Whose footsteps are you following in?

Starting up

15 February 2018

We all start somewhere. Whether we’re joining the family business or breaking out on our own, understanding the trailblazers which forged their paths before us can help us follow their success for the future.

So did you following in your parent's footsteps, or were you inspired by a famous figure in your field? Who enabled you to take those first steps? Take some time to think about how you started out, and how their example can help you build for the next generation of your business.

Who inspired you?

Were you inspired by your family’s business? If you grew up in a household where one or both parents were self-employed, you were probably immersed in their daily business. It could be that you helped out in the shop, or loaded the van for your pocket money. Perhaps you were encouraged by the family friend who gave you your first Saturday job.

Was there a trailblazer in your industry who inspired you? Motivation can come from the most surprising places – even a favourite book or TV character can influence your future career. Was there one special teacher at school that sparked your imagination and got you thinking about future possibilities?

The people that got your business started aren’t necessarily the same ones that inspired you (although in the case of family businesses, they often are). You may have grown up wanting to be Richard Branson, but it’s probably your mum or the bank who gave you that first business loan, not the Virgin CEO.

If you want to secure the future of your business, think about how you can be the person who inspires and influences, encourages and advises. Don’t assume your children will automatically follow you – you have to make them want to.

Where did your skills come from?

We carried out a survey of tradespeople, and found that 26% learned their trade from a family member. With today’s increased access to further education, the fact that over a quarter of our sample were taught by a relative is extraordinary. It’s a great accolade to the continued success and appeal of the family business.

For the self-employed, there are other talents you need to develop (for example business management and IT literacy), which are often self-taught. It’s easier to do that these days, and there’s a lot of advice out there to support your learning. Have a look at our Entrepreneurs recommend pages for expert advice and suggestions. There are also online courses and evening classes to help.

Who comes next?

Who will follow in your footsteps? How will they learn the essential skills? These questions are why it’s important to reflect on your own beginnings – it makes you think about the future custodians of your business. Where will you find the new "you"?

Our research showed that 14% of business owners in the trades hope to pass their company on to the next generation. Plumber Chris Stephens went away to study – then came back to the family firm. For Chris, he couldn’t envisage doing anything else. He now trains apprentice plumbers – and with a son of his own, he'd like there to be a fourth generation to take on the family firm.

If you don’t have a family member to take over the reins, look at your team: is there someone else with the attitude and aptitude to mentor and develop as the next generation? JCB’s Lord Bamford recently said that "you don’t need family members to run a family business."

Whoever takes over from you, make sure they inherit a safe and secure company. AXA can help you protect your business for the future.

All businesses start with a story. Protect yours.

Businesses start with a bold step and a restless determination to succeed. So if you’ve got a business story to share, tell us about it using #AXABusinessStories.