Geoffrey Dovey is Chairman of Dovey Premium Products Limited. DPP was formally established in 1977, although the origins of the business hark back to 1958. Geoffrey runs DPP today with his two brothers James and Jeremy. They distribute quality frozen food, drink and spices to Indian restaurants throughout Southern England. Geoffrey has an active interest in family companies and is a trustee of the UK Chapter of the Family Business Network
I am spending the day on my own doing absolutely nothing after a very hard week's work. I enjoy reading a book in the local pub in the evening over a cold glass of beer and having a good conversation with a few friends over the telephone. I am going to have an early night, as I am tired. I ensure my mobile phone is off at the weekend and my ansaphone is on as my parents have been used to calling me at all hours. This is my time to recover from a busy week at work!
I normally get up late and this Sunday I have promised to help my Grandfather's partner begin to move out of his old house. The house is massive and I get covered in dust shifting boxes of photographs and china up from the cellar. A lot of these items haven't seen the light of day in decades. My Grandfather passed away recently and over tea I talk to Angela, his partner, about all the memories this was bringing back. I go home and find there's a message from my father on the ansaphone enquiring as to why I was not spending the day with them.
I go to bed tired and suffering from a cold – the bonus being it's Monday tomorrow.
Into work at 8. 30am and am working like a demon to write up details of management meetings so I can take my mother to Windsor for a health check. From 12. 00pm until 5. 00pm I'm cross-examined by her ladyship in the car about what is going on in the business. Drop Mum at her home and invited in by Dad for dinner. This looks potentially like a cleverly conscripted 'Question and Answer'session, so I decide to politely decline their kind invitation. Although retired, he still comes into the business and chats with different staff members about different things – hoping to pick up on a little gossip here and there. I need to find out what he's been asking about. Dad is always coming up with ideas, and views the business as an interactive soap opera – better than Eastenders probably.
Still six years on I am still not running the business in the way he thinks is correct nor do I listen to him as much as I should. Does this strike a chord?
A day's holiday, at least officially. I am heading off to London to a board meeting of FBN's UK Chapter.
I'm up very early and just catch the train in time. As usual it gets to London late and the board meeting had just started as I arrive. This Chapter has only recently been set up and although membership numbers are growing gradually, it is very clear we need to put together a good marketing message for the media and roll-out the good news that we exist.
Here are a group of diverse family companies getting together to actively promote suitable national and regional courses to help family companies. This is the start of another big project and I must be mad to want to do this, but having seen what it takes to turn around a family company, I want to share my experiences and learn from others – as do my fellow board members. Why are we not being bowled-over by membership applications? I remind myself that every project takes twice as long and is twice as difficult – this rule has never let me down yet! Going to London and talking to other family companies helps me to see our problems in perspective and also gives me a glimpse once again of the big picture.
The FBN meeting comes to a close. We have lunch and then I start pumping the telephone – touching base with a number of people Ineed to speak to.
I arrive at the station at 6. 00pm. The train is packed and I have to stand all the way home. My mobile goes off and my sales manager tells me one of our company rivals is in financial trouble – this reinforces our slow and steady approach to doing business in a tough trading environment. I drop in to a couple of restaurants we don't currently trade with, just to see if they have heard the news and gauge their reaction.
I am subjected to an ear-bashing from one of my brothers as he doesn't know where I was this morning, or what time I was going to be coming in. I told the receptionist it would be 10. 00am then it became 11. 00am and I eventually roll in at 12. 00pm. Being single I still have to pack my case for a work visit to Brazil and arrange for my yellow fever certificate. I speak to a number of work colleagues from home, but my brother still gives me two barrels when I get in. I get the feeling he's not feeling too well today!
The rest of the day passes in a mirage of meetings, conversations and quiet thinking. I have to take some paperwork up to Dad on my way home. Dad is a good cook and hopefully he'll offer me a slice of his new recipe, which is a fair exchange for a limited amount of questioning about what is going on in the business. I tell him not to worry and everything's in hand, but he doesn't seem convinced and we agree to disagree. In 20 minutes I'm gone having given both Mum and Dad a hug.
Again into work early and my plans for travelling to Brazil on business with work colleagues are now almost complete. I begin to relax. My managers know I am going away and I see them in turn just talking through any final points upon which they want a decision. Our financial year-end is almost upon us and the staff have done a really good job this year in a very tough market.
I meet with both my brothers James and Jeremy and talk through my holiday notes highlighting what is going on in my part of the business and what to watch out for. They know most of it already and I leave the company in safe hands. We get on well together and running this business is more a partnership than anything else.
The staff seem to feel this trip to Brazil is more pleasure- than work-related and I have given up trying to convince them otherwise. I firmly believe in working hard and playing hard, and we shall be going to visit other Brazilian family food companies while we are there.
Off to the airport with my suitcase, picking up my work colleagues on the way. We are off to Rio and hope to have an exciting time in Brazil. Both my brothers feel that it is suitable that I travel economy class. Whatever happened to company perks?