Interview with Rebecca Falder and Jonathan Falder, 5th generation, HMG Paints.

Creating a successful family business is as challenging a task as one could hope to find. Creating one with a strong culture where family and non-family members alike have been looking forward to going to work every day for generations is reaching another level altogether. Yet, it is exactly this rare combination of commercial success and family atmosphere that the Falders have been able to create at HGM Paints in Manchester, England.

Founded in Manchester in 1930, family values were always at the centre of the business success of HMG Paints. When founder and family business patriarch H. J. Falder started out, he wrote three little words on the back of his very first formulation book – decent, worthwhile and secure.

From that three-word mission statement, HMG Paints has grown to become the UK’s largest independent paint manufacturer. The company prides itself on offering innovative and compliant paints and powder coatings to a variety of markets. Amongst its prestigious industry awards are the UK Coatings Care Award as well as being the first independent UK Paint Company to be awarded British Standards quality.

Now in its 8th decade of existence, the 5th family generation of Falders are picking up the torch to take HMG Paints forward. First cousins Jonathan Falder (Technical Business Development) and Rebecca Falder (Senior Quality Analyst) are amongst the latest generation who grew up around the business and are now making it their lives’ focus to ensure its continuity. Tharawat Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Jonathan and Rebecca about growing up in the business, the responsibility that comes with being the 5th generation, and the importance of those three little words.

NEXT GENERATION VISION: HMG Paints – Three Little Words
Image courtesy of HMG Paints

How did HMG Paints start out?

Jonathan: Starting from the absolute beginning of time, you go back to 1930 and my great-grandfather was working as a shipping clerk in this company and really doesn’t know a huge amount paint. So, he took a big, big risk, in terms of leaving his job and saying to his father, our great-great grandfather “Right Dad. I’ve got no money. Let’s pool together all that we have and I’d like to set up this business called H Marshal Guest.” And by some miracle, his father agreed and H Marshal Guest was born.

So the family only had a little bit of chemical knowledge at that time, and the very first thing we started to make in October 1930, were capping solutions. In 1931, my great grandfather realised that if you put coloured pigment into capping solution you get paint. So that’s how HMG Paints was born.

If we jump forward to the mid-1950’s, 1960’s, we got into more and more different industries. We were expanding our product range. And now we’re the largest independent paint producers in the UK, with a wide-ranging product portfolio in a myriad of different marketplaces. I think if you were to speak to my great grandfather and tell him what we do these days and walked him around the business, he wouldn’t be able to believe it. I hope that it would make him proud.

NEXT GENERATION VISION: HMG Paints – Three Little Words
Image courtesy of HMG Paints

The two of you already represent the 5th family generation, what are your current roles?

Rebecca: I’m currently in Quality Assurance. I deal with customer issues and quality issues. So, general improvement of the business. I have a few customers that I look after myself. But my role is quite broad, and I like to just generally get involved with everything, as one does in a family business. I’ve only officially been in the business for two years. So, I am still fairly new. It’s a tradition that when we join the company we go around every department and do every single job before we can make a choice on what we want to do.

Jonathan: Both Rebecca and I have childhood memories of our parents who had paint laboratories in the garage. We remember it so well, mixing paint with our fathers. We’ve been brought into the business from a very early age really. My first actual job in HMG was packing tubes of adhesive for pocket money when I was six years old! 

It’s important to note that we were never ever pressured as a next generation to come into the family business. But, seeing our grandfather and our fathers and how passionate they are about the paint industry ended up having a contagious effect. And you can’t help but catch that bug. My role now in the business is a bit of a Swiss Army knife. A little bit of sales, but I am mostly involved in the technical side. I followed in my father’s footsteps by joining the laboratory and doing research and development.

NEXT GENERATION VISION: HMG Paints – Three Little Words
Image courtesy of HMG Paints

When you officially joined the business, were you surprised by what it was like?

Rebecca: When we were growing up we heard a lot about the culture of the business and how it really feels like a family business. And when you come and work here you realise that everybody does love the business. And it’s a really lovely atmosphere and people respect the family so much.

I was quite pleasantly surprised. Everyone supported my development, and helped me along with whatever I needed. So, joining was quite an easy process for me.

Jonathan: I’d echo Rebecca’s comments. It’s sound a bit cheesy, but we describe ourselves as not a family business, but a business family. This is something that Rebecca and I have been very lucky to have walked into. Because businesses could spend years and years and years trying to develop the sort of culture that we have just been allowed to join.

NEXT GENERATION VISION: HMG Paints – Three Little Words
Image courtesy of HMG Paints

What is your next generation vision on tackling a fast digitalising world with your family business?

Jonathan: We see a huge amount of change within the coatings industry. Technology moves at an incredible rate. If we look at our product portfolio of even five or ten years ago, and compare it to our top ten products now, what you’ll see is a completely different set of products. Every single year we have to adapt, we have to change, and we have to evolve with the industry.

Many businesses in a variety of industries have to evolve very quickly, and adapt or they die. This holds true for our business as well. We understand, just like the generations before us, that it is a continuous battle to make sure that you stay ahead of the curve and to make sure that you’re technically evolving as fast as the rest of the world.

NEXT GENERATION VISION: HMG Paints – Three Little Words
Image courtesy of HMG Paints

With your family business having this outlook of welcoming youth and youthful initiative, how do you feel the culture of the family has reacted to dealing with you as millennials? 

Jonathan: The easy answer, is we all believe as owning family, directors, all the way through to everyone in the business, in evolution, not revolution. So, yes the business slowly but surely evolves over time and changes. You know, it’s a different business, the HMG Paints of 2018 than the HMG Paints of 1980, than the HMG Paints of 1950, than the HMG Paints of 1930. But, the core values must remain the same. The words of our founder ‘decent, worthwhile, secure’, that’s the thing that’s got to remain at the heart of what we do. And we never want to lose that. 

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Rebecca: I think that obviously there’s a lot of talk about Millennials and what they’ll bring to the workplace. But I don’t think that it really applies to us. Maybe because of the way we’ve been brought up the exact same values have been ingrained in us, and we just want to carry on the legacy. We don’t believe in change for change’s sake but as Jonathan says we are all about evolution.

HMG paint stock in the warehouse
HMG paint stock in the warehouse

When you look around you, what do you feel are the main factors that contribute to family business mortality?

Jonathan: I think over the generations family members can lose passion for the business. You can see the older generations, who’ve worked in the business, who’ve been weaned into the business by their fathers and their grandfathers, and the business is everything. And the mistake that people can make is saying to the upcoming generation that they have to join the business. We were always given a choice and there was never any pressure. And because of that lack of pressure, it made us want to be in it more. 

Rebecca: I would say the values make a family business stand out as a family business. When those become diluted, when they get lost between the generations. I think that can be where businesses fail sometimes. When they lose that unique quality.

What would you say today is your dearest wish for your business family?

Rebecca: We want to keep the atmosphere the same. And keep it so people are proud to work for HMG. We’ve been able to retain talent and inspire our community over generations. It’s a legacy well-worth preserving.

Jonathan: I think if you asked this question to most businesses, their answer would likely include something about doubling turnover or expanding into other markets. We’re not really interested in being big for the sake of being big. We want to be really, really good at what we do. We want people to know HMG and believe in our business as the best paint company in the world.