Why intergenerational teams work well

Daryl Chapman runs a candle business with his daughter and says the combination of experience and youth is the secret of its success.


The over-60s have had to bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, but they still have so much to offer the business world says 60-year-old Daryl Chapman who is working alongside his daughter to drive a multi-million-pound candle business, Ava May Aromas. He helped his daughter Hannah go from kitchen table to a 10,000sq ft unit and from one person to a team of almost 30 in just two years.  Daryl says the business, and working alongside his daughter, has helped give him a new lease of life in his sixties – but it’s the combination of youth AND experience which is the secret to its success. He spoke to workingwise.co.uk.

workingwise.co.uk: What skills do you think you bring to the business compared to the skills your daughter brings?

Daryl: I call this ‘old school meets new school’. Whilst I understand and use a lot of modern technology, I haven’t embraced social media to the same degree as the younger generation. They are clearly leading the charge in that arena, but then it’s fair to say that they have grown up with the new technical revolution. So from that aspect, my daughter is the one who has built our following/customer base using social media. That really was a given anyway because she is young and a female selling beautiful, scented products to a mainly young female audience. I don’t think a 60
year old man will have the same connection with that audience!

So from a marketing perspective, online is definitely where business is happening. This has been strongly proven with the Covid pandemic taking a terrible toll on many high street stores. However, many business practices still remain the same. I’ve run my own businesses for the past 20 years and areas such as finance, HR, purchasing, production and logistics haven’t really changed. IT has helped to simplify many of the day to day operations, but the principles remain the same. A lot of skills necessary for running a business are acquired over many years and can’t be taught in a classroom. So I bring a depth of experience and knowledge that Hannah doesn’t have. By the same token, I couldn’t do the role that she fills. It really is a great match of old school meeting new school and getting the best from both.

workingwise.co.uk: Do you think people who are coming up to retirement worry that their skills may be obsolete due to the fast pace of technological change?

Daryl: That’s surely varies depending on who you ask. I’m sure there are a lot of people who struggle with technology and this is clearly going to limit the scope of work available to such people. But I also think there will be other people approaching retirement age who have embraced technology and are loving being part of this evolving world. We had the industrial revolution a couple of hundred years ago and that changed the work landscape forever. We are now in the technological revolution and the pace of change is astounding but incredibly exciting.

It’s never too late to start learning and it really isn’t as hard as you might think. There are people who love teaching and want to help you, be it family, friends, night school, online learning etc. If there’s somebody you feel comfortable with and who understands technology, open up and ask for help. We are all learning something new each day – ‘Every day’s a school day’.

workingwise.co.uk: What do you think about reverse mentoring and how important do you think intergenerational teams are?

Daryl: As I said, we are never too old to learn. I think reverse mentoring is great. I can happily admit that most youngsters know more about IT and social media than I do and I’m always happy to learn from somebody regardless of their age. We have a real mix of age groups within Ava May Aromas and we all help one another. In fact we encourage a culture of learning and helping each other. The combination of youth and experience can produce great results.

workingwise.co.uk: How important is trust in a partnership like yours?

Daryl: Trust is vital. I’ve heard of many business partnerships that have fallen apart due to trust issues. Hannah understands marketing and the social media side of the business far better than I do. And she is happy to acknowledge that I understand my side of the business better than she does. So although we work closely together, I really do trust Hannah to do the right thing for the business in the same way that she trusts and relies on me.

workingwise.co.uk: How has being in business with your daughter affected your relationship?

Daryl: Being a father and being a business partner are hugely different roles and I am continually trying to make a distinction between the two. As I mentioned, Hannah runs her side of the business and I run mine yet we have to work very closely together. So from that perspective alone, I can’t be Dad at work. I have to trust her and think of her as my business partner. As in any relationship, respect is key. Hannah will always be my daughter, but I also respect the fact that she is now 26 years old and a young woman in her own right. She needs the space to spread her wings and find her place in the world.

workingwise.co.uk: What has the Covid pandemic meant for the business?

Daryl: We were very fortunate that we had a positive impact from Covid. All our sales are online which resulted in people being at home and spending more time doing online shopping. Covid was just another large nail in the coffin for the high street and I don’t think the trend will ever go back the other way. Covid also happened at a time when we were going through a major rebrand and also working on the installation of a costly and time-consuming stock management system. Thus from a turnover perspective, Covid was a huge boost, but from a workload perspective, 2020 was very hard work. That said, I feel deeply sorry for the businesses and employees who suffered and feel fortunate to be sat on our side of the fence.

workingwise.co.uk: Has your life experience made you more able to navigate the uncertainty over the last year?

Daryl: Without a shadow of doubt. I’ve lived and worked through a few recessions and appreciate that the sun always comes out after the rain. That said, I’ve never experienced anything quite like the Covid pandemic. I’m sure we all mellow as we age and therefore handle stressful situations in a calmer and more considered manner. Running a business is not easy, but having owned businesses for the past 20 years and having experienced plenty of ups and downs, I’m far more aware of the changing tides.

The vaccination programme has certainly created a light at the end of the tunnel and I can see the country turning the corner on Covid. National recovery from the financial shock will take a long time and that will definitely have an impact on every citizen and business going forwards. But if past generations have been able to cope with the impact of devastating wars, I’m sure this generation can weather the impact of a pandemic.

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