Peter Fleming meets some of Cumbria’s inspirational family businesses and discovers the benefits of networking.

Peter recently discovered how getting out of the office could dramatically increase his ‘inspiration quota’. Attending Cartmell Shepherd’s Summer Social on Thursday 2nd August proved not only an excellent opportunity to network, but hearing stories shared by some of Cumbria Family Business Network’s business owners proved to be not only educational, but inspirational, too.

Here’s some of the gems that Peter picked up during the evening:

Paul Rheinbach of More Handles told us how his business idea came about as a result of an opportunity to take on an empty industrial unit. Not being sure what to do with his new premises, Paul returned to his experience as an architectural engineer. Spotting a gap in the market, he enlisted the support of his previous employer to supply him with some stock, so he could try selling door handles online. The business has evolved over the years, however there have been some tough periods too, but each time, Paul has taken it on the chin, dusted himself down, and bounced back with more drive and vigour. Paul emphasised how he has surrounded himself with colleagues rather than staff and works to a clearly defined 90-day plan. Pauls key to success, he said, is due to the fact, he shared his vision early on, continually shares the results and rewards with his team which means everyone is aligned to his goals and can contribute to the success, but can share the challenges and fundamentally be an integral part of the More Handles team. Because of Paul’s way of working, he hasn’t been tied on a daily basis to be working “in” his business and created time for himself to work “on” his business. Paul then finished by saying soon More Handles will be launching some new product developments from his well-established online door furniture company. Certainly one to keep an eye on.

Karen Stalker of Stalkers Transport along with her brother, David, are the third generation of a family business which, during 2018, is celebrating its 50th year. Karen shared insight into many of the challenges they have faced over the past ten or so years. But they’ve got stuck in and by taking the time to get to know every aspect of the business and fully understand what drives the margins and finances, built resilience into their forward plans. Karen and David agreed clearly defined roles on who does what and have transformed their transport company. During 2018 Stalkers Transport became National award winners too, winning Family Business of the Year within the transport and logistics category. Karen shared with the audience that treating employees well from the day they start, looking after them, and involving them in the day-to-day details of how the business is doing has been a key success factor. Karen also emphasised the recent value experienced by spending time to apply for business awards. With the outcome of becoming a national award winner this resulted in an overwhelming number of people wanting to work for them in what is currently a very tough and tight job market.

Kate Mawson of Ryecorn Limited shared the story of her family’s business; having originally been dairy farmers based just outside Seascale, West Cumbria, it was when her two sons, Richard and Stephen, returned from university that the business diversified into different areas. The Mawson’s as they are known locally, are now involved with not just milk production, but milk processing and wholesaling, plus manufacturing and selling ice cream through their ice cream parlour and café. They’ve also through Richards lead ventured into hotels, pubs, guest houses and have even become private landlords. Kate shared how, as a family, they collectively continually look for innovation and opportunities; and whilst not everything has worked, they learn quickly and move onto the next thing. “What was the next addition to their business?” was one question from the audience. To answer, Kate shared that they have recently installed Tesla electric car chargers in their hotel carpark and they now also offer motor home overnight parking. Next week they are installing 3 pony stalls next to the hotel, to allow pony owners to have a well-deserved refreshment after riding along Seascale beach.

Interestingly though, Peter observed that after the main event finished, all three business owners stayed back (in their own time) to take questions and also sit down with other family business owners to share their insights and stories, which showed their commitment to sharing their knowledge with the local business community. You couldn’t buy this advice!

“The only source of knowledge is experience” – Albert Einstein

Peter Fleming is part of Business Doctors for Cumbria and North Lancashire, who offer free access to the Value Builder online tool, along with a free no obligation meeting to go through the key factors which will increase the value of your business.

Their next business breakfast seminar Working Smarter not Harder takes place at 8.00am, Thursday 13 September, Crown & Mitre Hotel, Carlisle