In March last year, we were supposed to be attending the National Entrepreneur Awards in Birmingham. The event was planned to take place the same week we all went into lockdown #1 in the UK.
Like everything else, these days, the awards were put on hold.
Fast forward seven months and the event was held virtually at the beginning of October 2020.
Almost two thousand entrepreneurs and business owners attended the virtual event from all over the UK and beyond.
There were over five hundred entries, from companies big and small from all over the UK.
Eight awards were up for grabs.
And, The Scottish Shutter Company won one of them.
Best Family Business 2020
We’re absolutely delighted to have won this award against some outstanding finalists.
David Browne, one of our directors, received the award and paid tribute to the small but very hard-working team at Scottish Shutters.
In particular to his daughter Judith who is a fantastic Mumpreneur. That band of dedicated women who manage to combine running a successful business whilst managing a home, bringing up children, supervising enforced home-schooling and running Mum’s Taxi.
It’s not unusual for our clients to get an email from Judith very late in the evening.
The Scottish Shutter Company is no stranger awards. We won Best Family Business at the Family Business Association Awards a few years ago and also Best Plantation Shutter Installation at the British Blind and Shutter Association Awards in 2019.
The Scottish Shutter Company (SSC) is a family business with seven family members involved. The Award-Winning Company supplies and installs high-end luxury window blinds and shutters.
The Scottish Shutter Company – Thirty-Four Years
Statistics vary, but there’s no doubting that not many new
businesses make it past the first eighteen months. Even fewer
make it to the five-year mark. Another statistic says that only 30% of family businesses make it to the second generation.
So that puts my family business – The Scottish Shutter Company amongst a select few. The reason for the success? – a lot of hard work.
Getting and Keeping Customers is Just the Start
Success in business comes down to getting and keeping customers. In a family business, add to that the unique set of challenges stemming from the overlap of family and business. Our whole family relies on this business. My parents, me and my husband, my cousin, my aunt and our kids’ livelihood depend on us getting and keeping customers. Oh, and my 98-year-old Grandad still came to work each day until he sadly passed away in July 2020.
Where Did We Go Wrong?
At business awards ceremonies, I’m always amazed by what others have achieved. I can’t help comparing our business to theirs.
“What are we doing wrong?” For years, I asked myself that.
I realise now, that’s the wrong question.
All the Good Stuff
During business-award winning speeches, we only hear about the good times, the wins and the goals achieved. That million-pound contract, the new fleet of vehicles, the new buildings, the newly implemented Google culture where everyone gets to choose their working hours and holidays.
I want to tell it like it is. The real-life, the ups and downs. The very essence of a family business.
Family businesses like ours that survive through the generations do so through sheer resilience and a fighting spirit.
The truth is lots of businesses find it tough. When business people are asked how they’re doing, they often answer,
When we’re perhaps not!
Business is hard, and a family business has its own unique nuances.
It’s ok not to be ok.
Ask for help.
Just like we did with Nigel Botterill at The Entrepreneurs’ Circle all those years ago.
We hit hard times and had some serious decisions to make. Cut staff, stop advertising, cut costs, or fight!
Fight is what we did then, and every time we hit challenging times.
Perhaps it’s the Braveheart spirit. The thing about being a family business where every single family member depends upon its success is backing down is not an option. You can’t close the doors. You have to find a solution for every single challenge.
You have to battle on and work things out.
There were times when the solution seemed never to appear. We wondered how we’d get through the next day, week, month or year.
We’re Still Here
But, thirty-four years later, we’re still here!
We don’t have any family members with other sources of income, it all comes from us getting and keeping customers by providing an outstanding service.
Behind the Scenes
On more than one occasion, we’ve had family crisis meetings. Do we close the doors? Do we get rid of staff? Do we reign in the marketing?
How can we go on with so much s*** happening around us?
We’ve had the most awful advice from three sets of accountants. To the point where that advice was almost the downfall of our business. They messed up our PAYE and VAT. If we had shares in little brown HMRC envelopes, we’d be wealthy!
We’ve had staff mutinies. Every time (our precious family time), we touched down on the runway on our family holidays, yet another staff nightmare raised its head.
What I want to achieve by winning this award is shout from the rooftops that family business is challenging in ways that regular business isn’t. Yet I consider myself the luckiest person on the planet to work with my entire family every single day. This works because we have a shared aim. To ensure that our family is taken care of.
At awards ceremonies, I listen out for the golden nugget from the inspirational acceptance speech. It just seems that the winning business is so far removed from my situation I struggle to take inspiration.
So, What Does it Take?
So, what does it take to be a successful family business?
Mindset and resilience.
And, it seems, we have bucket loads of this!
Every time one of us feels down, there’s a family member there to pick us up.
This is the strength of our family. I can’t speak for every family business. I know of many that have such severe family challenges at home that running their business is just added stress on top of an already stressful life.
We too have faced difficult times within the family, which has an impact on our business. But we always find a way to deal with it.
My Dad was diagnosed with cancer, then my Grandad. Now my aunt is going through some pretty rough treatment.
They’re involved in the success of our business. This presents its own challenges to getting and keeping customers.
I wanted very much for us to win Best Family Business 2020 in recognition of all that we’ve achieved and overcome to get to this point.
We’re not turning over millions. We’ve not made massive leaps, brought on hundreds of staff or opened lots of branches.
We’ve remained small but true to ourselves and our family.
Without having the funding or the time available to us, we opened a second showroom. In Edinburgh, two hours away from our homes.
We run this between me, my husband and my Dad.
If one of us is in Edinburgh, one is in Dundee, and the other is out on the road. We’re rarely in the same place at the same time. For family events or kids’ things, we always need to juggle.
However, we all love it. It wouldn’t be for everyone, but we help each other to ensure that we juggle home life, our precious kids and the business.
We Just Went for It
We went to Disney without a large bucket of cash available.
We enjoy lots of fantastic holidays with our kids without much free time and without people to step into the business in our absence.
We opened a new showroom without a wad of dosh doing nothing in the bank and without a plethora of staff to run it.
We set our sights on the goal. We put a plan in place and we go for it, every single time.
I hope this will inspire others who don’t know where to turn or don’t know where the next sale is going to come from.
To get out there find the right mentors (and accountants!) and focus on what’s important to them.
The Big Question
For every decision, we ask:
“Is it right for the family?” – and that’s the way it will always be.
Passion, resilience, positive attitudes, being bold, bags of enthusiasm, a common goal, this is what being involved in our family business is all about.
The moment one of these things starts to sag, another family member is there to lend a hand, encourage or pick up the slack.
We have a common goal. To make the life of our family and our girls unique and the best it can be.
No hidden agendas, just one common goal. The family.
That’s why our family is so proud to be voted Best Family Business 2020
Love Judith x