William Grant and Sons, the company behind the Glenfiddich range of single malt Scotch whisky, is still family-owned. Glenfiddich has been making Scotch whisky since 1887 in the Speyside region of whisky production.
Recently director, Peter Gordon, gave an interview to a US based TV show The Street. Glenfiddich has published a book called Family Spirit where they explore the unique aspect of their whisky-producing business and how family is an influence. Here’s a transcript of the interview. If you want to watch the interview in full, the scroll down.
If you could distill the longevity into a single principle what would it be?
William grant was 46 when then set up the distillery with his seven sons and 2 daughters and they only had one stonemason. So to me the most important thing is long-term commitment. To know that you are in this for a long time. That allows you to plan for certain things, not to rush. To be patient and to build things.
How did your new book come about?
The team at Glenfiddich thought that because we are family run we would explore other businesses at that are run the same. through them try and look at how our business might develop. They’re all great businesses. Investigating wheter family businesses can run in a similar way to their public counterparts.
There’s an old saying “in shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in 3 generations” – so how do you avoid this?
There’s an element of the family being engaged in the whole enterprise. The most important thing is to have engaged shareholders and then business can concern itself with doing great business as opposed to ownership issues.
What about spelling out roles for each child, how important is it to set out roles?
We have a family council and a family charter that sets out broad guidelines that keeps them engaged. If their have something that they want to discuss then they can. We’re all different and we’ve all got different ambitions. Trying to be prescriptive on how that works in our experience just doesn’t work.
What about keeping the rest of the employees happy? A lot of them may say “that favourite son, is a favourite son”.
Our employees and family are the most important stakeholders. For 2 of our production units, the average service is around 20 years. These are the keystones in our bridge. They link us between the present and the past.
What about the next generation?
There is a least 15 of the next generation. They are coming up for 30. We never own our shares, they are like a baton in a relay race.
Watch the video here.