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Magee 1866: ‘Work is at work and not at the kitchen table’

Rosy Temple, sales and marketing manager with the iconic brand, says keeping work and family concerns separate is key to harmony – at work and home

The fourth and fifth generation of the Temple family: from left, Rosy, Patrick, Lynn and Charlotte.

The fourth and fifth generation of the Temple family: from left, Rosy, Patrick, Lynn and Charlotte.

 

Rosy Temple, sales and marketing manager with Magee 1866 Home and Clothing, works with her father Lynn and her siblings Charlotte and Patrick in what is now a fifth-generation family business. From humble beginnings at the Ardara Homespun market in the 1860s, nowadays it encompasses a mill, retail outlets, a website and a wholesale business, with a team of more than 140.

It’s obvious the Magee business of designing, weaving, and tailoring is in Temple’s blood, but does this mean when it came to choosing her own career she felt pressured to follow in her ancestors’ footsteps? Not so, she says.

“We certainly weren’t put under any pressure or obligation by my dad, and I think that attitude conversely almost made us interested. We all went off and did our own thing in our 20s with very different careers but came back of our own free will,” she says.

“That sense of perspective gave us the opportunity to realise what an amazing business we did have at home. My brother and sister’s kids are technically the sixth generation but we are applying the same attitude – while we would absolutely love it if they became involved, there is no pressure.”

And while working with family members can lead to tension either at home or in the office, Temple and her siblings appear to have found a formula that works.

“We do work together on a day-to-day basis but I think what’s key is that we all have very distinct responsibilities and look after different aspects of the business together with non-family members of a very strong team.”

Indeed, Temple stresses the importance of remembering there are other, non-related, members of the team with equally valid insights. “It is about all of us working together, not with the family off having private chats that no one is allowed be part of,” she says.

Talking shop

Crucially, Temple and her siblings also know when to down tools, although she admits it is easy to fall into the family business tradition of talking shop outside the office.

“My dad would certainly have done that with his own father back in the day, but for me I find it seriously unproductive. It is also important for our mother, who doesn’t work in the business, so that her home doesn’t just become another office,” she says.

“I am really black and white about it, that work is at work and not at the kitchen table. I am very adamant about that.”

This strategy must be working, because Temple says she and her family spend a lot of time together once they leave the office.

“We are all quite different people but we all get on very well outside work and the key to that is that we have a number of shared interests outside work – I might go cycling with my dad or mackerel fishing with my brother.

“So, while it sounds mad that we would see each other in the office all week and then choose to do things together at the weekend, it’s really important for having that work-life balance in a family business.”

Back at work, it also helps that Temple, her siblings and her father are “broadly on the same hymn sheet” as to what direction the business is taking.

“Obviously, there are robust conversations, which is a nice way of describing family arguments – on a day-to-day basis we will have debates and there might be a difference of opinion within the family as to how we do certain things but as a whole we are on the same page, we all want to adhere to the values of proper quality and sustainability. Arguments and day-to-day stuff don’t matter when we all agree on the key values,” she says.

And with so many different strands to the Magee 1866 brand, there are undeniably many difficult and complex business decisions to be made. Tradition is important, but change is necessary for the survival and growth of a family business, says Temple.

“Unlike working for a public company, or a big corporate, it’s not just about the next quarter but more about the longevity and ensuring that the family business is viable to pass on to the next generation. We have survived by being able to adapt and make the necessary changes. Change is always uncomfortable but as a family business you’ve got to be able to embrace it so that it is there for the next generation.”

Diversity is key for Magee

An appreciation of diversity helps keep Magee 1866 current. “For us it really is key,” says Rosy Temple.

Just four decades ago, the brand would have been strongly associated with an older demographic, she says. Now it marries the company’s iconic textiles heritage with cutting-edge design and tailoring that appeals to a much younger customer base too. “The diversity of our market is reflected in our team,” she says.

The business employs 140 people. Ensuring there is clarity about roles, clear demarcation lines and good governance all helps it to attract, recruit and retain talent right up the organisation through to its senior management team.

This is significant, as family businesses traditionally struggle to get and keep good people. Very many talented and ambitious individuals are put off by concerns about having to navigate the family dynamic.

At Magee, good governance structures ensure “non-family members don’t feel the decisions are made over the dinner table at the weekend, and just announced on Monday morning,” Temple says.

Introducing flexible working measures where possible also helps to attract and retain as diverse a cohort of people as possible, in particular in areas such as IT. In terms of gender, the workforce is evenly split.

“When it comes to recruitment, we have always been very open and progressive – we go where the talent is,” Temple says.