Through The Looking Glass!
Company: J. Preedy & Sons
Sector: Homes & Gardens
Business Address: Preedy Glass, Stanley Works, 7b Coronation Road, Park Royal, London NW10 7PQ
J. Preedy & Sons Ltd have provided an ever expanding range of glass, glazing products and associated services since 1913. Mike Preedy, Operations Director shares his thoughts on the business.
Question & Answers with Mike Preedy
What Does Your Family Business Do?
For over one hundred years our family business has supplied an exhaustive array of flat glass products, initially direct to the consumer and in more recent times to a more comprehensive list of clients that include specialist resellers, interior designers, architectural practices and consumers.
Our work has continued to evolve and this has been especially the case this past twenty years as glass and glass processing techniques have progressed significantly, meaning we can remain true to our philosophy of providing the customer with recommendations that benefit them; a point any family business really understands.
Having these types of relationships and working in such a rapidly changing marketplace has enabled us to meet the needs of our clients who require us to design and construct ever more complex pieces. We now supply and frequently install all types of flat glass, including: frameless bespoke shower enclosures, staircases and floors, toughened assemblies, painted glass splash backs, mirrors and sliding glass doors. In addition to the glass product divisions, we also have a glass fixtures and fittings division called Prefit.
How did you get involved?
At the time I left school, my Father spoke with me about his passion for the family business, he wanted me to understand there was no ‘half-way house’, that any decision to join was an ‘all or nothing’ conclusion. He wasn’t keen to see me disappearing off elsewhere with the notion that if things didn’t work out I could always come into the company. I think he wanted me to understand early on, that I had to fully embrace the whole thing in a way that you cannot do if it’s someone else’s company. His desire was for me to come straight into it. Having worked with him during most school holidays I thought I knew enough to take him up on his offer.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A sports journalist, but as things worked out successfully with the family business I never got the opportunity.
What are your first memories of the family business?
There were many things that I can recall about my early days in the company.
When I joined there were quite a number of Preedy family members in the business. Staff and customers often found this confusing so to overcome the problem of referring to them all as ‘Mr Preedy’, people referred to each one with their Christian name prefixed with the formal title ‘Mr’. My father was ‘Mr Graham’, my uncle was ‘Mr Derek’, then there was ‘Mr Stan’ and ‘Mr Alfred’ etc. I always found this rather funny.
Talking of Mr Stan (he was a part of the 2nd generation to control J. Preedy & Son’s - we now have our 5th involved), he used to sit up in the offices looking after the accounting side of the business, and if the figures didn’t add up to the nearest penny, he would have half the company looking into where it was. His philosophy was “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”. We got through those times, so who’s to say he was wrong.
In December 1983, soon after I had started in the company, I remember getting a telephone call from my uncle during lunch on Christmas day. He called to say a terrorist bomb had been detonated in Orchard Street, W1. Based just around the corner from there, in Oxford Street, was Marks and Spencer who gave us all the glazing work at their stores in and around London. They lost dozens of windows in the blast, so all the family myself included, spent Boxing Day and a large part of the remaining Christmas break re-glazing their windows. Selfridges who were opposite were so impressed with the service that we gave to Marks and Spencer, that they also appointed us from that point on. Thankfully, with the blast happening on Christmas day and the store being closed, no one was fatally injured.
I also recall the problems our deliveries used to cause to our neighbours when we were in our old premises. The largest vehicles were often those belonging to Pilkington Glass, but by the time the drivers of their large HGV’s had manoeuvred the vehicle, reversing it down a very narrow street and much to the annoyance of angry motorists, the road would be blocked for ages. Needless to say we eventually moved to one of the premises we occupy now.
Another thing I remember was that when I first joined, I was given a white coat by my Father to wear in the factory, this distinguished me as ‘management’ rather than a blue coat which was worn by factory staff. Whilst this type of classification was typical of many companies at that time, it only ever alienated you from the workforce; it set you up as someone who received special privileges, that didn’t exist. Looking back at this now it just shows how far modern businesses have come.
What values are important in your family/family business?
Trust, respect and honesty, treating customers and staff as you would expect to be treated yourself
What is the best thing about being a family business?
Two things really but both are connected by a passion. Firstly, it’s a big part of our lives and we all want to provide the best level of customer service that we possibly can, and secondly because of Preedy’s history, this same passion gives us the drive to ensure that we, as custodians today, are able to leave it in the best possible shape for future generations to come.
…And the worst?
It is very difficult getting involved in disputes with family members because of the emotional aspect that being in a family business often brings. But we are getting much better at this and learning that it’s right for each of us to have an opinion and that not one person will win every point, or equally lose every one.
I guess the other thing can be the number of hours we work in the business, getting the right work/life balance so that we can enjoy important times with those family members that aren’t directly involved on a day-to-day basis.
What is the best thing about your working day?
I get a great deal of pleasure from seeing people coming to us with a basic concept, then helping them design it further and eventually turning it into a bespoke glass installation that they are delighted with.
What has been your greatest family business achievement?
Receiving the Royal Warrant in 1987 for supplying glass table tops to Her Majesty The Queen an honour we still proudly hold today.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing family businesses?
Preparing the ground to hand over the reins of the company to the next generation, and dealing with everything that this entails, including managing the emotions that were once faced by my father when I entered this company, those same emotions are now faced by me.
What words do you associate with family businesses?
Several: Passion / Pride / Emotion / Loyalty / Determination / Hard work / Quality.
Words of wisdom – What piece of advice would you pass on to someone thinking about joining the family business?
Go and gain some practical experience learning from other businesses first, so that you can bring something of greater value than simply a name into yours.