Thanks go to Tamara Unwin of the beautiful Stoke By Nayland Golf Course, Spa and Hotel where we host our Suffolk events for sharing this fascinating and incredibly motivational story of a families passion, determination and ability to achieve their goals. We hope it inspires you as it did us.
It is perhaps a surprising fact that, according to a Barclays Bank survey, around 60% of firms in the UK with a turnover of £5 million or less, are owned or managed by related family members – and in East Anglia as many as 75% of all businesses are family-owned and managed. This is no doubt due to the importance of agricultural businesses in this area – of which apparently 94% are owned by families.
There is a saying that in many family businesses the first generation creates, the second generation develops and the third generation squanders.
Unfortunately only a small percentage of third generation businesses survive as a result. With this in mind we have made a decision to strengthen our own family business by planning ahead and involving the next generation.
My four siblings and I are a second generation family business – or ‘G2’ as we have come to all ourselves, and are very much in the expansion stage. Our mother Devora and her first husband, Bernard Loshak, started fruit farming in Suffolk in 1938. She then married Bill Peake in 1948 and together they expanded and diversified the business.
Bill and Devora Peake were incredible risk-taking entrepreneurs, creating two championship golf courses at Stoke by Nayland and Copella Fruit Juices, as well as numerous fruit, arable and livestock farming enterprises over the years. They selflessly ploughed any profits back into the business to create a legacy to pass onto their children and we have done our best to nurture and develop that legacy in turn to pass on to our own children – of which there are now 12 (aged from 20 up to 44), and referred to as ‘G3’.
Bill died in 1979 and Devora in 1999, and since then my sisters, Susanna and Carmella, brother Jonathan and Ihave developed the original Golf Clubhouse into Stoke by Nayland
Hotel, Golf & Spa which comprises of an 80 bedroom hotel, conference centre, Spa and fitness club as well as Lakes Restaurant, Pippin gift shop and Golf shop. We are currently in the process of building some self-catered chalets on the golf course to complement the hotel. My nephew Robert – a ‘G3’ member, is also working in the business as managing director of Peake Fruit. We have invested heavily in the fruit farm, packhouse and storage business and now grow apples, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries for the supermarkets as well supply apples to the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme.
Two years ago I attended a conference on family businesses at the Institute of Directors in London and I was most impressed by the facilitator, Peter Leach. On introducing myself to him I was taken aback to learn that he already knew a great deal about our business and family. He informed me that Sir John Harvey Jones had enlisted his services, as a family business expert, during the making of his BBC Troubleshooter documentary series in the early 1990’s, when he had advised us about our Copella Fruit Juice company, fruit farming, packhouse and golf club enterprises.
I came away from the conference inspired by him and at the next board meeting encouraged each of my siblings to read Peter’s book, Family Businesses – The Essentials. We agreed that, as shareholders in our 50s and 60s, we should take steps to ensure that ours would not be one of the many family business casualties once it reached the third generation. We then embarked on a fascinating journey with Peter over the next few months. We formed a ‘Family Council’comprising of members from both G2 and G3 which now meets twice a year and makes recommendations to our Board.
The Council has written a ‘Family Constitution’ manual which addresses questions of governance, shareholding, succession and many other issues relevant to family businesses. We held a G2 siblings two day ‘retreat’ – which was an enlightening experience involving at the end the ritual of burning pieces of paper on which we had each written any “hot button” issues we knew could irritate one another! We are now organising an annual Family assembly event this summer which is designed to be fun filled as well as educational and which will involve every possible member of the family, including of course ‘G4’ which now numbers 14 and is growing rapidly. There will around 50 of us ranging from babies to OAPs to spouses, to even ex-spouses.
Finally, and most movingly for us, our children, G3, created a Book of Family Values, which they presented to us and which we G2 members wholeheartedly agreed with. A page was given to each of the values which we feel pervades and embraces our family business, such as honesty, integrity, trust, creativity, innovation, inclusiveness, compassion and more, interspersed with family photographs and a family tree. The result of all this activity is hopefully a robust family enterprise in which all the current and future shareholders feel a sense of worth and belonging. We now have a fair and effective means of communicating with one another across the generations, and we can refer to a ‘book of rules’ as a guide.
Finally, we have recently appointed a non-family chairman which has been very beneficial – we have come a long way in two years!