognition of all of us who run micro businesses all over the UK I’ve made three pledges #IGave11 to support the sector. My first is to promote the day across all of my social media and contacts nationwide; the second is to offer 11 single hour sessions to anyone running a micro-business who feel they could benefit from my experience, advice, ideas on anything from branding to business marketing and family business advice. You can even just pick my brains! I’ve been in business over 35 years now – been there, done that, got the T shirt so to speak. If I can be useful in any way then do get in touch. No problem too small or too large!

Okay so let’s talk:


•Micro businesses are small and don’t have the cash to pay for an apprentice or a uni intern

•It’s a ‘win win’ because it’s NOT about the money.

•For every graduate who gets a job straight from uni there are thousands who have the talent but just don’t have the confidence to take the first step on the career ladder. Most end up working in retail.

•Many grads have little self worth, low self esteem or have mental health issues.

• Often youngsters have no idea of their purpose in life and don’t know who to turn to or where to begin – or even know the questions to ask. You can ask ‘What do you want out of life’?

•A micro biz is thriving, working, growing ecosystem and as such needs fresh resources, bright thinkers, risk takers and next generation team players.

•A micro biz can teach, encourage, nurture, build confidence, provide new skills and drop them in the deep end! You’ll be surprised how well this tactic works. Everyone steps up to the plate given half the chance.

•Every self-funded intern will be given a personal bespoke One Year Programme according to the role that’s available, provide training and learn how to feel comfortable with people, peers and clients.

•This is a ‘get work ready’ opportunity.

•Mentoring and work experience is provided as part of the programme.

•You can guarantee the intern a job through your network of friends, family, connections and business associates.

Here is an example of a bespoke programme I put together for one of my self funded interns. (For convenience it’s a shortened headline only version). Followed by her Testimonial and then 6 months into her new job. I placed her with a wonderful family business where she is thriving. She is on her way to success. Lucy worked with us 4 days a week and worked in retail the other 3 days to fund her rent, travel, food and beer money. She provided her own computer and software.


Bespoke 1 year program for a Junior Graphic Designer at Family Business Place


This is a 1 year post grad programme to enhance the practical experience gained working on live design projects as part of the FBP creative team.  The work and reflections should form part of a portfolio and should include scrapbooks of notes/the brief/reference material/design progressives etc.

Tutor time must be built into the programme of work in order for the student to feedback and discuss the themes.

For practical reasons the programme modules will be governed to a certain extent by the live working cycles of FBP ie regular events, marketing campaigns and magazine publishing dates.

Technical on-the-job training will be given while working on projects – in both formal manner and/or bite-size chunks a required. The student will also be expected to enhance their knowledge by subscribing to and following on-line learning courses ( and YouTube).

The course is delivered in a way that allows the student to develop his or her own specialist interests within the broadly structured graphic design units as they become competent, confident and independent.

FBP, based in Ditton near Maidstone, Kent has good public transport links to central London where the largest number of creative agencies in the UK have their premises. The proximity enables you the student to build meaningful industry links and enables staff to organise regular visits to exhibitions, festivals and events.


Programme structure

This will be an in-depth introduction to graphic design – with opportunities to develop the student’s creative thinking, build their technical knowledge and complete a number of small scale creative projects.

The program will consist of three elements:

•Live projects

•Research and reflection

•Self Initiated in-depth research and design projects


The Programme


Module 1 – Introduction to Magazine Design

Formal on-the-job tuition

To coincide with live magazine production

Research and reflection

Task 1

Research the magazine Industry

Task 2

How creativity Is maximised

Task 3

Examine and research the structure of magazines


Module 2 – Introduction to Illustration

Task 1   

Research illustrators and illustration style

Task 2   

Research examples of illustrations and professional illustrators from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries

Task 3

Live practical

Illustrate 6 features for use in Generation magazine


Module 3 – The Design Brief

Task 1

Reflect on the personal qualities needed to take a good brief

Task 2

Study different briefs from past projects

Task 3

Taking a verbal brief


Module 4 – Introduction to Branding

Creating a new brand

Listening to the client

Understanding the audience

Task 1

Look at super brands around the world

Task 2

Build your own brand

Task 3

Practical live work

Task 4

Creating a brand bible


Module 5 – Animation

Research best software for creative animation

Create an animated Christmas card for FBP

Homework: YouTube and undertake an e-learning to aid the skills in animation


Module 6 – Web Design

Formal on-the-job tuition

Understand basic structures of site construction

Identify key factors: ease of use, location, traffic

Task 1

Look at websites

Task 2

Design a website from scratch

Task 3

Put together a Mail Chimp e-newsletter

Task 4

Use WordPress to build  a basic web page using images and text

Task 5

Build your personal promotional website in WordPress


Module 7 – Branding, Promotional design, Brochure design

Task 1

Working with the FBP brand guidelines develop a new theme for The National Family Business Place Awards

Task 2

Research great brochure design

Use of layout, typography, imagery, paper stock, info graphics

Write 500 report on findings?

Task 3

Live practical

With the creative team design the new theme for The National Family Business Awards across all media channels from concepts to pre-press and digital


Module 8  Infographics

Study great infographic illustration styles

Task 1

Increase your knowledge of Adobe illustrator software and use tutorials to design info graphics for a feature in Generation magazine

Task 2

Create a scrap book showing different styles of infographics to illustrate facts and figures

Task 3

Develop an FBP house style for information graphics. Take 10 killer family business statistics and produce a set of promotional postcards using infographics


Additional on the job activities and assignments

Introduction to Art Direction of photography

Print production

Development of creative ideas

Weekly blog

External work experience

External mentor



Final End of Year Show

Confirm date and create a private view invitation for friends and family, local businesses and local press

Curate showcase of work in the studio

Prepare speech

Receive FBP Academy Certificate


Lucy’s testimonial

My time here as a design assistant at Family Business Place has been incredible and certainly life changing to say the least.

Being given the chance to use my creative skills in the real world from the very beginning at Family Business Place has well and truly built my confidence as a designer, illustrator and young creative who always dreamed about working in design but not quite knowing where to start, who to talk to, where to go and not even having the confidence to put myself out there.

The bespoke design internship program created by Chairman Anita Brightley-Hodges has provided me with a wealth of things; not only friends and a great support network of peers to go to for advice and support at work, but also the amount of professional design skills I’ve learnt has been amazing. I can now use all the design software that an industry level graphic designer uses.

There has been an abundance of advice on design, portfolios and new designers I had never before heard of and came to admire. I have also met some amazing people along the way, and attended some amazing events and had work experience in between.

Anita provided me with an amazing mentor who is a well-respected figure in the design and typography industry. It was a great priviledge to help put a selection of award-winning work together for a show for The Type Director’s Club. Anita believed in me even though I didn’t quite believe in myself. When I had my first meeting with Anita, my confidence was at a 2/10 and now it’s at an 8/10 not only in design but equally in my personal life.

My dreams finally came true towards the end of my internship when I was offered a job in design, something I wasn’t sure  how to do by myself, will always be eternally thankful to Anita and her generous welcoming team at Family Business Place for providing me with the skills, knowledge, professionalism and most importantly confidence to go out into the real world.


Lucy Parris: Graduation from 12 month self-funded Graphic Designer Internship 6 months on …

I have been working as an illustrator and graphic designer in a thriving and exciting industry for the past 6 months after completing my internship and have loved it and Family Business Place helped me get there.

I joined Anita and her team at FBP as part of a self-funded internship program in graphic design, which is something I always wanted to do on a professional level. Without the internship I wouldn’t have gained all the valuable skills I now have, such as technical and digital skills, knowledge in graphic design as a multimedia discipline along with people and social skills.

I am using all the skills I learnt with Anita in my current role and I can really put into practice my expertise and feel confident in my dream job which involves using specific design software, technical illustration, pitching ideas and producing exciting products for an international customer base.

The work I do on a day to day basis is really important to me and I am so grateful for being able to wake up every day and do what I love. I do have to pinch myself sometimes. But all it takes is one brave decision, trust in yourself and trust the people you work with. It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made as it has change my life for the better.

In just 6 months in I have learnt so much. I am constantly growing every day and developing my practice and skills within design. I’m looking forward to continue working with my creative team and continue to grow as a designer.

This is just the beginning for me!


One of the highlights of our National Family Business Conference this year was the talk from Lord Bilimoria founder of Cobra Beer. The theme of the event was ‘GRIT’. What does it take to get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other in the face of adversity – be it through health, financial crisis, reputation meltdown and the like. Here is a man who has faced many challenges that would thwart other mere humans. He has fathomed, fixed, adapted and not just survived, but flourished to such an extend he is on a global brand trajectory.

Key to his success is his phrase ‘Humbitious’ I love it. This is where ‘a humble attitude meets ambition’. This so resonates with me and I expect with many others. I have also learned that especially when you have lost everything and there are dark days; there are those out there, friends, family, mentors, who come out of the woodwork, wanting to help in any way they can to get you back on to your feet. This experience in turn becomes part of your own DNA and fills you with the confidence and determination not just to come right, but to go further than you every thought possible. His three pillars for success are:

Simple stuff you may think, but hard to achieve and we know it may take a lifetimes work. I think it worthwhile holding a mirror and being honest with yourself when answering these questions. Without these three pillars there is no business worth having. In family business we can control these things much more than in a large corporate. We innately surround ourselves with those we trust – we know our brands are unique and often have been strengthened through the generations and finally we can make a deal on a handshake and look our customers and suppliers in the eye.

If you struggle with any of these thoughts, then do get in touch. Helping family enterprises discover their hidden gem of a brand is what I do.