"Working with family actually is fantastic. It can cause some stress, but so can any job!"
Is Working with Family a Bad Idea?
Buckle up, grab a baileys coffee… this ended up being a long story!
So as you can see from the pictures, I’ve been around paint all of my life so its no surprise I was going to end up as part of the family business but I’m not going to lie, working with family can be both wonderful and exhausting!
Timeline of Events at DCO | Decorating Centre Online
1986: Business Officially Starts
Our business started officially back in 1986 as a partnership between my Mam and my Nana but my parents had experience in wallpaper and paint as they ran a market stall in local town ‘Stockton’.
My Dad managed to purchase the old disused Cooperative in the village they lived in and thought it was the perfect space for a store.
They settled on a Decorator’s Merchant as they had their market stall knowledge and contacts!
My Mam at 3 years old outside the building that is now DCO HQ | Decorating Centre Online
Our family has had quite strong links with this building for years, both my Mam and Nana have lived their whole lives in Coundon and Nana got her first job at the Cooperative as a payment clerk at the age of 15 (which would have been in the mid 50’s!).
They really enjoyed building this business together, Mam valued the flexibility of working alongside her own Mam whilst raising both my sister and I, and with us running around alongside Nana’s black Lab Jet this really was a family business right from its foundation.
Four generations of our family all together
Nana took early retirement in 1999 so that she could start enjoying some long-awaited holidays with my Grandad and my Mam took over their share to continue to build the business from strength to strength.
Over the years other small independent decorator’s merchants in surrounding towns and villages struggled to survive as the ‘big sheds’ began to open but our business still stood the test of time which my mam always has attributed to keeping a key focus on customer service.
She always went the extra mile to provide unforgettable service, she’s been known to regularly pop over late on a Sunday to grab extra materials that a decorator had forgotten to order for his job starting Monday morning!
The old Wear Valley Decorating Centre building before we added a lick of paint
When I came to join the business in 2015 Mam had grown the team to 3 plus herself and each day they were busily serving retail and trade in our Wear Valley region!
I had always worked in the store from a young age as its how my sister and I earned our pocket money. 5 hours on a Saturday morning for £5…in hindsight I’m owed a lot of back pay!
I went off to University at 18 and knew I wanted to come back to the business at some point but I didn’t feel like I had any experience to be able to help run it so opted to go onto a Grad Scheme where I worked until I was 27.
Me and Mam on my wedding day
2015: I Join the Business
I came back to the business bursting with ideas on how we could grow but knew this would take my mam way out of her comfort zone so we agreed that I would take full control of the business and buy Mam out but she would stay on working here so that I had all of her knowledge and wisdom too!
I could see that the business needed to head online, open earlier and later and streamline some products whilst offering a wider range in others.
All of this required significant investment in both time and money which is why, to avoid difficult conversations, opposing views and testy arguments I’m pleased it was on my shoulders only.
All of us (at the time) celebrating 30 years in the business
I wanted to keep customer service as the core focus of what we do, I would call that Mam’s biggest lasting legacy as its definitely showing in everything we do (as I write this our current Feefo Rating is 5* on Customer Service!!)
Being your Mam’s manager is tough…as the saying goes Mam’s know best so if she’s doing a window display and asks my opinion but doesn’t really agree with it then mother knows best but if that’s as tricky as it gets around here working with family then I’ll take it!
Whilst my Dad hasn’t ever technically worked for the store he has always been Mam’s support and was integral to so many supplier meetings, business decisions etc so he naturally has also been around during my takeover to help.
His wealth of knowledge has been invaluable, but his presence has also been difficult whilst I’ve been trying to make my mark.
Our first logo for the website when the website opened in 2016
So many supplier reps would arrive to show us their latest products and if Dad was around they would speak directly to him which used to drive me crazy…its hard not to take personally, I would question if it was my age or even my sex as we’re in quite a male-dominated industry so this regularly would add pressure to my friendship with my dad.
Luckily we’re a matched pair so as quickly as we have a bicker we’re laughing again but it definitely added to the pressure of each day. If it wasn’t enough to work with my parents, in 2019 I thought it was a good idea to work with my husband!
2019/2020: Matt Officially Joins
We found out we were pregnant with Grace and knew that the way the business was growing that it wouldn’t be able to continue and allow me to have some time off with my new baby.
Matt went down to part-time in his job to come and support and we’ve been lucky enough for him to join full time officially from January this year for us to share the load and try to find some work-life balance in each and every day.
It’s been a bit of an adjustment working together every day and then going home and making sure we don’t just spend all of our time talking about work but we’re getting there!
The difficulty with working with your husband is that you can just say what you think, no filter, which isn’t great as its not usually something you would say to a colleague!
We’re both quite opinionated but luckily quite often on the same page and have both managed to find our individual strengths to complement each other rather than overlapping and causing arguments.
We still need to work out how to separate work from home a little better but to be honest, when you’re self-employed I’m not sure it will ever be possible to fully switch off on an evening.
So to summarise…if you made it this far!
Working with family actually is fantastic. It can cause some stress, but so can any job! I get the benefit of seeing my parents regularly and pestering my long-suffering husband during the day with additional many more opportunities to say ‘I Told You So’!
Be mindful of how you speak to each other and try and make sure you split your work self from your home self at least a little bit so you get some non-shop chat!