“Little Red Riding Hood has to go!”

Back from a day in Bristol at Familiarity 2009, a conference for family businesses and their advisers. What makes this conference different is that the speakers are prepared to share their stories. So it isn’t just the usual death by Powerpoint. There can be, and there was today, not just a great deal of insight but a lot of emotion.Family businesses have all the problems and issues that other businesses have; likewise the family members have all the problems and issues that other families have. It is just that there is often no separation: things happen in the both business space and the family space at the same time, and often in the same place.

For me, as a professional advising family businesses, and as an outside non-executive director of a family business, there was also a lot on which to reflect. But that is for later; for now, just some of the quotes that stuck in my mind:

From Steve Fudge, MD of Dorset Village Bakery aka Fudges

Little Red Riding Hood has to go!

As Steve explained, this was one of the first things his non-family director said when he arrived.  LRRH has some 122 pages, but we all know the outcome, and it can be summed up in four words only – the wolf ate Grandma. So cut the waffle!

From Mandy Nickerson, MD of Bales Worldwide Travel,

We need to recognise our own success

All too often we are ready to recognise this in others, but we rarely look at we have achieved. Mandy also told us that there was not enough fun in business – but there should be. And she talked about how they deal with complaints (disarming customer terrorists).

And from John Tucker, of The International Centre for Families in Business, when talking about advising family businesses on ownership, control and succession

There are two questions you need to ask, and which are often very difficult to answer: who is family? And who isn’t?