02 Dec What is the secret to running a family business?
What is the secret to running a flourishing family business? One that is both harmonious in the boardroom and the family home?
After almost 75 years in business and now one of Suffolk’s most famous names, the Denny’s of Denny Bros Ltd should know the answer. Especially when entrepreneurship in the family can be traced back to the early 1500s and the present day incarnation sees Denny Bros incorporating six family members. But the family are keen to impress the importance of starting from the bottom, learning the business and then working your way up.
Joy Denny, managing director of DB Supplies who started at the company part-time when she was 16 years old, said:
There is an assumption with a family business that you are automatically handed a job without having to try. It’s actually the opposite. Jobs weren’t created for the family members. We all joined when a vacancy arose and then started at the bottom and worked our way up. I knew I wanted to go into the retail side, so I made an effort to gain extra experience while waiting for a vacancy to come up, by working elsewhere and learning about customer service and running a shop.
What about the impact of a family business within the family home?
Are there ever times where a dispute at work might lead to tension over the dinner table? On the contrary, says Joy, thanks to the lessons instilled by brothers Russell and Douglas Denny, the founders of the company. She revealed:
One thing that has always helped us as a family is that everything is kept very separate, so our relationships with each other are good. That stemmed from Russell and Douglas’s relationship. They got on well together. Of course there were disagreements, but their rule was never to take it personally as business is business.
Graham Denny, managing director of Denny Bros Ltd, added:
Lots of things divide you in a family business, but there are also lots of things that bring you together. No-one understands your situation as well as the other family members. Also, successive generations differ as the pressure is different. The first generation builds the business up, the second generation onwards concentrate on keeping the business going. The added advantage is that the family know each other well. They know what you’re good at and what you’re interested in. We also have non-family board members in the business. It is a collaboration and not always down to the family to make key decisions within the businesses in the group. It gives us great strength that we have others who can be there to provide an objective viewpoint when it is needed and lead the individual businesses in the direction they need to go.
If business has bonded the family, so has their love of Suffolk.