Special report: Family business – keep quiet about family ties?

Given all the great and unique qualities that family businesses have, it may come as a surprise to hear that in some quarters identifying as such is not always seen as a positive.

Charlotte Boulton is co-founder of Lunachild Collective, a bespoke childcare staffing agency. She and her sister Lucy are the driving forces behind the business.

She says: “We were advised against marketing ourselves as sisters. We got advice not to promote it too much because people might not take us seriously enough.

“Other people have said ‘We think it’s fantastic you are sisters, you’re trustworthy. It depends on how people perceive you.”

Chris McLaughlin, managing director at MIS Active Management Solutions, says that he arrived in the business looking to play down its family side.

He explains: “We were in competition with huge multinational companies and I wanted to show ourselves as being on that level.

“However, the more I got involved in it the more I realised that when I started talking to people, pitching to them, they liked the fact they could just ring up and speak to the person in charge.”

This feature is part of our special report on family business, sponsored by JMW and Pareto Financial. Click here to download the full report for free.

Growth adviser turned business group owner Paul Norris says there’s one other thing driving family businesses to succeed – fear of failure.

However, he adds that can diminish as time goes on, which is not always a good thing.

He says: “When somebody starts a business from scratch they have always got the fear of failure, the fear of things going wrong and the fear that everything is on their shoulders. That’s a first generation thing.

“Having worked with lots of businesses, by the time you get to the second or third generation they tend to get a little bit comfortable. They think it has always been there, it has always been part of their life.”

It’s also important not to lose the qualities that made the family business successful in the first place as it grows, adds Alex Wyers. He is joint managing director of Sale-based Floorbrite, a national cleaning contractor which was started by his father 44 years ago.

He says: “The reason why we like to say we are good is that we have got that personal touch. I still talk to my key clients. It is difficult to do that, the bigger the business gets the more demands there are on your time.”

This feature is part of our special report on family business. Click here to download the full report for free.