23 June 2010
I was recently bought a copy of the John Timpson
book "Upside Down Management
". Anyone that is aware of John's writing will know that he has an eloquent way of putting things and isn't afraid to be open whilst maintaining a light hearted approach. Of course this book is exactly the same.
As a fellow family business owner I can share many similar anecdotes to those in the opening chapters of the book but there's one that stood out to me. Chapter One discusses the 1960's and how business was built upon status - "our office was full of status symbols". Well I remember that all too well when I used to visit our family's company as a young child back in the late 70's. John explains that there were 40 parking spaces on the way to the entrance of the building and these were strictly allocated according to seniority.
At T Saveker Limited whilst at our Phillips Street site we had a senior staff car park to the right of the main building and another car park to the left for everyone else. The 'family' were permitted to use the one to the right and yet I deliberately chose not to and much preferred to park with everyone else. I guess the fact that my car when I started with the company was more in keeping with the left hand car park meant in fitted in well. Once I could afford a slightly better car I didn't see why car parking arrangements should change.
In 1997 when we moved premises (to Aldridge Road by Perry Barr Grey Hound Stadium) a senior family member and board member instantly parked next to the entrance, irrespective of any potential disabled drivers etc. This was clearly an indication of status as he perceived it. As he arrived reasonably early each morning it set a challenge - to get in even earlier and park there. So I did.
John Timpson commented that as you moved up in the company management structure you could move closer to the door. This was so true and something I resented when I became Managing Director and later CEO. There were no set parking spaces from the moment I became MD.
Family businesses can have wonderful traditions and many look after employees well but status can continue to be a big issue - and yet as John explains, real success comes from empowering the workforce - given you have the correct workforce and no "drongos" as Timpson puts it!