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Week at the top

Jo Macsween comes from a family of haggis aficionados. Macsween of Edinburgh Ltd has been making handmade haggis since 1953 and is currently run by the third generation, Jo and her brother, James. Established initially as retail butchers, the business undertook a certain amount of manufacturing of meat products, including the now famous haggis. In 1996, the business relocated to the world's first custom-built haggis factory just outside Edinburgh, enabling Macsween to continue producing high quality haggis and meet the ever increasing, world-wide demand

This is usually the busiest day of the week as many of our retail customers will have low stocks after the weekend trading.  The phones are pretty active and faxes keep churning out of the fax machine for most of the day.

This morning I have to attend a committee meeting for a major agricultural show which takes place each year in Edinburgh. A large part of the show is dedicated to Scottish Food and Drink and as our business has supported the show for over 30 years, I was asked to represent the interests of the food exhibitors.

Later on, a representative from our council arrives with a cheque for us. We have managed to secure some funding for our recent extension project – a new packing hall and upgraded staff facilities. I am delighted and although it is a fairly modest sum, it will certainly help towards the project costs. The rest of the day I spend preparing for meetings later in the week.

Most Monday evenings I keep free so I can go home and just relax. Tonight, however, I am attending a newly formed networking event for entrepreneurs. I have been asked to talk to the group next month about my experiences working with my family and I felt it would be good to meet some of the group beforehand. My conversations with these enthusiastic entrepreneurs makes me think of my grandfather and the decisions he made 50 years ago in post war Scotland to set up his own business, despite rationing. I doubt he would have called himself an entre­preneur.

All morning I work on figures. James is calculating our available capacity, while I have to make forecasts for our major customers for the next 2 years. Since we relocated in 1996, the business has more than doubled and we have taken on a large number of new customers, many of which are big retail names. In order to ensure we continue to meet their needs, we need to plan very carefully. The biggest haggis-eating event of the year is Burns Night on 25 January. Scots, and increasingly non-Scots, celebrate the memory of our national poet every year on this day and the culinary centrepiece is haggis. The logistics in supplying for this event are complex – over 35% of our annual turnover in under a month.

In the afternoon, I go into Edinburgh to meet with a key customer, another world renowned family business! They are opening more stores and we discuss the range of haggis for the new store.

Most of the day James and I have a series of meetings lined up with computer companies. It is time to review our IT system. As the day progresses I am glad to discover that I have a massage booked for this evening as my head hurts by 5 pm.

I spend the morning in Glasgow at The Food Skills Forum. The topic is successful induction and I am happy to discover that many of the good practice tips are already in place at our company.  During the seminar I gain a few more ideas and on the train home I note some thoughts to pass onto my training ­assistant.

In the afternoon, I finish typing up the notes from our autumn family retreat. We try and gather with a professional facilitator at least once a year. During our last retreat we discussed our family values.

We feel that a family mission statement will be good for guidance as we work on our constitution. It seems to me that the best way to form a constitution is through discussion – and over the years the notes will form a record of what we have all agreed. I make a mental note to start organising the next one.

First thing I meet with our graphics designer to work on a packaging update, partly to keep up with yet more EEC Legislation about food labelling and also to improve the typography.

In the afternoon I have a meeting with an ex-member of staff. Since he left he has taken up night classes in photography. He asks if he can take pictures of the staff at work for his assessment. I look over his portfolio and feel that we could both benefit as I would like a record of our business and working practices in our 50th year. We agree a date. I hope they will be good enough for the walls of the new staff room.

My favourite day. Start the day with a jog in the local park. I try and go running 3 times a week as I am training to take part in the women's 10 kilometre run in Glasgow later this year. I am not a natural ­runner but I do enjoy being outdoors even in winter.

I love to go food shopping round my local speciality food shops. I buy lots of tasty things and go home and eat lunch. Later on I meet up with a friend and we go round an exhibition, then time for tea and cakes.

In the evening I attend 'A Night with John Cairney', at our local theatre. This Scottish actor/writer is best known for his acting roles as Robert Burns. As he gives his personal insight into the mind of our great poet, the audience becomes quiet and attentive. For a moment or two it seemed like Robert Burns himself was here.

A long run out in the Pentland Hills – I am up to 6 kilometres. The reservoir is frozen and I enjoy the crisp air and bright sunshine. A quick stop at the factory to check the fridge temperatures and then home for breakfast. I have lunch with friends and a walk round the Botanical Gardens. The evenings are lighter and I am looking forward to the long summer evenings.

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