Founded in: 1728
Tip: “When you recruit people to do a job, the most important thing is actually letting them do it.”
When Barry Guild joined eighth-generation family business Aspall, he was faced with the challenge of modernising the company. Founded in 1728, the Suffolk-based cider maker had maintained their original processes – keeping family members in management roles and hand-pressing their apples – for hundreds of years. But to reach the next stage of growth, Barry needed to move on from these traditions.
Barry’s first step was to observe how the business currently worked and listen to staff members. He was keen not to ‘wade in’ and make drastic changes immediately, because it might disrupt something that worked well. He took advice from his father, the previous managing director, who stayed in the background to provide support.
The next step was to make hires that would help the business progress. The company had only had four salespeople in the last century, who had all been members of the Aspall family. It was challenging for the family to critically examine their own skill set. However, the acknowledgement that industry experts could perform more effectively marked a big turning point for the company.
“As we grew, we realised there was no getting away from the fact that we were recruited because of our surnames,” Barry said. “It was great to see someone come in and do things better than you, whether that was sales or quality control.”
To fund the next round of growth for the business, Barry said they needed a large amount of money. That’s when he and his brother finally made the decision to sell. It ensured Aspall could keep manufacturing, hire more staff and remain competitive. Ultimately, he admits, it was the best thing for the future of the family business.
Under Barry’s 20-year tenure, Aspall grew from 30 staff to 120. The number of salespeople tripled. New owners, US brewing company Molson Coors, committed to a £10.5 million investment to fund Aspall’s future growth.
“Go in, watch, listen and talk, in that order. See how the business operates and see what works. Is it what you’d expect? Are you happy with that? Take a good time to observe the strengths and weaknesses of the company. Really get to know and understand the operation of the business before you start making changes,” Barry said.