Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A Family Business - What gives you the right?

The first time I described Pettigrew Tea Rooms as a 'family run business' in early 2012 I felt bad.

I questioned my right to that claim for our business. 

A family run business evokes a sense of local-ness, integrity, control, care about the customer, belonging, community, honesty and many more things. I have always believed these things are true for Pettigrews and help to make this place special, but saying those words felt odd.

Why the unease?

It is an honour to be an employer where your employees become family. Today I can hold my head up, look you in the eyes and talk about the Pettigrew team as a family outside the ties of blood. Way back in 2012 we started more like pals muddling through. The family we have now was not expected, hoped for yes but never presumed. The discomfort I felt reflects how I felt at the time about myself, my now husband and the fear of putting our name to something untested.

A family business can be a great gift, it is not for every family. Lee and I lived together worked together with scarce few hours of the week where we were not in each others company. The stresses, tears, paranoia, fear, arguments, love, joy, success and contentment all shared. Pettigrew has evolved and we always treated it as more than just us, asking what does Pettigrew deserve? It always deserves more than we can give, all we can do is our best. Part of that is knowing when our best isn't good enough but if we keep trying we can improve.

Living those years together forged us in a way I cannot say I would recommend or want to relive, it didn't make our relationship, I believe that our relationship survived what was genuinely a gruelling test. The unanticipated gift of this experience was the knowledge that our relationship can survive and strengthen through experiences that most people will not endure. That was a revelation and is certainly part of why I write this as a married man.

Lee and I could be found at Pettigrew Tea Rooms nearly every day for the first 3 years and that is part of what established this ethos of a family business. We put in more of oursleves than we should have at times, but it was always in the pursuit of what Pettigrew deserved.

I have had cause this past week to look back at what makes a family business a family business and before we go further I realise that I need to thank my family. My mum and mum2 still remind me of the mornings they happily wiled away washing dishes in our suitably inadequate makeshift potwash of the early days.

It is incredible to think how things have changed from those early days, but the all hands on deck support we had was incredible. I was so caught up in the next three years that I don't think I ever stopped to say thank you properly. Thanks mums! you guys saved our bacon! x

The first cup of tea made in the tea rooms was by my sister! and my other sister scrubbed labels from pans with my dear friends too! Helen, Nan, Gran, Jo, Steve, Di, Karl, Kath, Manon; the list goes on and I could spend this post just thanking people who helped me and Lee in those days.

To look forward sometimes you need to look at where have you come from and what you have learned.

What has put me in mind of family and specifically this new chapter of the Pettigrew family happened three weeks ago when my Dad died.

You may or may not know that the specific catalyst to me quitting my job in 2010 was the diagnosis of my Step Father, Don, who suffered from cancer in his brain and passed away in January 2011. I was inspired not to let life happen and chose instead to turn the fear that this would become my life's great regret, into the fuel for I Want to Bake Free and Pettigrew Tea Rooms. Bringing us tidily to Sunday 25th July 2010 when I sat down and wrote my first blog post which you can read here.

My Dad, Robert James Le Masurier, was diagnosed with mesothelioma over two years ago, which is a type of cancer from working with asbestos when he was young. He passed away in July this year, just a few short weeks ago.

This is not a blog post about cancer, sadly you probably have your own story to tell about that disease, but it is about family and inspiration. My Dad was brilliant. He was the middle son of Stella and Jack Le Masurier, my Grandad Jack being the entrepreneur who started Fitzroy Joinery Ltd which he then handed on to my Dad to run as our family business.

As boys, me and my brothers grew up as the sons of the boss that ran a company in Plymouth known for quality, precision and skilled joinery professionals. Dad worked almost his entire adult life making Fitzroy Joinery Ltd prosper, through the recessions and the good times. Talk about an inspiration. Mum and Dad never once pressured me or my brothers to think of taking on the family business and as each of us left home, we never did.

When I came to Dad with my plans in spring 2010 we analysed and discussed them in great detail, it was like a pitch to Dragons Den, but with Dads unique calm inquisitive and precise business mind. With the love, support and encouragement of both my Dad, my Step Mother and all my family, I made the leap and quit my job. Pettigrew Tea Rooms opened on the 29th March 2012, over 20 months later.

Being a hands on guy working in the building trade for his entire life, Dad advised me through our fit out. He sat in on the meetings with the contractors at West Lodge and helped me to install our kitchens and pot wash. Famed for his saying 'Measure Twice, Cut Once!' that is a favourite saying to this day at the tea rooms and one we will always try to live by.

Dad has done so much for me and he always said it was his privilege to be there for us boys and help us grow. Pettigrew was born from my family and now is its own family, beyond our team it may well include you.

In the last conversation alone with my Dad on Thursday 9th July 2015, he didn't have much energy to speak, but was hanging on every word as we discussed the pros and cons of the purchase of the shop in Victoria Park for Pettigrew Bakeries and the possibility of another tea room elsewhere. Sat up watching England winning the first leg of the Ashes in Cardiff, I was chatting away about all of the things that could go wrong, all the difficulties and the possibilities. Unable to waste much energy with words he simply said
"...ah, but you won't let those things happen, you will do it right" all with his smile.

I am so proud to have known this man and benefited from his love and guidance. We both knew in that moment, that this time I wouldn't be able to ask him for his help again, but he left me with the knowledge that he trusted I would do it right. There is not a gift a Dad can give to his Son more than that, at 33 i'd rather have my Dad here, but knowing he trusted me was his last precious gift. We made a video for Dad which me and my brothers shared at his funeral. He did so much for us and for me and Pettigrews. As we embark on this new adventure of inventing Pettigrew Bakeries I had to look back at where we came from, what is important, what does it mean to be a family, to have a family business.

I will try and do it right Dad, thank you for our family, I promise that our future family will honour you in all we do at Pettigrews

Yesterday I exchanged contracts on a beautiful shop building in Victoria Park overlooking the entrance to Victoria Park itself, laid out of course by W W Pettigrew. Pettigrew Bakeries will honour the family that gave us Cardiff's stunning parks by growing our family. I hope you will come along for the ride!

As always I will try and share the best information here on the blog and through @want2bakefree

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