My parents gave me something more important than money. They taught me the value of a good work ethic and the importance of trust
My family means the world to me. I am and always have been a family-oriented person, and this is obvious in everything I do, including – no, especially! – in the way I do business. The last year has been a huge reminder of just how important family is, and it’s been an opportunity to spend more time with my husband and my two boys. For the first time in their lives, my kids are getting tucked into bed by their mam every single night.
I owe a lot to my parents too. They’ve been a huge help, homeschooling the boys when I’m working. It got me thinking about all the things my parents have given me and taught me over the years. Growing up, there was never much money around, and I was always the kid at school wearing knock-off tracksuits. But my parents gave me something more important than money. They taught me the value of a good work ethic and the importance of trust – in yourself and in the people around you. They gave me the drive and passion that have helped me turn a crafting company I founded in my uni room into a global business. So, I want to dedicate this article to the importance of family, and I want to share with you the valuable lessons that my parents taught me when I was a kid.
There are so many people in business that have inspired me over the years, but none more than my mam and dad. My mam was young when she left university to be with my dad, and they started a family straight away. From that point onwards, my parents always owned their businesses. Even though they were young and had two hungry kids to feed, they wanted to be their own bosses. They knew from the off that it wouldn’t be a walk in the park. We lived in a tiny village (my parents still live there, in fact, and I’m just ten minutes down the road!) and they ran the little paint and wallpaper shop. On top of that, they’ve sold ice cream, pies, done up and resold bikes, driven trucks – you name it, they’ve probably done it.
Over the years, and especially when I was just starting out with Crafter’s Companion, a lot of people have said to me, “I might do what you do and start a business instead of working/going back to work”. Owning your own business can give you so much freedom and empowerment, and you can build a business around you. But you also need to flex your business, and a lot of the time you have to make sacrifices for it. My parents always understood that, and it was an important lesson for me as a kid and now as a business leader and entrepreneur. My dad used to own a transport business – it was just him and a small team of drivers and their vans. One time, he got a call because a van needed to be driven to Italy. All of my dad’s drivers were busy, so what was he going to do? For him there was no question – he just got in a van and drove to Italy. My dad had – and still has – an incredible work ethic, and I am so lucky to have grown up in such a hardworking family bubble. Even though it isn’t easy running your own business, my dad knew it was worth it. When I was a little girl, he used to say to me, “if you’re prepared to work really hard, kid, you might as well do it for yourself”, and that’s something I think about every single day.
Businesses, like families, are built on trust. I offer up trust in a relationship – that’s just my personality type! Some people might see it as a flaw, especially when it comes to business, but I see it as a benefit and another thing I learnt from my upbringing. Growing up helping out at my parents’ decorating shop, I got used to working closely with family and friends, but also to welcoming new people into our tight-knit bubble. When I meet someone, I offer up my trust and take them at face value – they have to erode that trust for me to take it away. For lots of people it’s the other way around – they’re naturally mistrustful and you have to earn their trust. People have their own way of doing things, and it’s important to know yourself, but for me, being open with my trust has always paid off, and it’s allowed me to build strong relationships, at board level and beyond. It’s the same when I welcome a new person to my team. I trust in them and in their potential, and in return, they trust me to help them reach it.
Trust is a two-way street – I learned that watching my parents do business. There’s a lot of theory and philosophy around management, and it all comes down to ultimate trust. Once you have ultimate trust with your team, you can be really honest with each other. You can disagree with people within that team and know that it will be taken in absolutely the right way. You can challenge someone – even your boss – and know that it won’t be taken personally. On the Dragons’ Den panel, we disagree about all sorts of things! We’re all different in our approaches, our tastes and our backgrounds, but we all trust and respect one another enough not to see it as a disadvantage. For me, ultimate trust is the key to a healthy business and a happy team, and I’m grateful that my parents instilled that in me at such a young age.
My number one business philosophy is simple. It’s all about the people. It’s yet another thing my parents taught me. If you treat people with respect and give them the autonomy to go and take on the world for you, they’ll thank you for it – and so will your business! A recent study showed that autonomous staff members feel happier, more engaged and more productive than people who are micromanaged completely. Your team, whether they’re in the office on a client call, or out in the field hunting down new opportunities, represent you. It’s the staff in this business that have made the business successful, not me.
The main things I look for in all my staff are drive and passion. The rest can be taught. My dad probably didn’t know a thing about ice cream when he started selling it, but he was passionate about business and willing to learn as he went. Apart from knitting granny squares with my nana and the odd bit of crafting with my mam, I was pretty much new to the world of crafting when I got my first job in the industry – at a tiny little craft shop. But I was driven and I was surrounded by truly passionate crafters. Drive and passion underpin so much of what I do, and I owe this to my parents. I have so many memories of tradesmen knocking on the door of the shop at 10pm, and my mum getting up to go mix paints for them. It didn’t matter what they were doing, my parents always gave their all. It’s something I’ve always admired in them and valued in myself and my team.
When it comes to all the ways in which my parents have inspired me to grow and run my business, the list is endless – and it keeps growing. I’ve always said that if you surround yourself with good people, then good things will happen, and for me that starts with my family. Five years ago my sister Helen took over the family business, and she runs it with the same love and drive as my parents. My parents may have slowed down, but they’re still the same energetic and hardworking people they’ve always been. In the last year, they’ve been a massive help, homeschooling my kids when I’ve been called away. I’m so glad my children have had a chance to spend so much time with them, and I hope that they can learn the same lessons my parents taught me: work hard, follow your passion and value the people around you.