We were recently asked to do a Q&A for Exeter Living Magazine about being a family business. It was good fun to do, and we were delighted with resulting article which used just some of our articles.
We thought we’d reprint the whole Q&A here as it gives some insight to how we work as a team.
Brief summary of what your business does:
Wedding, conference and team-building venue
When did the business start?
Escot was granted a Civil Marriage Licence in 1996, we were one of the very first private venues in Devon to do so.
How did the business come about?
Like many private estates, we needed to consider diversification. We started as a tourist attraction (now Escot Wildwood) but this was closed due to the foot and mouth outbreak, so we decided to concentrate on using the house for conferences and weddings. People were always asking if we did weddings, so it seemed a natural step.
How did you come to be working together – was it an accident or have you always wanted this?
It just happened naturally, After we were married, Mish started an aquatics business, so I worked in the office, then as the business changed and developed, we just carried on.
How do you ‘share’ the business – who does what?
I manage the ‘indoor’ element of the venue, and Mish does the work outdoors.
What are the best things about working together?
We have complete trust in each other and we know we have a common goal. We understand each other’s part in the business really well.
What are the challenges of working together?
If you ever disagree, it can sometimes be hard to remember it’s not a personal disagreement.
What professional and personal qualities do you admire in your family member?
Mish has a wonderful knowledge of the environment and a great relationship with the farmers on the estate. On a personal level, honest, straightforward and calm, with a great sense of humour.
Any annoying habits?
I don’t like the way he sets out his email replies, I want them to look more attractive.
Does working together mean you live and breathe work?
When you manage an historic house and estate, you can’t help but live and breathe it. It’s partly work and partly pleasure all the time!
In terms of your customers or clients, does it make a difference that you are a family business?
We find for weddings and family events in particular, people are reassured that we are a family business. They get that it’s personal to us, and that we want them to love Escot as much as we do.
Any funny stories from working with each other?
When Mish was working in aquatics, I helped him with netting a fishpond. We were both in waders and he asked me to step into the pond to pull the net, forgetting that I was much shorter. My waders filled with water, and he had to haul me out. I was very wet!
Any advice you would give to anyone thinking of working with their family?
There has to be clarity about where you’re going, and clear roles. It’s important to take the personal out. Business decisions are different to personal ones.