Ben Wilson is the Business Leader of MPM - A successful manufacturing composite business with a turnover that has more than doubled since becoming Business Leader and running the business alongside his brothers: Syd the Product Development and Business Leader and Dylan Wilson the Operations Leader.
A friend of mine recently asked me, “What do you love about running a family business? You’ve built a successful composite manufacturing firm with your brothers and father. You’ve expanded the business and yet you’ve kept the same values about not accepting second best of yourselves or others. My brothers would have torn each other’s heads off by now! I don’t know how you do it!”
This discussion caused me to sit down and really think about the benefits and challenges of running a family owned business as the Business Leader.
Benefits of Running a Family Owned Business
Trust and Communication
I think our greatest benefit, as a family run business, is our ability to communicate openly and honestly with each other. We make sure we take time to have annual general meetings to discuss anything and everything.
“I think our greatest benefit as a family run business, is our ability to communicate openly and honestly with each other”
My brothers and I have built up trust in each other while working together. We joined the business young, working underneath our father who was Managing Director at the time. As the eldest I entered the business at 18, Syd joined when he was 19 and Dylan started at 16. In these early years I was openly honest with my father about how I felt about the business but I realise now that I could have been a little more tactful about the way I expressed my feelings in the presence of other team members. I was growing into an adult at the same time as learning about working within a business and dealing with the emotions of family relationships.
Long Term Planning
Investing in the company long term is paramount to me. When we took over the company from our father we wanted to keep the business within the family. My brothers and I created a long term vision, to be the number one team of choice, for the supply of composite/grp tooling and products in the UK. Our long-term investment in expanding the factory, has allowed us to maintain our vision.
Rapid Decision Making
When problems arise we have a very simple leadership structure, which allows us to make decisions very quickly and react to the changing market conditions.
Working as a family means that we all have the same willingness to work hard and put in the extra hours in order for deadlines to be met and for the business to succeed. I understand this means there is be flexibility in the working hours for my brothers when they are needed.
As brothers we naturally hold common values about the business – “Not accepting second best of ourselves or others”, “Embrace and drive change - innovate”, are just some of our common values. However I believe that in order for all the team to have a clear idea of the values, they need to be written down, in a place where all employees can view them.
Loyalty from Our Team
We want the team to show the same sense of loyalty and commitment that we hold as brothers. We value our team very highly and therefore understand the value of inclusivity of all team members. Our mantra is, “Treat people how THEY would like to be treated,” for example all new starters get the same uniform from day one in order to feel part of the team, small details like this make all the difference, in order to make the new recruits feel part of a team.
The Challenges of Running a Family Owned Business
When we took over the business from our father Brian Wilson who had built it up from scratch, my brothers and I sat down to discuss who was going to fit which roles. We all decided that in order for us to work harmoniously, we all needed to have distinct roles; too much overlap would develop arguments. My brothers and I have worked together so long that we know each other’s strengths, I was the one that enjoyed the coaching aspects therefore it was only natural that I became Business Leader, Syd is great at technical drawings, so he became the Product Development and Business Leader and Dylan Wilson has over 20 years experience in production and operations, so he became the Operations Leader.
When three brothers are involved, personal emotions are inevitable. The best thing about our leadership team is that there is no resentment or rivalry because we have all earned our positions through skills and experience. I am not the Business Leader because I am the eldest but because we are all in agreement that I have the most experience for the position. However this is not always the case in every family run business. My advice would be to put aside any emotional feelings and work out whose skill set best suits which role. This will ensure the business functions at its best.
Are you working for a family run business, whether you are part of the family or a non-family member? What are your experiences, whether it’s benefits or challenges? We would like to hear your opinion.