The Great British Family Business Conference

As a family business and organisers of the Midlands Family Business Awards, we were delighted to join Family Business United for a truly inspirational conference.

It was fantastic to gain insights from family business leaders and the sector’s advisers on some of the unique challenges and opportunities that family businesses face.

We had the pleasure of hearing from some great speakers throughout the conference, with plenty of opportunities throughout the day for networking and catching up with the many family businesses exhibiting. 

The first speaker of the day was John Stevenson MP who, in addition to his constituency duties, chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Family Business at Westminster. The address was the morning after the second Brexit vote in parliament, so as you can imagine there were a raft of questions which were answered openly and honestly. It was great to start the day with such an enlightening speaker.

A difficult act to follow you may think, but following John Stevenson was Leo Johnson who leads PwC's Disruption practice and co-presents the Radio 4 series 'Future Proofing' – which has now gained a new listener. Leo’s presentation, Disruption & The Family Business of the Future, was delivered with such energy, enthusiasm and humour that we were completely absorbed. We were transported from a world of Brexit and the immediate challenges to our business and society to potential futures we could not even have imagined – as a speaker Leo doesn’t just give you food for thought, he delivers a banquet. 

Carina Contini, critically acclaimed Scottish chef, author, mother and co-founder of an award-winning restaurant business, brought us right back to the heart of what makes a family business so special. Carina shared the history of her family in business, from their roots in Italy to where they are a century later. Her very personal insight on their journey as a Scottish family business was an absolute delight to hear and the archive of beautiful family photographs brought the story to life.

A name many will recognise following their recent successes in our Midlands Family Business Awards, is Bambino Mio, the most widely used reusable cloth nappy brand in the UK with an award-winning range of products that are loved by parents all over the world. Guy Schanschieff shared his insights into how digital platforms and forward thinking marketing strategies can be a great way to build a family business. It was great to have Joreen Singh, head of marketing for the business, join Guy on stage for the Q&A – they were certainly kept busy with such a huge interest in their approach to creating a successful global brand.

The pre-lunch panel discussion - The Changing and Challenging Landscape for Family Firms – was chaired by Hannah Harris who is PwC's head of family business. The discussion encompassed the impact family firms have on society through their philanthropic endeavours, their commitment to training and apprenticeships and the health, wellbeing and development of their people. It was fascinating to hear from such open and honest panelists who share their insights, personal perspectives and future plans with the audience. 

Following a very lovely lunch (special thanks to Paul for the Raspberry & White Chocolate Cake recommendation - delicious!) it was off to the workshops. With five very enticing options it was a very difficult choice, but with Mental Health and Wellbeing so high on the agenda for businesses at present, that was the session for me. I am so pleased I made that choice as it was a rare opportunity to hear the panel members speak so sincerely of their experiences, we were privileged to be able to hear their personal accounts. There are many challenges around this issue and the way in which some family businesses are tackling them are both innovative and inspirational whilst reflecting long-held family values – the true family business way!

The closing keynote from Nick English of Bremont lasted for an hour – as a family business they are known worldwide for making exceptional timepieces, but Nick’s ability to manipulate time and make an hour pass in what seemed like 10 minutes was magical. Storytelling was a theme that ran through his presentation and it’s an age-old talent that he has certainly mastered; as an audience we were enthralled, entertained and inspired. The presentation was stunning and had the soundtrack to match, just what we needed to lift us up at the end of a fantastic day and send us home on a high. There’s just one downside – now I REALLY want a Bremont! 

A HUGE thank you to Paul Andrews of Family Business United for organising such a wonderful day that had such positive energy throughout. Thanks also to the speakers and panel members for sharing their stories in such a candid and engaging way, the delegates and exhibitors who were so interesting to chat with (the typos you have probably spotted can be attributed to the lovely bottle of beer from J W Lees that I enjoyed whilst typing this on the train!) and finally the venue team of the Royal Geographical Society that kept us fed, watered and well looked after.

We look forward to the next one!

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