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Tips on Working with Family by Jeremy Field, C.P.J. Field

 

C.P.J. Field is the UK’s oldest funeral directors, with a rich heritage dating back to the late 1600s.  The 10th generation family business is actively owned and managed by the Field family, operating over 30 funeral homes across Southern England.

This Family Business Week, Jeremy Field OBE, one of the three siblings who currently run the funeral directors business, has shared his insight into working with family. The siblings have taken over the family business in a sector that requires carefully navigating a balance between retaining the businesses’ rich 300-year heritage, whilst driving sustainable innovation. CPJ Field has managed over 1M funerals, including Queen Victoria’s and the Duke of Wellington.

Jeremy Field, who has recently been awarded an OBE by none other than King Charles III himself for his outstanding support and advice that he has given to the funeral sector over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, has shared the following expertise on working with family:

  • Wherever possible, always travel to and from meetings together – never underestimate the power of conversation had side by side. The car offers the perfect environment for trickier discussions to be had as direct eye contact is not possible. It also offers a ‘safer’ more relaxed environment than an office space where more frank and honest discussions can take place.
  • Respect one another’s boundaries – some may work best first thing in the morning, keen to share new ideas, thoughts for the day ahead before 9am. Others may be night owls, wanting to dissect the day after dark. Be respectful of one another’s commitments; ie school runs, not being in the right headspace for work, or after hours as tensions can mount if work rolls over into family time. Lay out the ground rules early on and call one another out if and when boundaries are over stepped. 
  • Our grandfather gave us all the same piece of advice the night before our weddings ‘never go to sleep on an argument’. Whilst this is sound marital advice, it’s also good family business advice, as thoughts can fester if left unsaid.  If a meeting has been challenging, resolve any tension before the end of the working day, don’t allow it to roll over. 
  • Agree on a set of meeting rules and ensure everyone is signed up to them. We have them on our board room wall and we check in with them during meetings and call one another to account: 
    • It’s ok to challenge
    • Tension feeds energy and its positive
    • It’s ok to disagree. Once a decision is made, we unite behind it once the meeting is over
    • What is said in the meeting stays in the meeting
    • Don’t apologise
    • Be brave
    • Be bothered
  • Understand and respect each other’s true natures
  • Keep it professional – We may be siblings, we may know how to get a rise out of one another at the expense of professionalism – but we must keep this for the pub. Colleagues can feel ‘left out’ or side-lined if interactions in meetings become too personal and it makes for awkward tensions too.   
  • Don’t talk about business outside of business – We have a family rule that when we are together for family time, the conversation of business needs to be checked at the door. Our spouses have carte blanche to call us on this to ensure we keep it in check. It also helps ensure we both work and play hard.
  • State our values and strive to live by them – Our family business is founded on our family values, values which we vow to uphold in our daily conduct and values by which we judge our colleagues too. We are all committed to living true to our company values and we hold each other accountable for that.

C.P.J. Field is also calling on Brits to support its #PaidLeaveToGrieve campaign – encouraging all UK employers to offer a flexible paid bereavement policy to its staff. There is currently no mandatory paid leave policy in the UK for bereaved workers. 

The #PaidLeaveToGrieve campaign wants UK workers to be supported in their time of need. The proposed bereavement policy allows all workers two weeks of flexible paid leave following the death of a close family member, spouse or partner, including pre-grief. The #PaidLeaveToGrieve petition campaigns for all political parties to include a commitment to work towards an official Bereavement Law as part of their 2024 manifestos.

C.P.J. Field is supporting UK employers by developing a downloadable employer pack featuring template policy wording and conversation guides.