Jaques are the oldest and most influential sports and games manufacturer in the world. Owned and run by the same family for eight generations since 1795 they are the inventors of Happy Families, Tiddledy Winks, Ludo and Snakes & Ladders and are responsible for the invention of Croquet and Ping Pong in the UK.
We spoke to Joe Jaques, one of the Directors to gain an insight into the family business and his thoughts on life in a family firm.
What did you want to do when you grew up?
As a youngster growing up in Topsham, Devon, I wanted to be an architect and was obsessed with design and building.
What are your first memories of the business?
My first memories are going up to work with Dad when I was eight or nine working in the warehouse. I think the first thing I did was to stick arrow flights for darts into plastic bags which were then stapled on to stock sheets for shop displays.
What does the family business mean to you?
Funnily enough, when my cousin Emett and I took over and started running the business we began by brainstorming to make sure we understood what we were working with and to get the business back to basics. We came up with pages of ideas and lots of commercial straplines, business processes and mantras for customer service and not a lot of that had to do with the 200 years of history that had preceded us.
We thought long and hard and distilled our thoughts into a vision, our vision for the future, which is ‘to polish the egg and pass it on the next generation.’ This is our responsibility and it is truly enjoyable now but during the height of the recession was not easy. In fact I don’t mind saying that it was ‘hellish at times.’
What is the best thing about being involved in a family business?
For me the coolest thing is that I get to see my cousin all of the time. We have similar interests, sailing, cars, watches and the business and it is great for us to work together as a team with the same level of passion, drive and determination, having fun at the same time. We have a truly loyal staff too and they have really bought into our dream and share it with us, such that we have an incredibly low turnover of staff.
And the worst?
Probably dealing with succession and the older generation. Inevitably there are different opinions, especially in the case of Dad where we are running a business that was his business and for him especially it was difficult because he really loved the business, probably more than he loved us kids, and he loved us a lot!
What values do you associate with the family business?
Bringing families together
In reality, I love what we do and like to think that people think of us as odd and strange to an extent but definitely fun rather than boring. We really do love what we do and the values are at the core of the Jaques business. We are also fortunate in the products that we sell are games that transcend the generations which helps to bring them together.
What words of advice would you give to someone considering entering the family business?
I think it is important to go into the business with skills to enhance the business and help take it forward. I never wanted to go into the family business because I held the perception that as soon as I stepped in the front door, my future career and life would take on a pre-determined path.
However, that perception could not have been further from reality and the opposite has actually been the case. The world has changed and we have been on an exciting journey evolving the brand from a traditional business with an on the road sales force to an online experience, embracing changes and the need to keep up with technology.