Family business is at the heart of entrepreneurship and the starting point for many global brands, and we were delighted to support the Family Business of the Year category in Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce’s Business Awards, won by AA Salt Services Ltd.
Successfully blending family and business is not always plain sailing, so it’s important to make sure that you have the right commercial framework to build on. Setting up partnership and shareholder agreements early on avoids disputes later and thinking about how personal assets and business assets are divided will also avoid problems as the business develops and changes.
A A Salt, run by Nikki Rogers and now being taken forward by her, her son Ben Tanner and her husband Mark, demonstrates all the best qualities of a family business – dedication, flexibility, readiness to adapt and innovate to meet commercial demands, and an openness to positive input from outside the family. Their succession planning, a key consideration for all family businesses, helped them to stand out at the awards.
They were joined by fellow finalists Green Cow Kitchens, Paul Rabbette chartered surveyors, Shires Equestrian and arrangeMY, all of whom showcased the very best business acumen, along with a commitment to family involvement.
Whether you want to start a new family business, expand your existing enterprise or pass it on to a new generation, our team can help you towards success with expert legal advice and an understanding of all that is at stake for you, your family and your business.
Keeping business on the move when the weather does its worst
From one four-wheel drive and a trailer to a fleet of 12 salt spreaders serving local and national customers, AA Salt Services Ltd has gone from strength to strength since it started in 2002.
The company, which provides salt spreading and snow clearance for a wide range of organisations, has expanded in recent years; in 2010 they had 79 customers – now they have 412.
Co-founder Nikki Rogers and her son Ben Tanner lead the firm which was set up by her late husband with some friends. After his unexpected death, Nikki took up the reins on her own, with two young children to support – Ben was 11 at the time.
With family and business so intertwined – Nikki occasionally took the children to school on a salt spreader during the winter – they have had to strike a balance between the professional and personal over the years.
“We have always taken external advice,” Nikki said, “and when Ben decided to join the business, we found a business mentor for him. That has been invaluable – he gives us the objectivity we need.”
Ben’s innovations for the business include an app which enables them to see where drivers are at any time. Nikki said: “We can literally guide drivers step by step to yards or car parks where the salt needs spreading.”
This technology will help to take the company into the future – they are considering diversification into grounds maintenance to even out seasonal fluctuations. Nikki said: “Ben joining the business has reawakened my enthusiasm for it and I am really looking forward to working with him so that it develops for the future.”
From field to fabulous
Family is at the heart of the Green Cow Kitchens story – the Evans family have added fine dining and a fabulous new venue into the mix of forestry, farming and traditional country pursuits on their farm at Whitbourne, Herefordshire.
The venture, which involves several family members, began with a pop-up restaurant, Green Cow Kitchens, in a converted pigsty at Crumplebury Farm. This developed into a highly successful fine dining restaurant with an emphasis on local and seasonal produce and has now expanded into a new luxury events venue with bedrooms, known simply as Crumplebury.
Husband and wife team Joe and Keeley Evans own the business – Joe, the fifth generation of the family to farm at Whitbourne, set up the restaurant in 2012.
The greatest challenge the business has faced recently was to agree collectively to gear up against the jointly-held assets to borrow money for the new venue – a big new build and a major investment. It involved a wider group of co-owners within the family, all of whose agreement was needed.
Joe said: “Keeley and I put a huge amount of work into researching the opportunities, threats and risks of such a move. Because the decision to mortgage the estate was very much collective, we hope and feel that the burden of responsibility is shared.”
This is backed up by commercial caution – Joe explained: “For the restaurant and Crumplebury businesses, a robust set of shareholder agreements and lease arrangements have been professionally drafted. There is no mechanism for family members to be able to sell their shares outside the family without consent from the other owners.”
Bringing family on board builds growth
Bringing another family member on board helped Worcestershire chartered surveyors Paul Rabbette Ltd to grow and flourish, with a new office in Bristol and a sizeable increase in profits.
The niche firm, established by Paul in 2008, specialises in helping businesses reduce their property costs and improve efficiency. It also employs his wife Carol as Operations Manager and their son Kit, who joined as a senior surveyor in 2017, with his wife Lauren who joined this year.
Kit’s move into the family business, bringing extra flexibility and expertise, gave the family the chance to expand and their cross-selling of the new services on offer led to the highest number of lease advisory instructions in 2018/19 since incorporation.
But they’re not stopping there – they want to double their turnover in the next three years and to develop a strategy for succession planning. But Kit and Lauren were not brought on board because they were family – they were recruited because they had developed exactly the skillset needed, as well as having the enthusiasm, energy and commitment that comes with being part of a family business.
Carol added: “We have always said that the family is more important than the business and that if there are tensions, we need to resolve these swiftly. We have a very open culture so there are often frank discussions about operational issues, but we try to limit these to working hours. Because we also work with non-family members it has been crucial to remain highly professional at all times.”
To hear more from our commercial experts, contact
Robert Capper, Partner, Head of Commercial Team and Sectors
T: 01905 744 814 I M: 07909 970 323 I E: firstname.lastname@example.org