13 March 2016
Like any story that spans generations, there are ups and downs. What I always find fascinating with family businesses is how they inspire the next generation coming through. There are a number of these great family businesses in Manchester and the North West. Founders like Michael Oglesby of Bruntwood, John Timpson of Timpsons somehow managed to inspire their kids to in turn, inspire their workforces and take the helm.
With 3 daughters and another on the way and reminders that we are only on this planet for a short time, I have to prepare my girls for a potentially complicated yet exciting life ahead, should they wish to join the business one day.
There’s a saying; “from rags to riches, to rags again in a 3 generations” and for any business man or woman it’s a concern. Businesses are not easy things to run, they require a huge amount of attention and a great deal of expertise. To hand over a business to your son or daughter ill qualified and unprepared is a recipe for disaster.
As a founder you learn as you go along.
It’s exactly the same as being a parent.
When your baby is small you have small problems. As your baby grows, things get more complicated. Your baby sits up and becomes more demanding. Just as you learn to cope, you turn around and your baby is crawling. This brings on a whole new set of challenges. You now need eyes in the back of your head!
Once you learn to cope with this, suddenly and seemingly overnight, your baby is a toddler. Walking turns to running and now you really do have to be on your toes. And so the journey begins. You never stop learning. At every stage there are a series of key lessons that shock, challenge and keep your feet firmly on the ground.
A business is exactly the same.
When you are small, your problems are in direct proportion to your size.
Have you any friends who have married into a relationship where their partner has older kids?
Wow! This is a baptism of fire. I remember getting a call from one such friend who was at his wits end. “How do you cope? What do you do?” he asked.
Sadly I couldn’t help! I’d not learned the lessons for managing and coping with teenagers yet. Yes, I can imagine there will be a few people smiling at this, saying “yep and with 4 daughters, you have your work cut out for you Lawrence!”
But back to the point I am making, being in business, just like caring for children, is hard work. Its non-stop and at every stage brings new challenges.
Thats part of the fun though and I wouldn’t change my life for the world, but how do you bring your kids into a busy environment where mistakes can literally wipe all your hard work out?
I have seen many people get it wrong and bring their children into the management team and just like a parent who starts cold with a teenager, they struggle. Yet there is a common theme to the ones who do it right.
So if being in business is your destiny, just like you know when its the right time to have kids, when you have found that perfect partner, don’t let fear ever stop you. You can achieve anything you set your mind to.
My advice is don’t worry about starting small. Small is beautiful. Every client is your most important client. Every moment is magic and the lessons you learn at the coal face in the early years are invaluable and are a necessary part to your training.
You’ll never stop learning and you don’t want to be CEO or Apple on day one. Learn gradually and grow your own orchard.
None of us last for ever, although memories can, if we work hard enough. Go and inspire the next generation and remember to have fun in the process.
Have an awesome week ahead.