William Croxson established his wholesale bottle merchant business in London in 1872. Today, nearly 150 years later, both the family name and the family business are as strong as ever. They’re very proud of this heritage, especially over the last 40 years, where there has been a huge evolution of the company. Building on the vision of chairman James Croxson, they are now well-established as an international expert in single-source, multi-choice glass packaging. And with these solid foundations in place, the next 150 years look like being even more successful. We spoke to Tim Croxson, the fifth generation of the family business to find out more.
When was the business founded?
The business started in 1872, so we will be celebrating 150 years in 2022.
What does it do?
We design and supply glass containers and closures to food, drink, beauty & cosmetic manufacturers and brand owners. For example, a lot of craft beer and gin finds a home in one of our bottles.
Tell me a little about the history of the business?
William Croxson, the founder, my great-great grandfather, trained as a wine cooper and went into the wine business as a broker in London. At that time, glass bottles were expensive as they lacked the manufacturing techniques we see today, so every bottle was reused. William saw an opportunity for a cradle to grave type industry, collecting used bottles, cleaning them, then filling them with wine that he purchased.
What generation are you and what are your first memories of the family business?
I am the fifth generation, and my first memories were of coming into the office at weekends, playing with the Telex machine. Whilst certainly not appreciating the finer details of what the business did, I think the majority of memories were more around the team of people who worked for the business, something that remains just as important to us today.
Are there any other family members working in the business?
My father is still involved as Chairman of the Group, with more of a focus on our international companies.
How important was the business in your life as you grew up?
It would be foolish to not recognise the benefit/privilege that growing up around the business gave me. It offered part-time work as a young lad but also gave an aspiration as well as demonstration of what hard-work was and the level of commitment required to run a business.
What was your journey into the family business and what do you do now?
I have been full-cycle – from desire to work in the business, to wanting nothing to do with it but then wanting to apply my education to the company, to help it be and do better.
My first formal role was working in the warehouse, running the forklifts, and whilst still retain oversight of that area, I progressed into marketing and operational roles with secondments at two of our group business. I am now Chief Operating Officer of the Group, but, uniquely, heavily involved with the strategic direction of the business.
As a multi-generational business, what has helped your firm stand the test of time?
At senior level, whilst sometimes taking a little longer than we would like, we haven’t been afraid to make the tough decisions and address our own challenges and change what we are doing if it isn’t working. It would be fair to say that change is a constant.
Our team are singlehandedly the most important asset we have – the sense of team in our daily collaboration and work is really vital, and whilst having naturally changed over time, was one of the things that struck me when I first started working.
What values are important to the family and the business?
Honesty, hard-work, fun.
Do you build the family ownership into the marketing and brand narrative and if so, how?
We describe ourselves as the family of packaging. Whilst a double play on our history and the full suite of packaging that we offer, we are proud of our history. We use the family business line to most effect in describing how we work as that has the most significant difference compared to a business which is either corporately owned or lacks the long-term strategy and experience.
What do you think makes working in a family business special?
The sense of family. We treat all of our team as family. There is a greater patience and grace shown than in other types of businesses.
Are there any disadvantages associated with working in a family business?
There can be massive highs with a family business, but also some massive lows – when it goes wrong … and impacts on family relationships. At its hardest, when decisions are the greater good versus family, with the fall out being, ultimately a break of relationship, that is when you wear the scars of a family business.
The toll it can take on yourself and your own family can be high, emotionally, mentally and physically. Having a strong family unit or peers is vital for support and a sounding board.
Have you taken any particular steps in terms of governance to help protect the business for the future?
We have been blessed with an amazing board of professional directors, some outside hires, some internal promotions. This ensures a balance, and we are clear that we only want people who show integrity and a willingness to say it how it is, rather than trying to play politics.
Is there a next generation in the wings?
Potentially, but still of a young age. It is difficult though to not look at my children and start wondering, even evaluating…
What advice would you give to anyone in the next generation considering joining their family firm?
Either be prepared to start at the bottom, work really hard, study and read whilst you do, or go outside of the business and come back in your own right, with all the experiences and knowledge that comes from working in different types of business and under different leadership.
If you could talk to your younger self before you joined the business, what would you say?
The massive lows that might come your way will hit you for six, but you will come back stronger. There are times that it will be hard, look after yourself, know how to look after yourself both emotionally and mentally.
If you could sum up the family business in a few words, what would they be?
Inspirational – both design and charitable work.
Fun – banter is so important!
Family – value is put on the individual AND their family.
Team – we work for each other, when someone is down, the team responds.
Innovative – both in what we do and how we do it.
Find out more about the business by visiting their website here