Family Business Q&A
Victoria Brocklesby, COO and Co-Founder at Origin, talks to us about the challenges and opportunities that come with a ‘family business’ tag
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your family business?
Absolutely. I am Co-Founder and COO at Origin, the leading British home brand. At Origin we manufacture bespoke aluminium doors and windows, by combining high grade aluminium with precision engineering, to create functional and elegant products that are designed to last.
Q. What was your business background?
I haven’t actually got any business experience apart from Origin. I started the company straight out of education, reading physics at Southampton. My father had his own business, so as far as I can remember, I’ve been used to a family business environment. So, starting a door business at the age of 23 with my cousin Neil Ginger, seemed very natural.
When we first started out it was just the two of us, and we only had one product – a bi-folding aluminum door. We have 300 employees now. I think it was good to be inexperienced at that stage, because we just cracked on, rather than worrying about what might go wrong.
Q. Describe your business model:
At Origin, we want to offer high quality home products, with an unprecedented level of customer service. As a family-run business, our culture is really important to us, and we hope that it comes across in the products we design and make, and the way we support our partners. We pride ourselves on forging strong relationships with everyone we are involved with, working as one team to deliver the very best products and services we can.
Q. As Origin has grown, have you experienced any change in atmosphere?
As you get bigger, the culture can creek. Crossing the point where I no longer knew all members of staff closely was horrible, to be honest. If I miss anything, it’s that change from being a small, close-knit team. But, because it is a family business, it kept a family-like feel. Even now, something like 60 percent of staff are related to each other. So, it is quite unusual, but it is a lovely environment. Once you pass 100 or 120, you don’t see them often enough to stay in close contact. I still walk the business at least once a week, to keep a sense of being in touch and accessible.
Q. How do you make sure you keep the family feel?
We’ve made a concerted effort to hold on to our culture. We have a quarterly get together, in addition to seasonal things like a Christmas party; we call them townhall meetings. We invite a different section of the business to give an informal, light-hearted presentation about what they are working on, and leaders share plans for the next quarter. It makes sure everyone knows what is going on.
We also have a careful induction process; everyone is given a full tour and welcomed as a new starter in the newsletter, with a bit of information about their role and hobbies. The other thing we do that’s really effective is to get people to identify their key relationships across departments. Then we actively encourage them to spend time together that’s not directly business related; a coffee or a short walk. It allows them to get to know one another as people. My biggest worry is that we ever have staff who might feel that their work at the company is just a job.
Q. What would tell your younger self if you could?
So many things, but with my business head on, I would say ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. Keep a level head, trust your team and definitely do not react rashly. Integrate yourself across all aspects of the business and let experience come with age and time spent on the job.