A Succession Story – With Jeremy Manford
A Succession Story – With Jeremy Manford
This weeks show is an interview with Jeremy Manford. Jeremy is the CEO of his family business, Compu-Stor based in Australia.
In this interview we discuss Jeremy’s experiences of joining the business, succeeding his father and how he and his brother have recently clarified their roles to make best use of their resources.
We also hear about the value that Jeremy and his family have found in being members of Family Business Australia and how valuable having peers you can discuss challenges with is. Something that I will specifically be speaking about in next weeks show!
I am very grateful to Jeremy for sharing his experiences and the lessons we can all learn from them.
I took a lot away from this chat with Jeremy and I am sure you will enjoy the show too.
My top 5 learning points were:
- The importance of communication at all stages of a Family Business
- The importance of being adaptable and bringing in the right people to help you when you can’t do things yourself.
- The importance of peer groups and sharing the challenges that come from being in business with your family.
- The importance of accepting vulnerability when looking to ‘outsiders’
- The importance of having and articulating your vision as a family to those that join your Family Business.
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Russ Haworth: Hello, welcome to this week’s episode of The Family Business Podcast. We are stretching the internet to its limits today, and I’m talking to a guest in Australia. His name is Jeremy Manford and he is the CEO of his family business. And we’re going to be hearing from Jeremy about his story and his experiences within that business.
But firstly, Jeremy, welcome to the show and thanks for joining us.
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, thanks Russ. It’s great to be here. Thank you for the opportunity.
Russ Haworth: No worries. And as I say, you are the CEO of your family business. Can you give us a bit more sort of background and flavor as to what the business is? How long you’ve been in it, your kind of history and background.
Introduction to Jeremy
Jeremy Manford: Definitely. Yeah. So my name’s Jeremy Manford, the CEO of Compu-Stor. So, Compu-Stor is an information management business which was established in 1987 by my father, Peter Manford, and my brother and myself have been in business for about 22, 23 years now. And my brother just recently has moved out of the family business to look after our family office.
So I’ve moved up into that CEO role and we’re diversifying our interests in supporting the family and other areas. So we’ve gone through a number of changes and obviously COVID like a lot of businesses out there has had a dramatic impact. and it was an opportunity for us to really take the time to look inwards and re-establish ourselves and where we’re going as an organization.
So Compu-Stor is a information management business. So it started over 30 years ago, traditional business of storing company records. So in archive boxes in, in racking, You know, when a customer would require a record, we’d go and retrieve it off the shelf and physically deliver it to them. Over the years, our business is developed into the digital space where we now can retrieve a record, digitize it and deliver it electronically.
So I’ve had a lot of changes over the three decades, with barcode technology, we’ve written our own software, our CIMS platform that supports the organization and our customers. So we’ve gone through a lot of development and changes as a family in the business, but as well as the actual business itself.
Russ Haworth: Yeah. And I guess when we’re talking about things like technology, the pace of change that happens in that kind of arena. It’s probably a faster, much faster pace than other sort of less digital, less technological businesses. Does that place a strain on you as an owner of the business in order to keep up with that?
And then how as a family, do you ensure that, you know, you bring the right people into, to tell you about all of these new technological advances.
Dealing with Change
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, thats’ a really great question. One of the things that we’ve really focused on is the people that at the right people and bringing them into our business to be able to help support our customers coming from a traditional box background. A lot has changed, the technology and the diversity that we’ve got to be able to deliver, to deliver to the customers, those outcomes and solutions.
You’ve got to have the people that understand that. So over the journey, we’ve, you know, we’ve brought in the right people with those skills and then we’ve developed our offerings and that’s really now the niche of our business. So our technology and our digital deliverables and the solutions that we can now provide customers is really elevated our business from being just the bulk storage company, you know, where it’s just boxes on the shelf to now offering full digital technology solutions. And we’ve got a lot, you know, we just recently won a really large government AP solution in New South Wales. And we’re developing that now when using a number of different technologies and bring that all together for this.
To deliver on the solution. So, you know, we’ve got a really great, awesome team. You know, it’s not, it’s not me at the top that’s making it all happen. It really is all the people underneath me you know, the right people and then all the guys down into the warehouse and the staff that support us. So it’s definitely about the people bringing them in to deliver on those technologies.
Russ Haworth: And you touched on this in your introduction, but in real terms, your business is still relatively young. It’s not kind of hundreds of years old, but you’ve had to deal with an awful lot of change and transition both on the business side and on the family side, I don’t want to make any assumptions about your age because we can’t do that.
But, but am I right in thinking that the business, your father started the business or took the business on after you were born? So it’s not something that he would have started before you were born. What stage of your life did you sort of become aware of the family business? I guess I’m saying,
Jeremy Manford: yeah, sure. I guess I’ll go back and give you a really brief version.
So I guess we come from a multiple sort of generation of family businesses. So my grandfather worked for his father’s business, which was Frank Manford in the transport industry, which was bought out by Brambles, which became Brambles Manford, Brambles went out and started, had Cleanaway recall.
And that’s how my dad got involved in the business. He was working with recall and the Bramble security side of the business. And then in 86, 87, he was basically you know, went off to start his own business, which was combo and that’s how Compu-Stor was born. So that you know, at that stage you know, I’m 44 now, and the business I’ve sort of grown up with.
So in my sort of teenage years, we’d come out to the office you know, sweep the warehouse, put boxes away, do all those types of things. Then I went off and did a few different things for a few years. And then an opportunity sort of in my early twenties was, you know, Dad pull one side and said, you know, do you want to come and work in this business or not?
So, you know, I had a bit of a think about it. And when you look, why not? It’s a great opportunity. It’s a great business. Everyone needs it. It’s, it’s a growing business. And to this day, it’s still a growing business whilst it’s slightly changed and it’s developed into other areas. It’s still a really critical piece for businesses, you know, storing information.
It’s, it’s what it’s all about these days all the larger companies are say the physical digital or combination, and we really help people on that transition journey. So in that success, succession planning. So through my journey of being involved in the business have been really heavily involved in Family Business Australia.
And that organization, as you mentioned, you know, our business is relatively young and being able to spend some time with some amazing businesses that have been around for a hundred plus years and really leverage and in that community, be able to share the stories when your family businesses, your listeners would know it is different than being out there in the corporate sector.
People that aren’t in that environment don’t really get it. So. You know, a family business Australia has really helped us and our family and our business really grow and get that support. And just transitioning through those pieces have been as, has been a really benefit longterm.
Because we’ve always done it like that..
Russ Haworth: Yeah, fantastic.
And then there’s a couple of things I want to pick up on from, from what you’ve just said, the first one relates to the history of the business and that it’s kind of pivoted and changed over time. Do you think your awareness of that being something that has happened historically helps you to make decisions on where to pivot to next, because, one of the most dangerous things in business, and I’ll probably get this phrased wrong, but I’ve read it somewhere.
Is “because we’ve always done it that way”. And it, it can be very restrictive on people if there was this traditional view and we don’t want to be the ones that then buck with that tradition. Whereas what I’m hearing from the history of your business is that the business and the family have adapted as is needed in order to that family enterprise to continue.
And if that’s an ethos or mindset that is inherent within you as a family that, I’m assuming it would help in terms of adapting, as we’re seeing now with digitalization and how we will having to deal with COVID.
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, that’s right, Russ. So I guess for me and for us, so I guess going into a little bit more about our journey, you know, we are West Australian based own business.
When we went to expand over East, I was the one that moved to Melbourne. You know, I’d picked everything up to start a fresh site there, and that was a massive change and we had to adapt to that then moving into Sydney, you know, being based in driving, driving that change as well. So I guess.
The fundamentals, which is what my father really instilled in my brother, Robert and I have always been there that core understanding of, you know, work hard, get it done, make it happen, make show the customers are satisfied. That’s never changed. But what we have had to do is really adapt to our environment.
You know, I, myself moving to Melbourne was really different environment to the West Australian market. So I’ve had to change and adapt. We’ve had to stop that from scratch, you know, with a customer and we’ve had to then develop and change and all those things. So it’s whilst the industry around us has changed.
As you said before, our business has had to change and we’ve had to change. And, and it is, it’s a common thing, even when I go out to see customers and we, one of the questions, why do you do it though? Oh, it’s the way we’ve always done it. Yeah. But why. And when you actually stop and think people really struggle answer that question.
So we’re always asking ourselves internally that, why question, why are we doing it this way? Well, wait a minute, let’s see if we can use technology or process improvement, whatever that might be. And that’s where I guess this, you know, things like succession become quite easily. It’s just a natural thing for us, you know, whether that’s my brother, you know, just recently this year, or last year, 2020, moving into the Family Office.
You know, it’s, it’s, it’s something that we had planned for. We looked down and we went, that’s the best thing for our family long-term to be able to deliver on what we’re trying to achieve. Yeah.
Should I join the Family Business?
Russ Haworth: Fantastic. And I’d like to get into that element as well. But one more thing while we’re on the subject of what we’ve just talked about, you mentioned in your early twenties, your father came to you and said, do you want to come into the business?
And you went away and thought about that are you able to recall what your thought process was? How easy a decision was it for you to, to come into the family business?
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, sure. I guess, yeah, if it’s in the blood, it’s in the blood you’ll, I think you’ll hear that from a lot of families in and it’s kind of, you grow up with it.
It’s something that it’s just there. To put a finger on it to call something out, it’s probably not just one thing, it’s a multiple of things. You know, to take it and take it further than where it was before, you know, which is a, been a great part of the journey and the ride having that opportunity to carry it on.
And it was just a thing of pride and something that, you know, you kind of it’s either in you or it’s not. So and I guess that’s where the generations of family businesses kind of stop and they get wound up or whatever that. Well, a different path has taken or the generation, the next generation will take it and run with it and make it bigger.
And that’s really, I guess, where my heart was, it was to go, okay, well, wait a minute. Let’s see if we can really run, make this bigger and become a real player in the market. And that’s kind of what draws me even to this day. You know, we’ve got much, much larger global companies that are in the market yet.
We’re the largest privately owned family business left in Australia, that’s Australia. We’re really proud of that. You know, we’ve got some fantastic, awesome loyal customers that have been with us for, you know, decades. And to me, that’s the greatest sign of success when you’ve got that ongoing support of customers.
And then also you people that help you deliver on it. So they’re the, they’re the type of the things that from my you know, I, one of the things which are really attracted me to, to it, Yeah. And being, staying in the business to this day. So, you know, we’ve got plenty more to do. I’m still relatively young in the business sense and I still enjoy it.
And I think if you’ve got the passion, then there’s not limits to what you can achieve.
Russ Haworth: Yeah. And when you joined the business, what was your role? Did you, did you sort of do your hours on the shop floor? How did that work out?
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, look. Yeah. I’ve only I’ve. Yeah, I guess going back from, you know, from going, coming out in the school holidays, sweeping the floor, picking boxes and files to putting away files, to helping out in admin, to folding invoices, to doing sales.
I guess yeah, you name it. We’ve been through each one of the processes and the steps. So we’ve really done a, I guess you could call it a semi apprenticeship in this space. It’s it’s, it comes back to that passion. If you’ve got that drive and passion and the opportunity, then they’re just. Every, every section of the business of being involved in.
Russ Haworth: Excellent. And at some stage the conversation presumably started about the succession from your father’s role him moving on to a different role. Again, how did you approach that as a family and what, what sort of lessons did you take from that experience?
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, look I guess quite early on, we were really fortunate.
Father Peter, you know, is still the shareholder of the business. and he really brought some people around us. So from a governance perspective, we had independence sitting on our board at a really. Early phase. Then when we joined FBA Family Business Australia, that kind of reinforced the pathway that we’re on and saying, yep.
We’re going down the ages of that. So yeah. I guess through that process, you know, my father slowly stepped away more and more, and my brother-in-law took on more and more. And we had a guy in the right people around us to help us do that. So we’ve, we’ve had a board in place for, you know, for now, probably the last 20, 15, 15 years, I’d say.
And we’ve had some really good people in that time and a few have changed and we’ve got to, you know, currently we’ve got an independent chairman, we’ve got an independent advisor. A very great CFO and myself and my brother on the board. And then obviously my father as well. So he’s, he’s less involved now from, from the board perspective and, you know, we still carry on that strength of having the right people in the right roles to help us drive the business.
So I feel really fortunate that we’ve been able to have that as part of our journey. Obviously some businesses. Sometimes wait, too long or too early or whatever it might be. We’ve seen too, you know, it’s worked well for us. And that support and that learnings that we’ve got with, you know, Family Business Australia, and the support you can get through that organization.
It’s just a great way to go about it. If you’re building and you’re in a family business.
Russ Haworth: And one of the common challenges that I hear of when I’m working with family businesses is bringing people in from, from outside of the family to perform certain roles. You mentioned about your CFO and the independence on your board is, is how to maintain the ‘familyness’ of the business and the perhaps a longer term viewpoint.
We, we spoke earlier a little bit about. You either get it, or you don’t from a corporate perspective, how easy or difficult was it to, for you to find those right people who were able to come in and do the job they’re there to do, but also maintain the viewpoint that you had as a family.
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, it’s a really good question.
I guess probably the easiest example I can give is when we were looking for our chairman, we had two candidates putting in front of us, one was a real sales background like really, Hey, we can aggressively go and do this, this and this. And the other one was an Accountant. And I kind of dad said, Oh, my brother really locked the sales, go on our way.
I don’t think we really need somebody to tell us how to sell. We know that our business, he doesn’t like, yeah, you’ll probably get it, but where we do need some real skill sets is in accounting. I’m not an accountant, dad’s not an accountant or my brothers an accountant we can all sell. We as again, it’s in our blood, right.
When we can find business, that’s not our problem. So it was quite an interesting conversation. And I said, well, I think. You know Marks his name, you know, I think Mark’s, the better fit and we ended up going with Mark and he’s still with us to this day. I think he’s spending this for six years now and he adds value.
Cause it’s a strength. Again, it’s a strength that we needed to help us. All three of us can sell our business and we’ve been doing that for, since it started. So that wasn’t really a problem. So I guess. It’s finding that right fit and choosing wisely, looking at the gaps that you’ve gotten as the old saying, you know, what are the gaps, wait, and bring people in that a better at you than you are at certain things.
And you strengthen yourself long term. And again, with our digital business you know, I mentioned before, earlier on. We’re kind of the box guys. We know heaps about document storage and all the rest of it. Let’s bring in some guys from the skillsets digital side and that’s rapidly increased our knowledge.
Long-term to be able to sort of bought out our customers by bringing. It’s the right people with the right skills. And when you’re talking to them, making sure that they understand the family background, they understand what it is we’re trying to achieve. And if they want to be a part of that, you can soon filter that out pretty quick.
I believe not always getting it right. But I think if you put down what that story is and that vision early on in the piece, I think you’ve made a much better way of getting there.
Russ Haworth: And I think one of the key things there, and this is going to sound like a really obvious statement, but you have to have that vision first.
You have to have articulated that, I guess, as a family. Rather than, you know, if the interview process for Mark was some time with your dad, some time with you and time with your brother, and you’re all telling different stories, then that’s gonna create some confusion and difficulty in that recruitment process.
So how do you as a family. Discuss that vision. How do you agree on that? Is it driven by you as the CEO or is there a more of a family driver for it?
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, look, I guess I’ve only been in the CEO role since last year, so just, just to call that out. So and look, all three of us are slightly different mannerisms and skills.
So when we kind of go, we’ve got our broad, we’ve got our vision and we’ve got our values and we, we portray that and we really talk about that internally in the business and extended to our customers and people. So, yeah. When we went through that process and your correct. You know, individually, we all spoke and then as a group, we all sort of interviewed at the same time. So that persons at the same time, they’re interviewing us and going well, is can I add value here?
Can I work with these people and all those things? So, you know, in like every family business there’s there’s challenges, it doesn’t always go the exact way that a business has meant to go, but that’s, that’s a family business.
So, you know, You know, we really try to focus on those core strengths that we’ve got. And then obviously, sometimes you got to take five minutes and then come back and go, actually, no, this is where we’re heading in these. These is what we agreed on and that’s the path we take. And again, I think that’s by having the right people on your board to ensure that you’re keeping on track, hence why we’ve got an independent chair.
On the board. If it was a family member could be a little bit different.
The Importance of Vulnerability
Russ Haworth: Yeah. And again, a common thing that I hear with particularly bringing people into senior management roles and onto the board is that there’s a degree of vulnerability. At that stage because it’s somebody who’s coming from the outside in inverted comma’s, and you’re letting them into something that may historically have only been managed and run by family members.
And there can be a sense of vulnerability that, you know, what, if they come in and say, this is absolutely awful. And yet you’ve been doing it wrong for so many years. I don’t think there’s much truth behind any of that concern, but they still a legitimate concern because you are opening the doors to something that historically has been relatively private to outsiders for want of a better phrase.
Again, I’m assuming that was something that you weighed the advantages and disadvantages of it. You know, if somebody is going to come in and fill that gap, that’s going to push us forward and we might have to take on board what they say as a result of that.
Jeremy Manford: Yeah. Look, definitely. I think you’ve, you’ve gotta be ready for that cause you’re right.
You’re gonna get people that join the board that have a certain view that you may not like, or you may not agree with. And then I guess, as a family and as a board, and you’ve got to take those considerations on and I think. It really goes down to that skillset. Look for the gaps and add those gaps because there’s a reason you went and chose that type of person or that type of skill to come and join your business.
And there’s no point bringing them in if you’re not going to listen to them. And I guess that’s something which, you know, you know, we spoke about as a family and, and, and we really try and take that on. I mean, I’m not going to go and tell an accountant how to do the numbers. Right? Know, you’re going to put it, they’re going to put together the P and L or whatever it might be.
And I, this, how are we going to present it? I will. That’s what you’re there for. So that’s why we’re going to do it. So, yeah. You know, I guess one thing I’ve learned in my journey and that says, you know, I surround yourself with better people and it makes you stronger. And that goes from the board, from your senior managers to even people on the floor.
You know, we’ve got a common thing when a new person starts tell us what you see and tell us what you think is good or bad. You’re a fresh as if you think you know it all or you think you’ve got it right then I don’t think you’ve got a business that’s ever going to evolve and develop and, and drive forward.
Might out of pure, pure luck, I guess. But it’s always, you know, yeah. Take that in. But there is a reserve thing about how much do you let them let somebody know? And I think that comes with building trust in the relationship, you know, in on day one, you’re not probably gonna lay out the kitchen table that trust is built.
You know, that’s what they’re there for. And it is, it’s a journey, right? If you’ve got the focus of this is going to make us better. Then you got to start sharing and you know, that’s something that, again, going back to the FBI, that’s, you know, you’ve got things like the. You know, the groups that we talk about with them and the people that you can have, those conversations within, you can pick things up.
You know, they, they’ve got these forums, which is kind of like a mini board where it’s a group of family, business, people that all go through a, a process and you get put together and you can talk freely and openly and share those things. So you can actually take those concerns. So I was in, I was in the forum for some period of time.
And that really helped me develop my skills around. Okay. Well, how do you treat certain events that might pop up? So it’s kind of like a board outside of your boards. So then the top things that can really add value.
You can’t read the label of the jar you are in
Russ Haworth: Yeah, absolutely. And there’s a saying I’ve used it a few times on the podcast. I’ll, I’ll adapt it slightly given what your business does, but the saying I use is “You can’t read the label of the jar your in”, perhaps we’ll change it to you. “Can’t read the label of the box you’re in ” first, for what you do.
And I think it’s really true and it, it can be quite you know accepting vulnerability in inviting somebody in from the outside. But if, if the idea is to push that business forward, to add to where there are gaps and you’re able to articulate that vision and that meant per person buys into that vision.
That’s kind of half the battle, as you say, you won’t always get it right. And there’s family business owners. I’ve spoken to where they brought people in as well, senior roles. There’s been this chemistry and it’s been a disaster that the interview process goes really well, but the actual application of it has been a disaster.
So I think again, we’ve got an episode coming up. That’s going to be called the value of belonging, which is going to look at the important role that organizations like and the FBA. The Institute for Family Business here in the UK and there’s others in the States, we’re talking to one in the States as well about this, the value of belonging to groups where you’re able to discuss in I don’t know how global this is, but we have “The Chatham House Rule” here in the UK, which is whatever happens in the room, happens in the room.
But talking amongst your peers is such a valuable part of it because there is that common language of family business that happens in those environments. So it’s good to hear that you’ve benefited from those as well.
Jeremy Manford: Oh, yeah. Look from our perspective. It’s been, yeah, it’s been a fantastic platform and, and a safe, safe zone effectively.
And you’re right. It’s what’s guests said in that room, it stays in that room. And also the friendships that you build. And I mean, I was lucky enough to also look, I was chairing Victoria for three years and had the opportunity to be the chairman for the, for the state and. No, that was a great opportunity.
He got to meet even more people in the family business area and those conversations and those relationships. And, you know, to this day, I still got paper where if I wanted to, I could pick up the phone and have a conversation and say, Oh, we’re going through this. You know, have you experienced that? And as we all know, The businesses go through all the same stuff.
Different stages, obviously in different, different ways, but it’s pretty similar. This there’s so many things that are virtually identical. It’s kind of uncanny in being able to have those opportunities to have those conversations. I mean the world to to individuals. So yeah, for us it’s thing been really great.
And I mean, even for our, you know, the people that we’ve chosen to bring on with being lucky. And as I mentioned before, having always got it right. But I think. If you take your time, do the selection process. It’s going to help with that, with everything that you do. And that, that even includes succession.
I mean, that was one of the big things we have gone through last year, which was prior to COVID we started that journey and COVID kind of just accelerated a little bit around. Okay. Well, for the first time, my brother and I are actually going to look after effectively two different parts of, of our family business, one being computer store and one being the family office.
And we had had some pretty. Full on conversations around that going, okay, well, what does this mean? What does that look like? You know, in that separation of, okay, well, that’s what you’ve got to do over there and that’s what you’ve got to do over there. So, you know, we, we went off with respective advisors and we built full business plans, went through all that, had to submit it.
Both, both of us have the opportunity to critique each other’s business plan. But at the end of the day, we, we put them all together. We agreed to them and now we’re both off. Following those paths. And at the end of the day, we both got a really clear objective in this, contribute to the family wealth and continue to grow our businesses.
And, and you’ve got to do that with the right people that are with you and that’s, that’s just critical. I don’t think, you know, You do it on your own. Yeah,
Russ Haworth: I would wholeheartedly agree with that as well. And I’m interested in, in those discussions, if you’re happy to show us the, not the specific details of them, but the, the kind of context that, that was around that, because previously am I right in thinking you and your brother were both in the business together.
And then obviously, COVID has kind of mushed these conversations into a shorter timeframe around, well, do we need to if Robert, your brother’s name moved Robert in, into the family office side, how did that discussion start? Was it something where you’d always kind of mapped out that that would be a path, but this has accelerated it, or did the path change as a result of COVID?
The Impact of COVID
Jeremy Manford: Yeah. It definitely accelerated it, I guess. Yeah. Look, as, as we’ve grown and our teams have grown and again, we kind of were at the probably two years ago where I was at the same level, kind of doing a joint MD type position sort of loosely. And we sort of, you know, I would tell you different people where I would two different ideas and some things we could agree on and some things we got now, I want to do it this way and we kind of.
No, it’s always worked really well. So the business has always worked really well. It was this kind of wait a minute, can we do this better? And it’s really having a good looking. And then we looked over at the family office side and we said, well, wait a minute. We could actually see some focus over there that could do better.
So when you sort of pulled that all apart and kind of take the emotion out of it, you’d sit back and you look and go, well, wait a minute, we’ve got two really capable people. We’re trying to do one thing. And there’s two things to look after. So it kind of just fell into place where it was like, well, why are we trying to focus just on one.
Let’s let, what about if we focused on both of these businesses effectively and that’s really the path that we went down. Yeah. And
Russ Haworth: I think, again, you’ve touched on a really important. Aspect there in terms of zooming out, if you’d like from the business and looking at overall, the family wealth and the elements that make up that family wealth, because the family business is one element of that.
And obviously it’s a very important element of that in your circumstances. You’ve got a family office as well, which helps contribute to that. And sometimes again, you can see it where the focus goes too much on one or the other of those things. So potentially to the detriment of what’s happening over on the other side.
So taking that, I hate the phrase. I think it’s a management phrase, but I hate taking that helicopter view. Is that the right metric? So but taking a helicopter view of the, the overall family enterprise, if you like allows you to best utilize the So resources you’ve got,
Jeremy Manford: and that’s what it comes down.
I am too. It’s it’s, you know, it’s, it is, it’s about resource allocation and we look at that when we’re going through anything at the moment, it’s like, okay, well, if we want to get over to that point, what does that look like? Okay, well, we need to get these resources in place and we’ve got to do A, B and C.
Well, it was kind of that conversation when we looked at it and went well, wait a minute. We’ve got two things here we want to, that can generate wealth and need to be focused on. So let’s, let’s why wouldn’t we do it. So after we went through that process and you know, this isn’t a five minute conversation, these are conversations over board meetings and all sorts of things.
And you know, we came down to it and then COVID really presented us with an opportunity to make those changes. And you know, it’s been six, 700 once now and, and it’s working really well. It’s really we’ve, we’ve seen both sides improve on our position and we continue to sing opera projectory.
So. Yeah. It’s the start of that journey. And again, you know, we’re three decades in, and we’re now on a different journey yet. Again, I think it’s all about evolution, you know, experiencing, moving, not sitting still really having a look at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and asking those hard questions.
Is there a better way? And that’s kind of what, how we got to where we are now. You know, and it’s great. It’s all the skills and the things we’ve picked up and those conversations that we’ve had with people from FBI and our advisors and people helping us and challenging us. And I’m feel really fortunate that we’ve had that opportunity in yeah, we can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
Succession Planning as a Process
Russ Haworth: Yeah. And I think one of the sort of barriers to succession planning and effective succession planning is that it can often be seen as an event as a point in time where everything changes and there’s a state of consistency up until a point. And then there’s a whole load of change. And I think inherently most of us are in some way or another resistant to immediate change.
We don’t like shocks to the system. Whereas what I’m hearing from you and the approach that you and your family have taken is that it’s, it’s a constant journey. This is a constant period of gradual change and improvement towards what you aim to achieve as a family and thinking of succession in that sense, actually for me, makes that quite exciting.
Rather than it being this kind of this, you know, how you see again the people in booths in, in economist, in the civil service type type roles where they’ve got the calendar on the wall, when it got the big, big red circle around their retirement date, and they’re crossing off the days.
Succession for me is not that he’s the complete opposite to that is a constant transition and change period for, for a family. And it seems as though you’ve really embraced that as an ethos, rather than it being forced on you and it being something that you, I’m not saying, you found it easy, but having that kind of ethos has made it easy to accept those types of changes.
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, definitely. Russ, I guess for us. So I don’t really like the word succession, to be honest for me, it’s that evolution. We want to keep evolving. Whatever that means to somebody, but for us, our business, we want to constantly evolve. We want to want to take, we want to challenge ourself. You know, it is, it’s not something that’s up on the wall and it’s circled and we’re going to get to there.
Yeah. Okay. There’s different milestones in this things that we do. There’s no question about that. Constantly wanting to look to improve and. And succession itself is just part of that evolution. It’s about changing, not standing still. You know, we’ve got to be nimble out. We want to make sure things for our customers are, you know, the latest technologies are getting the right support and the right advice.
You know, our staff are learning, they’re evolving. They’re not sitting still. It all it all. Comes to the business has got to keep moving forward and not saying still. And that’s the way we, we offer more than what our competitors do. They’re, they’re big global organizations and we want to keep evolving.
The succession is just one of those things that’s happening. You know, how long I’ll be in this role for, or whether or not, you know, the next person that evolution of that means somebody else has got to come in because the business changed tack in a few years’ time. It will be it’s yet to be seen.
Not. Well, I’m not going, Oh, what, wait a minute. I’ve got to stay in this role for the next 10 years. Well, that that’s not even in my
Russ Haworth: Yeah. Well, we’ll add it to the agenda for the board meeting after this 10 year anniversary, and then we’ll start discussing my role. Yeah.
Jeremy Manford: That just doesn’t make sense to me.
And that’s just an out of the way we look at all the way I look at it. You know, if, if yeah, in three years time or whatever, it might be there that we evolution of the business in some of these better suited to drive it, then Hey. Wha, why would I jump in the way of that? If that’s going to improve again, the families at the end of the day was why would you want to eat for that?
We’re an exciting projectory at the moment and that evolution is going to keep rolling for the moment. And then, yeah, we’ll just keep evaluating and keep assessing as we go. Okay.
Russ Haworth: We’ve spoken a bit about the business side and the business governance that you have with the board and independent people that sit on your board from a family perspective.
Do you have family governance in place? Do you have the forums in place for discussions or is that fairly relaxed? How have you approached that side of things?
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, look, I guess that’s fairly, fairly relaxed in that sense. I guess, yeah, now that the, I guess we’ve changed the roles. That’s starting to shift a little bit where before it was kind of all in one conversation and now we’re starting to see that slowly shift in that those conversations are definitely more cause there’s a focus over there now on that family office type.
So the conversations are slightly different. So when we have our. Board meetings. We have, it’s very clear. We talk about computer store and then we move across to MFI and we keep it really nice and separate. We conclude one meeting and go across and we make sure they’re really, they’re really defined. And that’s helping us with that transition.
So it’s just having those processes in place. And we don’t talk about one within the other one. The only problem is now my brother’s the landlord and I got to go.
Russ Haworth: I love it.
Yeah. Love it. And again, I think the important aspect there is, if we an extreme example that there are people out there who will be proponents of what we call best practice, right? So there’ll be saying, well, you need this form. You need that form. You need this document, that document. And it all needs to be shiny and, and out of a textbook.
And I think the. When I work with a family business, I, I helped them to get what’s right for them in order for them to be most effective, rather than let’s get this off the shelf solution. And what you have in place is often very it’s appropriate. It’s broadly appropriate. Might need some, some tweaks rather than you know, complete a blank sheet of paper and start again with it.
And again, I guess, Does that speak to you in terms of the experience you’ve had with people at FBA and the peer groups that you’ve had, and the advisors that you’ve bought in, is it it’s making what works for your family? Putting that in place rather than saying, well, we need X, Y, and Z, because that’s what the textbooks say.
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. Russ. I think that the best advice you can give and what we’ve received is it’s got to work for your family at the end of the day, everyone’s at different stages of their journey. Some are a lot more mature. You know, we’ve, we kind of had some conversations with some advisors around like, Hey, we want to set up the, the MFO and this
You’re still at the, that’s still at the economy, infant stage of you can go and do all that, but you’re probably not quite ready for it. So you know, and, and again, we’re, we’re sort of second generation, we’re not going into third or fourth or fifth or sixth year where I think some of those. As you say, this is kind of off the shelf, textbook type stuff really does come into play because you’ve got multiple ways.
We’re kind of still relatively fresh in that spikes. I think maybe down the track that that’ll probably do develop over time if, if it’s needed I think has got a fit for purpose and then having the right governance and the right, you know, the right people giving you the right advice can be just as.
Just as beneficial than actually having the textbook scenario where I’d have, we’ve got to have this, this and this, because since we do well, sometimes it might not be relevant for you where you are in your journey, in your evolution of your business.
How far ahead are you planning?
Russ Haworth: Yeah, absolutely. And given that, I mean, what you mentioned about you’re, you’re on your journey and you have plans and you’ve got milestones.
How far ahead are you planning as a family? Is it, I mean, obviously there’ll be business plans and structures for, for the immediate term and short term, but how far beyond that, do you look as a family? Is it generationally? Is it let’s just focus on the next five years?
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, good question. I guess for us.
My brother and my children, the oldest is 11, so there’s no way we’re getting, getting them in here anytime soon on 14. So yeah, so I guess at the moment, because of the changes that we’ve done, a relatively new, so that’s been a big evolution of that, of where we were. So we’re kind of looking, you know, our wallets three years out look like, okay, where do, where do we want it?
The, what are we trying to achieve in that period? And I guess the industry and the technology is really changing as well. I mean, you know, we’ve got 10,000 square meters sheds that are 13 meters high. I feel with boxes. We’ll we’ll we will, we need a 10,000 square meter shed in two years time, we look at I’ve made a shit.
Okay. Well, what does that look like? So, you know, it’s one of those things where the industry has changed a fair bit in the last five and especially the last 10 years. So. Well, I don’t think w for, for our industry, we’re, we’re kind of not going too far ahead of that. We’ve got some real Niche things that were applying and that’s probably around the technology path space.
As I mentioned before, we, you know, we picked up a brand new contract with new South Wales government for an IP solution. And that’s, that’s really going to elevate out our offering into that space. It’s a really fantastic win for the business. And again, our DTS, which is our digital transformation solutions division headed up by Steven.
So not a non-family member. You know, those guys are really kicked it out of the. Out of the park and you know, that’s going to give us a fantastic platform to really go into that space. So, you know, it will the core, the core business of document storage ever go a little, maybe one day, but as it stands now, that’s, you know, it’s a really integral part of our business.
So yeah, we kind of not looking too far out.
Russ Haworth: Fantastic. And just in terms of we’ve, we’ve mentioned it, that they, the challenges that family business face are broadly universal, the personalities might be different. And the jurisdiction, there’s obviously some cultural differences, but wherever you are around the world, but that the challenges remain broadly similar.
What would you give us your tips for how to approach that challenges?
Jeremy Manford: That’s a good question. Yeah. Look, I think communication’s obviously one of the hardest things sometimes in family business. You know, I D I guess it depends on the dynamic. You know, my father is a pretty strong willed person and, you know, this is the way we’re doing it.
And, you know, I, I’m kind of, well, one way to challenge that, so that can sometimes be quite shocking. So, yeah, look, I guess it’s, it’s finding that mix, I guess also, you know, generations coming through Diane. Yeah, don’t be too afraid to challenge, you know, I find the right time to challenge in the right way or, or ask questions and things like that.
And then I guess it depends on your industry as well. But they’re probably some of the things that I think are really important about having those conversations and, and also having, you know, again, really fortunate that, you know, my father gave us, gave him and gave us and me the opportunity to go and do it in Melbourne.
And I kind of. To be honest, I’ll wait, you know what? I’m going to do it 10 times better than you did. Yeah, bring it into, out to him all the time. You know, he’s, it’s when he started talking like two years to get 30,000 boxes in WIA. Well, that was my first customer in Melbourne. You know, we moved into a shared no, and it’s not big enough.
He goes, are you donating bigger? Well, in two years time, I said, go and neonate, we need more space. You know? So I don’t know me personally. It’s kind of like, whatever that challenge is. Well, I’m going to do my best to not just get past it. I’m going to smash through it and. Okay. It’s kind of one of those things, which I take pride in, but obviously as that, the generations will have family business and members, more members are in the business that can kind of change the dynamics.
So, you know, I wake on in that first bit. So for me, it was, you know, making right, raising those questions and going, Hey, give us an opportunity and give us that. You know, I had that backing in, you know, we’ve been really fortunate to be able to have that. And you know, I drive the business and, you know, I now take it to where, you know, you know where I want to put it forward, but it’s not me saying, Hey, this is what we’re doing.
This is, I’ll put it together with my senior team. And we go, this is what we’re going to do with someone that offered him a board, and then we were accountable to deliver on that. So, you know, I really lean on some of my senior guys when I’m putting that together. So whilst I’m signing off as the CEO, I’m really leveraging the skills that I’ve got in the business to help me, you know, take it in the direction we want to go.
So that’s been really important. So that’s probably one of the things I’d recommend, you know, make sure if you’re moving into that. That level of, of your business bring into people with, with better skills.
How to get in touch with Jeremy
Russ Haworth: Yeah. Fantastic. Jeremy, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you today. I think one of the things I was most looking forward to is hearing your own experience through the.
Almost constant transition that that family businesses find themselves in. And that evolution as you put, it is a really important way of looking at it in my view, because otherwise it becomes daunting to, to face. So these ideas of succession and transition, because it’s a big wall in front of you rather than.
Rather than a road. And I think what you’ve highlighted today is that it’s not easy, but there are ways of doing it that are beneficial to everybody, the business, you as individuals, you as a family. And so thank you for sharing. Your story and your experiences. I know our audience will take a huge amount of value from that as well.
Jeremy Manford: Yeah. Look, thanks. Ross really appreciated the opportunity and yeah, just hope everybody around the world and all those family businesses in are able to get through these COVID it’s you know, it’s impacted our business, but it’s yeah, look, it’s a bit of a scary place at the moment. However, you know, everyone’s just got to get through that.
And this is where again, really. Yeah, I grateful being in a family business, you really pull together your bunk Dan, and just get, you know, I go back to what I said before you can’t just get through it and you get it done. And I think, you know, this, this, this platform that your podcasts really enables us to share those stories and hopefully some people listen to this and take something out of it.
And but yeah, we’re really grateful to be able to have that opportunity to work in a family business. And, you know, as I said before, it’s in our blood, we love telling it. If you’ve got that passion, I think you can achieve anything. Sophia, thank you for the opportunity and the time.
Russ Haworth: Fantastic. And where can our audience find out more about you or get in touch if they want to.
Jeremy Manford: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Look yeah, it can get to the Google compute store. So it’s Compu-Stor.com Don’t ask me long story.
Russ Haworth: That’s a whole another episode.
Jeremy Manford: In quick, My father thought of computers and storage and came up with Compu-Stor, but everyone thinks we sell computers. You can find me on LinkedIn, Jeremy Manford. If anyone would like to write shout would be happy to talk and yeah. Keep safe.
Russ Haworth: Thanks Jeremy.
Jeremy Manford: Thanks man. Cheers