Motoring Trials and Tribulations
At the risk of giving away too much information, I confess that I can remember when cars had trafficators and a starter button on the floor. My first mini, with its porridge stick gear lever, was configured in such a way that you couldn’t change gear and dip the headlights at the same time. It also broke down every time it encountered a deep puddle. Not an ideal scenario for driving in the west of Scotland.
But when I did break down, I had my own personal mechanic on hand, in the shape of my dad.
I was brought up in the motor trade, with a motor mechanic father, who made the courageous decision to start his own garage and undertaking business in 1968 in Kilmacolm, with my mum as his business partner and firmly in charge of book-keeping and admin.
So, what was it like growing up in a family business? An only child, I was very close to my parents, and I was interested in the business and helped out during school holidays with admin/bookkeeping and I was great at polishing the hearse! I was rarely conscious of any arguments or strong disagreements between my parents, albeit my mother was constantly reminding my father to complete the required paperwork to allow her to get invoices out and manage cashflow.
My over-riding observation is of the respect they had for each other, and the good relationship they shared. My mum was a stickler for routine and was very conscientious. Her hand-written ledgers were neatness personified. She was more risk-averse than my dad, but they complemented each other well, and his entrepreneurial mindset allowed for business growth while her pragmatism kept things grounded.
They created employment and training opportunities for apprentice mechanics, and at the other end of the age spectrum, a retired skilled worker was brought in to help with funerals.
He also fulfilled his passion for refurbishing vintage motor vehicles, and a 1935 Lagonda Rapide Open Tourer, which was lovingly brought back into service in his spare time, now sits in the Riverside Museum.
The Lagonda belonged to Miss Pearcey of Yonderfield Farm, West Kilbride. Miss Pearcey’s grandfather, Robert Barr, a Largs-born millionaire ship-owner, whisky magnate and philanthropist had left her considerable wealth, including the Seamill Hydropathic[i]. The Seamill Hydro is still privately owned, and a classic example of a family business.
Miss Pearcey had asked my dad to garage the car, and repair and refurbish it. She also left instructions that on her death it was to be given to the Glasgow Transport Museum. Miss Pearcey died in 1984 at the age of 74.
On a recent visit to the Riverside Museum, the staff were charming and helpful, and let me see inside the vehicle. This brought back fond memories of the ripped horsehair seat which was the favourite sleeping hideout of Sooty, our family cat.
My dad was also more or less permanently on call – either for funerals or to deal with the regular breakdowns so common in motor cars during that era. So, their working week varied in length and intensity, geared round the needs of their customers. Reputation was paramount, and they built up a strong and loyal customer base.
In a recent issue of INSIGHT ADDED, our leadership newsletter, we mentioned “Leadershift” the latest book from Dr John C Maxwell. In this he recounts the story of the mechanic who, unable to fix the brakes on a customer’s car, tells him that he has just made the horn louder to compensate! My dad would have been outraged.
My parents ran their business for 15 years, until ill-health forced them to retire. They both passed away a few years later.
At The Leader, the motoring analogy is a close fit with our mission as we strive to be your compass and companion on your leadership journey. I draw on the leadership skills and knowledge built up over my own career, underpinned by the strong principles of trust, respect and loyalty which were instilled in me during my childhood growing up in a family business in a small village and tight-knit local community.
“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”
Take Care. Lead Well