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  • Advice for running a family business in 2019

    The family business makes us a huge chuck of operators in the UK’s garden retail industry. In all honesty, family businesses account for a huge chunk of all UK businesses.

    To start off 2019, we’ve asked for advice from three of the most successful family businesses in garden retail.

    Andy Bunker
    Alton Garden Centre

    In my opinion there are very many plus points in running a family business. For me being second generation in our business my main piece of advice is to have family members heading up one of the main parts of the business for example catering, plants or garden furniture.

    These departments being the larger turnover justifies part of their higher salary. Being able to react quickly to changes, making sure you do not have too many layers of management.

    Also moving around to make sure as management the family members understand the workings of as many departments as possible.

    My lasting piece of advice though is you must spend as much time as possible on the shop floor as you will not learn your customers? needs from behind the computer.

    Martin Stewart
    Stewarts Garden Centres

    The running of a family business is be the greatest privilege, it provides a commercial organisation with some wonderful opportunities.

    One can take the long-term view when making decisions that many businesses are unable to do. One can create an atmosphere that includes everyone in the organisation, helping create a family feel throughout and, above all, one can create a culture that the customer loves, even if it is a totally subconscious reaction.

    A culture where one wants to do a great job for the business but not taking life too seriously and allowing a sense of warmth and fun to pervade every aspect of each day.

    On the other hand, as well as needing a bit of luck with the opportunities for succession, a family business can be a pretty tricky, even a truly awful, place to be. Family disputes where some want short term pay-outs while others wish to invest in the long-term future all threaten that precious, warm, loving culture that the wider team and customers need.

    What do you do when the parents can’t let go? When the next generation is clearly not up to it, or worse still, has no love for the subject?

    We have been so lucky to have survived into the eighth generation and soon hopefully into the 9th but as our amazingly well documented history shows it has not all been plain sailing, two world wars made survival difficult. We will never, ever, forget that we have no divine right to be here.

    The greatest pressure of all comes from not really wanting to be the one to screw it all up, wishing above all to leave it in better condition and with a greater chance of survival than before one started.

    Perhaps the best single piece of relevant advice came from my Mum. ‘If you teach your kids just one thing, teach them enthusiasm’. That above all is what a family business needs everywhere in abundance.

    Tim Greenway
    Highfield Garden World

    As with any family business, difficult as it may be, try to have a clear plan.? Having a 5- or 10-year development plan that is regularly reviewed allows all the family members to know where the business is going.

    That may involve expanding with huge financial investment and extra staff, or even preparing the business for sale.

    Just because a business is family owned now, do not rely or expect the next generation to want to carry it on – planning for the future can help tie in family members but they must have the appetite for it.

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