Every day in the approach to Christmas, we’ll speak to winners from the recent finals of IoD Director of the Year Awards. Today it’s Lesley Wild, chair of the board at Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate, who won the Family Business category
Wild joined her family’s 100-year-old firm, Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate, back in 1979. Now chair of the company – famous for brands including Yorkshire Tea and Taylors of Harrogate coffee – she has led a cultural change in order to ensure the continued success of the business. She is also a solicitor, author and member of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York, which supports young entrepreneurs in and around the city.
What inspires you? “The centenary year of our business, 2019, has brought the story of its beginning into sharp focus. Its founder, Frederick Belmont, was orphaned at the age of five in a fire at his father’s mill in Switzerland. Sold into slave labour, he was forced to move to a remote village where he knew no one. His tenacity and determination to improve his situation are inspirational. Who could have guessed that he’d create a business that’s still flourishing 100 years later?”
What’s been your biggest challenge? “It was when I became chair 10 years ago. I needed to change a paternalistic culture to one of collaboration, while enabling the owners to influence without interfering, in preparation for a time when there may be no family members in our business.”
The formula for building a great team? “Be quite forensic about it: analyse what you need, conduct a skills audit and then look internally as well as externally. Potential, chemistry and cultural fit are probably the most important attributes.”
What’s the secret of great leadership? “Being clear about your business’s values and vision, sharing these with everyone and modelling the behaviour you want to see in the organisation goes a long way. It’s vital to involve people and listen to them too.”
What’s the most valuable business lesson you’ve learnt? “The importance of knowing what our company stands for and staying true to what we believe in.”
Entries are now open for the 2020 IoD Director of the Year Awards – click here for more info and to nominate