Justin Burgess is the fifth generation of the Burgess family to take the helm and spoke to Paul Andrews about his journey.
J.J. Burgess & Sons was founded as Funeral Directors in 1839 by James Burgess, however the family’s business roots in the Hatfield community can be traced to 1700 when the family were clock makers, beehive makers and timber dealers.
The family business of Funeral Directors was passed through the generations and has developed through the years to the business that it is today.
As Justin explains, “We strive as a family business to provide a personal service where we aim to use our skills and knowledge in the funeral profession to give the help and comfort needed at the time of a death.”
“I am the fifth generation of my family to run the business and I guess it was a bit of a fait accompli when I joined. I did lots of other things but always migrated back to where my heart was and although my brother stepped into my Dads shoes, it was not right for him so I helped out over a summer with my Mum and 24 years later I am still here!”
“As we are a family business and have to come to terms with our own family bereavements we feel that we are aware of the needs of people when they come into our office. We are proud to have been part of the local community for over 175 years. The family name brings with it quality service, caring staff and compassion for those who need it which is unsurpassed in the Hertfordshire area,” adds Justin.
Irrespective of the sector in which the business operates, speaking to family business owners in all areas of business, from funerals to manufacturing, food production to financial services and transport, there is a common passion and inevitably, ‘family business is in the blood and certainly gets under the skin.”
As Justin explains, “Family business gets under the skin, I love it and I guess like most family businesses owners, you have to love it to continue to do it successfully and introduce the necessary changes to help the business evolve over time too.”
“Dad took the business to a level and I have been allowed to take it to the next stage, but as a business, we operate in a very traditional sector, so making step changes in development is not easy,” he adds.
As an integral part of the business is Burgess Memorials, an established family owned stonemasonary business founded in 1839. As Justin explains, “We pride ourselves on offering a personal service to help choose an appropriate and fitting memorial for a loved one that will stand as a lasting act of remembrance. We offer a wide range of memorials which we can get engraved and erect as well as providing maintenance, repairs and cleaning services for existing memorials.”
As statistics show, passing on the business to the next generation can be tricky and with less than 10% of family firms making it to the third generation, J.J. Burgess & Sons are in somewhat of a special group of family firms. As a fifth generation family run business, Justin is rightly proud of what the family has achieved, and continues to achieve and in his own words is “remarkably proud of the journey that the family and the business have been on. I am immensely proud, which I know can sound a little ‘naff’ but the pride courses through my veins and I get a real buzz every morning when I unlock the door and turn on the lights and see the pictures of previous generations staring back at me.”
“It is a real honour and a privilege to do something I love and that my father, grandfather, great grandfather and great, great grandfather did before me. Don’t get me wrong – running a fifth generation family business is not easy and comes with certain responsibilities. With a history like ours I truly feel that I am the custodian of the business for the next generation and certainly don’t want it all to fall apart under my watch.”
Justin has two boys, one just completing University and the other at sixth form and as yet it is not clear where their future lie. As Justin explains, “I would love them to come into the business at some stage, and they do help me out during the holidays. As I never got to work in the business with my father it is a real bonus for me when the boys are around.”
“Going forward, I try not to put them under any pressure about coming into the business and want them to make their own way in the world. If they ultimately decide they want to take it on , that has to be up to them and in their hearts they need to love it as much, if not more than I do!”
J.J. Burgess & Sons have been serving their community for generations and as such this provides the family with great pride. Not only do they have a passion for what they do, and have been doing for over 175 years, but as Justin concludes, “We can never take it for granted especially as anyone walking through the door is entrusting us to ‘look after the most precious thing they own’ at an emotionally difficult time too. It is an honour to provide comfort and to serve the local community, and like generations before me, to make a real difference each and every day too.”