Welcome to the third part of Rohan a family affair.
Al and Joy talk about managing the transition of a family business from one generation to the next, something I know will interest many readers. Next week Al talks about his deep involvement with outdoor pursuits. This is one not to be missed. We can all catch up with Al and Joy at the Rohan Originals Weekend 1st – 3rd April in Rohan Keswick.
Al and Joy: This is a question I know a lot of readers will have great empathy with. How did you integrate your family into the business. Was it something you planned for or did it just happen?
When we first started in business we never gave a thought to the idea of our children being involved but at one stage or another all three have had a go.
Jason, now 43 and living in Penrith with his wife and two children. In the early days he managed the Keswick store but found shop work not to his liking. Since then he has been mainly involved with working with young people in the outdoors and at present is based with the Outward Bound at Ullswater.
Rachel, now 38 and living, for the last 15 years, in Menorca with her partner from Catalan and two children. As a teenager she did work with Joy in the Wholefood store but spent most of her time travelling until settling in Spain.
Ben, now 40 a father of two and living in Keswick. Ben started with Rohan just like the other two in a very casual way, really just to fill in time before he decided what he really wanted to do. In fact when he started there was just Joy and Ben working full time plus a Saturday helper. Right from the start he enjoyed retailing and after years of managing he has worked his way up to being the major shareholder and Managing Director and without doubt one of the most knowledgeable people regarding the history of Rohan, both the company and it’s products. His collection of classic early garments designed by Paul is based for all to see at the Keswick store. Rohan Originals
Actually, even though the the company is run and owned by three members of the same family we do not think of it that way. The company is not a family business it’s a team business and every one who works in the Keswick store is vital to it’s operation.
Al and Joy: I know Ben has run the business now for 15 years. I expect that leaves a very warm glow in your hearts. When you found you had more time with not being on the front line did you miss it? Or did the outdoors take over? Do you call yourself retired?
Once Ben was established as the manager and modern technology was such that you could be in touch by phone and email from almost anywhere Joy and myself took more of a back seat. We hate the idea that when you appoint someone to manage you then stand over them all day watching their every move. We therefore slipped into the role more of consultants which might sound like a grand title for a small business but that’s what we do right up to the present. Most weeks there will be problems or ideas that Ben feels he needs to chat through and for us it keeps us up to speed with it all so it’s a system that works very well. Having said that we spend more time during these calls telling each other where we have been out on the hills than sorting out the shop!
Do you still wear Rohan?
Everyday, in fact I have nothing else other than Rohan, except for the special technical gear I use for cycling, climbing, skiing and running. Amongst my favourites from the early classic period are things like Rohan Hot Bags and the Rohan Olfio top. My all time favourite are probably Rohan Salopettes which transformed my standard at winter climbing and ski touring. In fact I have so many great bits of kit, most of which is hard to destroy, that I think I could open a great second hand Rohan store out here in the Alps with just what I have in my wardrobe!