Family water company has a spring in its step

James Cain joined Harrogate Spring Water in 2006 and became managing director five years later.

With a major production expansion plan he has worked to transform the business, which his engineer father Tony was instrumental in setting up in 2006 as a founder shareholder. His dad remains chairman.

Cain, who learned about business in the retail sector working at Asda Wal-Mart, is quick to say that he doesn’t think it “feels like a family business”.

He says: “We’ve invested a lot in the business and in the brand. We are not a big corporate but we have got family and corporate values. You can have both and it can work.

“You have got the ability to create tight reporting lines and decision making is rapid.

“That agility allows you to move quickly, however you can also have a corporate outlook. We have a mission and values and take an HR approach to things.

Today Harrogate Spring Water employs 90 people and has a £30m turnover. “The brand has taken off,” he says.

Cain says he never thought that he would end up working with his father. But once fate intervened he seized the opportunity. His father attends board meetings once a month in his capacity as chairman.

He adds: “We are different people. He is the visionary, I’m the detail man. We complement each other, but it does have its challenges.

“Probably the best thing I did was to appoint a non-exec director pretty much from day one.

“They did a great job of adjudicating matters and supporting both of us, while acting as a bridge between us.”

Cain adds that it is difficult to switch off when you are in a family business. “You can’t not take it home,” he adds.

“You talk about it with your family; you’ve got it 24/7. My mother probably paid the price of that.”

Cain adds: “In the last five years we have been able to attract the best talent and we have some big investment plans in the pipeline over the next six months.”