From One Generation to the Next
It was around 25 years ago. Andy, my Dad and Helen, my Mum, were sat in the summer’s heat on the river bank at Burnsall, Yorkshire. My brother and I, Chris, were skimming stones on the river, only young teenagers at the time. Dad was shortly due to retire from a long career in the Police, and conversation between him and Mum turned to the future. It was on that bench, whilst looking over at the children playing, that my Mum and Dad decided they wanted a better future, and to do that, they’d start their own business together.
So in the last years of his police career, aged 44, my Dad went back to college to first earn his A-Levels, then his law degree (having left School in his youth with nothing more than a can of cider!). Many of his fellow retirees were looking forward to a long and lazy retirement. Some would play golf, others would take up part time security jobs. My Dad had other plans.
Time moved on whilst my Dad balanced his studies with finishing his Police career (and being a Dad to two children!). Hard, but always with a vision and brighter future in mind.
Later the same year after my Dad retired from the Police and finished his qualifications, him and I were sat around a table in the sports centre bar at Centre Parks after a competitive badminton match (neither likes to lose to the other). My Dad started to explain to me an idea he’d had about starting a business. I was 17 at the time and my Dad explained the concept in as much detail as a 17 year old could take in. Since that first conversation at the riverbank in Burnsall, him and Mum had spent nights dreaming up what it might look like, how it’d work and what would be needed to make it successful. Immediately and without any hesitation, I was very interested. We talked a little more about the concept before my Dad very respectfully, so not to impose, suggested that perhaps one day, after I qualified, I might be interested in working with him and Mum in a family business. And that’s when the seed was first sown for me. I sat back in my chair, wide-eyed, knowing that from that moment on, I’d give everything to make that happen.
Whilst I went off to University to study, my Mum and Dad worked tirelessly to build the business, taking a huge risk. Many sleepless nights; blood, sweat and tears were shed; everything it takes to start a business from scratch. No clients, no previous business experience, and just one computer in the front living room of our family home. Mum left a role at First Direct to help Dad with the finances. Through sheer determination, hard work, talent of course, and a refusal to accept failure, Mum and Dad built a hugely successful business. They moved out of home into a professional office, recruited their very first members of staff (our current FD, Tracey), and were advising and supporting many businesses in the local region – many of whom we are so grateful for, remain clients today.
When I first joined the business back in 2010, it was hard at first. Mum, Dad and me had to adjust to working with each other, and being family. At different times, all three of us had some fairly heated bust ups, but in the main, we made it work. We respected each other, communicated but above all, loved each other more than the business.
Fast forward another 11 years to 2021, and I sit here typing this email feeling so much gratitude that as a family, we made the dream a reality. Not only have we built a successful business working with amazing clients, but Mum and Dad later went on to start our own Foundation, and more recently our retail outlet, Hidden Owls, helping the homeless back into work.
On Wednesday 22nd September 2021, Dad, Mum, Tracey and I concluded this chapter of the story as the business ownership legally and officially transferred over to me, with Tracey’s shareholding also increasing, and Charlotte joining the board as Legal Director and receiving a 5% shareholding. To achieve a succession of a family business from one generation to the next is no mean feat. I am so proud that between us we’ve reached this hugely significant milestone and we all still love each other to bits.
What this deal effectively does is secure Howarths for years to come. The next chapter of this brilliant story is about to be written. Day to day, as a result of this deal, absolutely nothing will change. However, what is important to know, is that the business is secure for the next chapter. Howarths will continue being privately family owned and run for many years to come.
Helen and Andy will continue to run and work within The Howarth Foundation and Hidden Owls, and will therefore still be at the very heart of what Howarths is all about.
I’ve no idea how to pay appropriate homage to what Mum and Dad did in founding and building Howarths like they did. They are both incredible, continue to inspire me every day and quite simply we wouldn’t be here without them. The foundations they so painstakingly built will be honoured and most importantly, so will the spirit, ethos and culture of what makes us, us.
Here’s to the future.
Gavin Howarth, Managing Director of Howarths, 2nd generation family business.