The other night, I was flipping through the channels on the television and came across a station that I didn't know we received. It's a station that runs 'classic' British sitcoms. With nothing much else on offer, I stayed tuned and found myself laughing at some older, if not gentler humour. However, it was only when I crawled into bed that I realised the shows were not only important from a comedy standpoint, but also from a family business standpoint, as the premise of many of the comedies was based around family business.
Take the short-lived but much loved Fawlty Towers. Husband and wife team Basil and Sybil Fawlty run the ill-fated guest house, which provides many laughs about the lack of communication between Basil and Sybil and their employees. And the more recent creation As Time Goes By has Judi Dench's character running a secretarial agency with the help of her daughter – where in one episode the mother had to come to terms with not promoting her daughter to run a new branch of the business. Then there's the old classic Are You Being Served? in which you can't get away from the fact that the comedy takes place in the Grace Brothers department store – which is, of course, run by "young Mr Grace" (who is about 95 years old – makes you wonder if the old boy had a problem letting go or just lacked a successor).
Aside from providing a good laugh, these shows and many others like them tell us something about British culture – that running your own business is something many people can identify with. And if we look to this issue of Families in Business, in which our focus is on UK family businesses, we see the extent and diversity of family businesses in this country. The Gold brothers run a diverse empire ranging from retail to football; brothers Andrew and Robbie Douglas Miller have kept Jenners alive as the oldest independent department store in the world, while implementing a programme of change and expansion; and brother-sister team of David and Jill Kenton of Rigby & Peller have capitalised on recent trends to keep a traditional lingerie business (and corsetiers to the Queen) growing in this modern world of ours. And these are only a few of the many, many family businesses in Britain. Take a look, too, at our 'Top 100 UK family businesses' to get a sense of what's on offer – quite a lot, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Speaking of a modern world, this issue also focuses on 'the 21st century family business'. Keeping up to date with modern business practices can be difficult, especially as things seem to change at such a rapid pace these days. In our Business for Family Business section, we cover the latest trends in employee benefits and explore how you can make the most of your IT structure. And don't forget to check out our Family Firm Finance section to find out if alternative investments are the right thing for you, your family and your business.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Campden Publishing and those I've worked with in the family business world, especially Katie Pattullo, Melanie Stern and Barbara Murray, for a wonderful two years at Families in Business. As this issue goes to press, I will be back in my native Chicago at a new job. Working on this magazine has been a fantastic experience, one that has opened my eyes to a whole new world – both through living in London and working with family businesses. I wish everyone the best of luck and much success.