Stepping Up In The Family Business
Position: Family Business Member
Company: Collinson Tiles
Sector: Homes & Gardens
What’s it like transferring from family to business role in the family business when you are taking on the reigns of an established company with your parents? Suzi Hambly – who experienced this recently at Collinson Tiles explains in this interview what it is like.
Question & Answers with Suzi Hambly
When did you start in the family business and what is your current role?
I started on the 10th March 2014 at our Bristol office as Commercial Manager and as we are a small family business my role includes anything and everything as everyone chips in. The main things over the following months are to look at initiatives in the marketing and IT space and to see where we can improve our efficiency and customer experience.
However I also answer phones, pick tile orders, serve customers and make the tea – plus I of course hope to take on more responsibility in the running of the business going forward (watch out Dad)!
Do you think there are many lessons you need to learn about the family business?
There are too many to count! Although I have come in new to the business after a career in other retail and IT companies, there is a lot to learn about the product and the culture. Collinson’s staff have a vast amount of knowledge and that can’t be handed over easily. I know it will take me many years to come up to speed.
I am also more used to an office environment and now I need to be involved in the warehouse, driving the forklift and lifting boxes of tiles around. I can however bring some different ideas from outside of the company, a background in the marketing and web space plus some renewed passion and enthusiasm after what has been a tough few years in the industry.
How do you think you will rise to the challenge of taking on the reigns to the business?
Dad, Mum and I agreed an induction process for me for my first 12 months which we are working through. I am confident that the components I am less skilled or experienced at, will be something I am capable of picking up during that period.
Once we are all comfortable, Dad will begin reducing his hours but will remain involved in the company for many years to come. We have complimenting styles which work well and it is good to know he will be around for any questions for a while yet!
What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of being in a family business?
The big advantages for me are the family environment and ability to make quick meaningful decisions. In a family business the atmosphere is that everyone looks out for each other and does their best to ensure the customer is looked after. We like to talk to our customers and don’t ‘transfer them to another department’.
Everyone takes on a responsibility to deal with that customer or call and see it through to an end. Decision making is always easier in a small business but adding the family component means everyone always wants the best for the company and I have worked in some larger firms where that doesn’t always happen.
How is your knowledge on the industry – is it something you have grown up with or learning as you go?
It has actually been a bit scary how many people have told me they remember me as a kid coming into work with Mum and Dad from over 30 years ago! My siblings and I would have to amuse ourselves when Mum and Dad were busy by roller skating around the tile warehouse and having races on the office chairs! I’ve grown up with tiles around me – whether in the family home (literally everywhere!) or just in the family dinner debates.
As I said before I know I have a lot to learn, especially about our wide and varied range of products, however I do feel this is the perfect time for me to be involved and I am very passionate about it so it must be in the blood!
What was your first day like and how’s the job going now?
I am the first new staff member we have had in a while and my first day started with the usual admin bits and health & safety. However by late morning it was important to ‘get stuck in’ and start answering phones and dealing with our products.
I asked a lot of questions those first few weeks but the staff have been very supportive and less than 3 months later I understand everyone’s role, serve customers, pick orders and understand the manufacturing process. I am progressing a few small projects and I ask slightly fewer questions!