A mother and daughter, who are on their own journey into the delicate world of the family business, recently launched a podcast to help others doing the same.
The mum and daughter duo are founder and managing director of Sandbanks-based PR and communications agency Liz Lean PR, Liz Willingham, and her daughter Leila,business and account Manager. Since launching last February, they have reached listeners in 21 countries, across five continents, with their new podcast, It Runs In The Family.
Liz founded Liz Lean PR almost 25 years ago and Leila “grew up in the agency”, officially joining the family business after A-Levels, developing her skills through practical experience and formal professional public relations training.
The idea of a podcast came on the back of a lunch they held for family business clients to meet and discuss issues around running their businesses. Leila says that it was for them to take some time out of the day to recognise the challenges that come with working with family but also to celebrate it. The meeting was such a success that another one was planned, but then the pandemic occurred.
Realising they’d created a forum where people were enjoying sharing their stories, Leila says that lockdown gave them some headspace to think about how they could bring this to life in a new way.
“That’s where the idea of the podcast came from,” says Leila. “It seemed like the perfect platform to combine the learnings and storytelling we’d begun doing, with this new way of living and working, where we could reach new family businesses, family businesses could reach others and hear from others, without travelling.”
Liz and Leila partnered with a local podcasting production agency, Podcast Labs, who are based in Poole. They had worked with them previously through various clients, so knew they could produce a high-quality podcast for them. They wanted to do something slightly different, bringing the human aspect through in a documentary style, taking listeners through the journey of family businesses.
Leila is keen to point out how important Podcast Labs are to them, she says: “They’ve got a fantastic studio, they’ve also helped us do really high-quality remote recording, they do the editing and graphics, which makes it seamless, and we couldn’t do it without them.”
You might think that targeting only family businesses would be limiting, but Leila points out that isn’t so. “In 2018 there were 5.1 million family-owned businesses in the UK, which is almost 90% of private sector firms,” she says. “That includes everything from your local corner shop up to Warburtons, Dyson, Virgin, Sports Direct, some of the biggest names we have in the UK are family-owned or have the family involved,” She adds.
Guests so far on the podcast have included high profile chef, restaurateur and television presenter Marco Pierre White and his son Luciano, Warren Haskins, chairman of 100-year-old Haskins Garden Centres, Jill Stein OBE and her son Jack of the Rick Stein business empire and father and daughter Martin and Eleanor Thatcher of the world-famous cider maker, Thatchers.
Liz says: “We launched the podcast hoping that it would become a place where listeners can learn from family businesses, either as a family organisation themselves or as individuals interested in this unique way of operating. It has been great to see the podcast achieve this not only in the UK but across various countries, including the United States, Canada, Russia and France. We even have a handful of listeners tuning in from as far afield as Australia which is incredible!
“We’re thrilled that our global listener base is enjoying the stories as much as we are and look forward to producing even more episodes with some of the biggest and intriguing family brands. Curiously, we’ve also reached number 32 in the Estonian charts for entrepreneurship!”
Being a PR company makes it easier to promote the podcast, but guest interaction is probably the biggest thing says Leila. Each guest’s customers and audience are interested in hearing about a different side of their business because it isn’t something they would normally talk about very much. The family business community has also been very supportive in spreading the word.
Mum and daughter know from personal experience, there are real joys – and also real challenges when working within a family business. They love hearing the stories of those who have been there and done it. From Double Dutch, highly successful tonic brand stocked in Waitrose and established by twin sisters, Raissa and Joyce in 2015, to Balson’s Butchers in Bridport, the UK’s oldest family business that can be traced back to 1515, they’re covering a lot of business and family ground in this podcast.
It’s been a successful first six months for It Runs In The Family, but what does the future hold?
“We have no plans to stop,” says Leila. “We intend to keep recording and sharing all these stories. The one thing we definitely have on our radar is, where we’ve so far spoken to 15 or so family businesses, it’s funny how the dots are connecting and there’s a web of It Runs In The Family podcast guests that have or want to make links to others.”
Depending on how the pandemic plays out, they are planning to bring previous guests together for a It Runs In The Family reunion or roadshow.
Leila adds: “The podcast has proven to be a treasure trove of family business experience, with companies passed through generations, sibling connections on an almost telepathic level, and an incredible degree of humility from all of our wonderful guests.”
A new episode of It Runs In The Family is released every other Wednesday and is available to download and stream on all major podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
If you work in or run a family business and would like to record your family’s story, get in touch via the Liz Lean PR website.