Key Learnings

  • Growth of the company will occur naturally – it should not be forced
  • That ‘family-run’ feel is important to customers – the order for the smallest value item should receive the same treatment as the larger ones
  • Make sure you look after your staff along the way
Jonathan Oldfield of Riverside Waste Machinery

There comes a time in every family-run business when it must decide how to scale-up and turn from a local brand into a national name. Jonathan Oldfield of Riverside Waste Machinery explains how.

Riverside Waste Machinery was founded in North Yorkshire in 1997 and, over the years, developed a reputation as a renowned and respected provider of waste management solutions.

What started out as a family-run business quickly became a national name and the firm had to maintain a close eye on its principles and goals as it expanded.

Today, the company provides waste baler technology, servicing and consumables across the UK and has learned a lot of valuable lessons when it comes to expanding a local, family brand nationally.

Running a family business

The most important aspect of running a family business is to continually provide quality of service, whatever size you are. Without this element, a company has no reputation as an authority in their area of specialism, and thus cannot flourish. In a small enterprise, this must be the key focus. Although profit is desirable, service should always come first.

Deciding when to expand

There is usually no definitive time when this decision can be made. Growth of the company will occur naturally – it should not be forced. Riverside has not expanded dramatically in terms of staff numbers, but we are always looking to develop organically as a unit. Swift increases in team members can ultimately be the downfall of a small but solid entity – grow too quickly and quality of service can suffer. That is something I would never allow to happen. 

Ultimately, changes in the market can also have a profound effect on decision-making within a company. Brexit, for instance, has caused a real air of uncertainty in the world of business, and many view it as untimely to venture into mass recruitment drives as a result. Periods of stability generally provide the optimum time to make changes regarding team numbers. 

Sticking to your roots…

However successful your business becomes; your traditional values should always remain the same. It is important to never compromise on the ethos for which the company has become renowned, or to allow the team to become disengaged with clients during periods of growth. That ‘family-run’ feel is important to customers – the order for the smallest value item should receive the same treatment as the larger ones.

A regular conversation to ‘check-in’ after a sale, for instance, as opposed to an automated email requesting a review, can set you apart from the rest.

…whilst embracing change

It is a well-known fact that many employees dislike change. But this doesn’t mean they will not accept it – the trick here is to involve your staff in decisions. Allowing everybody to have a say in a family-run business – even if they don’t like the end result – increases openness and trust, which in turn leads to greater loyalty and even sometimes a lifelong commitment from team members.

Don’t get stuck in the past, but at the same time move with the constant changing pace of technology. Innovation is a key principle of longevity.

Remaining competitive

However prosperous your venture becomes, you should never become complacent. Success can fade as quickly as it appeared if you take your eye off the ball. Analyse your competitors, and review their current practices, to ensure that you remain current. Try and make changes where others are not, for example, and remain fresh in your approach to the changing needs of your target market.

To sum it up, embrace your key principles, do not fear evolution where it is needed, and keep ahead of your competition. And look after your staff along the way. Becoming a national name is possible – from small acorns grow mighty trees!

Contributed by Jonathan Oldfield
Kay Smith
Article by Kay Smith
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