Britain's Oldest Family Business

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    • 00:11

      RICHARD BALSON: My name is Richard Balson.I'm a master butcher in our lovely town of Bridport.We are England's oldest family business,established 490-- well, 500 years this year.We started in 1515 when Henry VIII was on the throne,through to 1892 when we moved into this shop,

    • 00:33

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: our present shop, our only shop.We've been here all that time in 1892.And I came into the business in the '70sand was taught how to butcher, the butchery craft,by my father.I've been very lucky and privileged to have workedwith my father for 40 years.Some people say to me, oh, I couldn't work with my father.

    • 00:53

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: But you either get on or you don't.And in a family business and one that's survived this long,you have to get on then, and it's been fantastic.OK, some of the products that we've won awardsfor in the last few years.We have our own dry cured bacon.We do that in a smoked or a plain.

    • 01:16

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: That's just won the Southwest of England Gold Awardat the Taste of the West.So that's great.It's good for sales and it's good for publicity.This is our best selling sausage, the traditional porksausage which we've been making for 500 years.It's a very secret homemade recipeand it's marvelous, lovely, delightful.

    • 01:39

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: It is highly unlikely for family businessesto go on for many generations.We are the exception to the rule.I think the figures say that 30% of family businessesgo on to a second generation, 12%go on to a third generation, and only 3%go to four generations or more.

    • 01:60

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: So when you think that R.J. Balson andSon, I am the 26th generation of my familyin the butchery business, I mean,it's unbelievable and a remarkable achievement, really.Predominantly it's me and my French brother-in-law, Rudy,who are the full time butchers in the shop.And we have enormous help from my wife Alison, Rudy's wife

    • 02:23

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: Jane, and of course, my mother.And Rudy's children, the next generation down,are also on hand.The phrase "family business" helps us,because people are more likely to come to a family businessif they want that extra special quality and serviceand know that the product is good

    • 02:45

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: and it's backed up with a guarantee.Which a lot of family businesses,they'll put their necks on the lineto make sure everything is 100% right because they wantthe customer to keep coming back and theylike to look after them and build upa loyal and personal service and repertoire with the customer.

    • 03:05

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: Many of the customers, we've served their mothersand fathers before them, and their grandparents before them.And you end up building a personal relationshipwith the customer knowing their background.And when they come in and you can say to them, oh,how's your mother, how's your son, how's your daughter,they really love it.And it's part of our job, which is great, a personal service

    • 03:28

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: which we offer.And it's one advantage which a family business hasover other businesses, the way youcan relate on a personal basis.And because we've been here for a long time,we have many memories of families and their backgrounds.14.43.

    • 03:49

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: Thank you.Seen Mark this week?

    • 03:55

      SPEAKER 1: Yes.Hope to see him.

    • 03:57

      RICHARD BALSON: Yeah?Well, he was busy putting the floor down or somethinglast week, wasn't he?You said he was all aches and pains.

    • 04:03

      SPEAKER 1: Not surprisingly.

    • 04:05

      RICHARD BALSON: There's many times when a customer comesin the shop and I know what they'regoing to ask for before they even get to the counter.And you also, at the same time, knowwhat they might like for a change,and they really appreciate that.And they trust the butcher, because youknow each other sort of thing, and they reallyappreciate that.On that again is an advantage from the customer's

    • 04:26

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: point of view to know what the butcher is offering.Because of what we are and who we are,we have a lot of old-fashioned productslike faggots, which is a cooked meat-- pork, liver, sage,onion, and potato.We sell hundreds of faggots a week.And another thing is brawn.We sell a lot of brawn.Again, that's a really old-fashioned traditional meal,

    • 04:49

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: just as a Bath chap would be.A lot of people would not know what a Bath chapis, only the older generation.But the Bath chap is the cheek of the pigwhich has been cured and cooked and deboned and breadcrumbed.This is another unusual or and old-fashioned product.

    • 05:10

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: The lamb sweetbreads, which are the neckglands in the lamb which we only take outat this time of the year when the spring lambs are around.But again, it's an old-fashioned delicacywhich you would fry in flour in a pan,and they're absolutely delicious.We have a very wide range of clients

    • 05:30

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: from locals that come in every week, to wholesale pubsand caterers, restaurants.And then we do a bit of outwork for other farm shopswhere we butcher animals for themand charge them for doing that.We serve people right across the community, really, the richand the poor.There's two scales to everything,

    • 05:51

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: and you have to cater for all of that to survivethese days in business.For the people that have got a lot of money,to the people that are on a low income.Cold wind they're all saying out there today.I had a customer come in the other day, and she said,I haven't been in this shop for 40 years.And so I was very inquisitive to know

    • 06:12

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: who she was, because obviously I didn't recognize her 40years later.So I said, who was she, and she told me who she was.And I remembered her parents, which actually astounded her.And she said, you used to have the most marvelous porkchipolatas that you used to sell.And I said to her, well, you won't believe it,but I got the very same pork chipolatas here--the same recipe, the same ones that you

    • 06:34

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: would have bought 40 years ago.And she was so surprised and astounded,so obviously she bought some.But then I also said, when she told me who she was, I said,I've been writing a book.And I said, I've wrote a bit about your father in the book,and then she nearly fell over.When people come in my shop for the first time, the mostimportant thing is to make a good impression and say, hello,

    • 06:58

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: how are you?Where are you from?And they really love it.You've got to be nice, because that first impression counts.Because if you go somewhere, doesn'tmatter where it is, and you get bad customer service,you're not going to go back.And it doesn't cost anything to be polite and say, hello,how are you?Even if you're having a bad day, you still got to do it.I love my job.I love what I do.

    • 07:19

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: I'm a people person.I love to talk to people.And I love to ask people where are they from.And if a man comes in, we have a discussionon football, what football team they support, and it's great.And they like that.They just like it, because they can go in a supermarketand they just don't get that personal service or attention.

    • 07:41

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: And you've got to also remember that some people thatcome in here shopping, especially if they're elderly,I might be the only person they really talk to in that day.Most of the things that we sell here are local.We have free range pork from Childhay Manor whichis just 10 miles up the road.We have free range lamb and beef from Axminster,

    • 08:03

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: which is 12 miles that way.We've been dealing with the same wholesalerslaughterhouse for the past 60-70 years,so we've built up a reputation.They know what we like and what we expect-- top quality.And it usually comes from the same farms.

    • 08:23

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: And that, again, it's one advantageof buying from a reputed shop.Because, like you say, the traceabilityis very important these days.Because you can say, well, that piece of porkcame from 10 miles up there.And you can say what the farmer is.You can say what it's been fed on.You can say the breed of it.And that's going that extra step further

    • 08:46

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: to give the customer confidence in what they're buying.Three, four, five, ten.Thank you.To make a successful business for a family,you've got to enjoy it.You've got to make money.Obviously money's not everything,because you've got to enjoy what you do.

    • 09:08

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: Nobody wants to be made to do something.And if your heart's not in it, then obviously you'renot going to give 100% and you won't make money.So you've got to want to do it in the first place.And it's got to be successful as well,and then you'll reap the rewards.And there's nothing better than being your own bossand being in control of your own destiny, whicha lot of family businesses are all about, really.

    • 09:31

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: In terms of size, we are very successful.I mean, to survive 500 years you've got to be successful.But we're very profitable.We're doing better every year.I've been a butcher for 40 years.And to be fair, and I can say this in all honesty,I've never been so busy.The secret to our success is loving what you do,

    • 09:52

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: having a passion for what you do.And at the same time, we've survived,I think, by keeping it small.We just have the one shop, and the familyhas always worked in the shop.We've had very little staff from really outside the family.By keeping it small, I mean, I've seen lots of people,they have one butcher shop, then a few years down the road

    • 10:14

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: they've got six butcher shops.But you can only keep your eye on one shop at a time.And they come in the shop to see the butcher,like they go into a pub to see the landlord.The landlord makes the pub and the butcher makes the shop.And as long as you enjoy what you're doingand give a good personal service and keep the customer happy,you're OK.

    • 10:34

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: My challenge today in the butchersis just to keep things going.I see myself as a custodian.I am in charge of the butchers at this present time.I'm not intending to retire tomorrow, or notfor maybe another 20 years.The next generation is not exactly waiting in the wingsto take over, but someone, whether it's

    • 10:55

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: my son, or his sons, or my nephew,someone will take the business on and hopefullyon for another 500 years.I was lucky.I learned everything from my father,and it took time over the years.It's all right going to college and doing college courses,but you've got to have the first hand knowledge.Because it is just as important to be nice and polite to people

    • 11:19

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: than it is to give them what they want,and that can go in any business.There you go.Thank you very much.Tips for students that want to set up a family businessare you've got to have a good background of whatyou're doing.If you're talking about butchery,you've got to have the skills and a knowledge of meat.And just as important as that is you

    • 11:40

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: have got to be able and be approachable to customers.But more importantly, you've got to want to do it.Because any business, if you don't put 100% in,you'll be found out and you won't last long.And it's another reason why we'velasted so long, because we've lovedwhat we've done in the past.And you look forward to coming to work

    • 12:04

      RICHARD BALSON [continued]: and serving the next customer, and it's alwaysbeen a pleasure.

Britain's Oldest Family Business

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With 500 years in operation, the butcher shop RJ Balson & Son is the longest-running family business in Britain. Richard Balson discusses the foundations of running a successful business around quality and service, and he provides his personal insight into the secrets of longevity.

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Britain's Oldest Family Business

With 500 years in operation, the butcher shop RJ Balson & Son is the longest-running family business in Britain. Richard Balson discusses the foundations of running a successful business around quality and service, and he provides his personal insight into the secrets of longevity.

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