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Building Resilience Into The Family Business

Stuart Dantzic is showing incredible entrepreneurial spirit as he seeks to grow a resilient family firm for the future.

The pandemic continues to create a challenging environment for family businesses to navigate but one thing that we have seen throughout 2020 is the perpetual desire to succeed and the resilience of the family business sector. Generally recognised for taking the long-term view family but recent events have brought survival to the top of the agenda and family firms have had to respond. To that end, many family firms across the UK have shown their strength, developed their purpose and let resilience come to the fore.

Stuart Dantzic, second generation Managing Director of Caribbean Blinds is one such example.

Caribbean Blinds, established 1987, is a multi-award winning, second-generation family-run manufacturer of luxury external shading systems, that transform the use, functionality and enjoyment from all types of spaces. From humble beginnings the company has grown to become the leading supplier and pre-eminent name in external shading in the UK. Working across residential, contract, commercial and trade, their products can be seen adorning the facades and gardens of discerning homeowners and businesses across the UK, with notable celebrities and prestigious commercial establishments amongst their ever-expanding portfolio of clients.

The company’s foundations are built around providing innovative external shading systems that deliver genuine lifestyle-enhancing/energy-saving benefits, coupled with premium quality, stylish design, exacting service, value for money and above all else expert knowledge and advice to enable clients to make an informed decision.

Stepping up to the challenge

For family business, there is the unique desire not only to make money but to create a legacy for the family name. Therefore, everything that is done is based on share vision and safeguarding for the future, building on what previous generations have achieved. For Stuart, this is the underlying purpose behind the family business. “My parents founded and built our business over a 30 year period and as a second generation business we are now looking to the next 30 years and beyond. It is not just about maximising the revenue in the short term with a view to selling the business,” adds Stuart.

Taking on a business as the second generation of a family firm is not always easy, but the process of generational transition for Stuart was made all the more easy by open, honest conversations with his parents. “Stepping up for me was almost an inevitability and when the time was right, my parents stepped aside and it was right for me to take the lead. All of the experience that I had obtained within the business to that day stood me in good stead to take on the role and even today, it is fantastic to have my parents and their worldly advice and experience at the end of the phone or around the table too,” he continues.

Making their mark

For Stuart, making his mark and stamping his personality on the business was all part of the process of preparation of the business for the future. For Stuart, he commented, “It is all about continuing he legacy that my parents created, keeping our family name associated with the very best in our industry sector and growing the business to the next level.”

Stuart works closely with his brother and fellow director, Brad, a partnership that benefits from clearly defined roles and responsibilities. “It is great to be able to work with my brother who I trust wholeheartedly and we really do share the same vision and values for the business. Whilst he can be more pessimistic than I am, we work well together and are a great combination, making the right decisions collectively to balance the needs of the business against the risks going forward but we both appreciate the need to work towards the same goal for the business too,” continues Stuart.

Like all family firms, next generation leaders stepping into the leadership roles need to earn the respect of their team, put their stamp on the business and take the team on the journey with them and also make sure their voice is heard.

For Stuart and Brad, both of whom had been involved in roles within the business from a young age before following their studies and coming back to work in the business, they were both able to rely on the hard work they had put in over the years doing various jobs within the business, to have earned the respect of the staff, and this was a real benefit to them when their roles changed. As Stuart adds, “It made such a difference knowing how the business worked and all the different roles within it, many of which we had done ourselves, when it came to taking over the business and making our mark and has been the foundation for our continued evolution.”

Investing for the future

The pandemic has created opportunities for some family businesses and Stuart recognises that Caribbean Blinds is one of the lucky ones. Firstly and more importantly, for any business going into a period of adversity and uncertainty, a business needed to have been trading successfully to place it in the best position to weather the storm.

As Stuart explains, “When the pandemic hit and we were plunged into the first lockdown, we were not faced with the need to strip back to save costs and what to do to make money in the short term, but found ourselves looking at what opportunities were open to us. Like many others we went through a process of review, adaption, implementation and communication with the latter, in my opinion, being the key element.”

Communication was important at all levels and with all the stakeholders in the business, creating certainty for staff, sharing updates with existing customers and broadening relationships with potential customers and other interested parties. “We may have been closed temporarily but this period was really important and the messaging key. In fact, it was down to the communication and operational ability of the team to deal with enquiries and estimates that helped us to build the pipeline so that when we were allowed to return to production we were ready and able to go with a good order book too.”

Resilience and a determination to succeed, investing in their people and technology to seize the opportunities have resulted in record months post Lockdown and a good order book into 2021. As a business, Caribbean Blinds continue to look to the future and plan for the long-term, but with a core, resilient strength that is driving results and creating a successful family firm.

Shared values and clear communication with a common purpose are really driving results and the business is investing. A new 10,000 square foot extension to the factory will be operational in the spring to meet the growing needs of customers who are investing in their homes and gardens. Despite the positivity surrounding pandemic vaccines this growth looks set to continue with less people planning overseas travel in the short term.

Caribbean Blinds are focused on the future with new products including enhancements to their Outdoor Living range plus exciting innovations in the development of ‘green buildings’ and with a growing, dedicated workforce it really does look like the resilience, innovation and entrepreneurship bode well for their future.

As Stuart concludes, “We need to be resilient as an organisation. We are weathering this storm and being prepared and resilient and innovative will create the right internal environment for us to weather other storms in the future too.”

Three things to prioritise:

  • Strategy – Focus on the strategic priorities of the business, taking the time to focus ON the business rather than the day-to-day operational aspects of being IN the business and try to not be phased by the unexpected.
  • Communication- Frequent, open, honest communication is key to keep everyone working towards the collective goal
  • Involve others – Seek input as to the challenges and opportunities which will increase team buy-in, generate operational efficiencies and make a real, tangible difference

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