Succession planning key to leadership in family business

Leader: David Haymes says caring for staff and suppliers is a key to business success and good leadership. Photo: supplied.

Leader: David Haymes says caring for staff and suppliers is a key to business success and good leadership. Photo: supplied.

His name has been synonymous with paint his entire life. For years he has been the face of the brand, that remains family owned and operated in Ballarat.

The man is David Haymes, who took the reins of the family business Haymes Paint in 1974, reinvigorating the brand and ensuring full ownership returned to the family fold after years of smaller investors having shares in the company.

“It was the way things were done back in the 40s and 50s,” David says. “Extended family and friends were asked back then to invest in the business, but it was fragmented so it was time to bring it all under the one umbrella, as I had a vision for the business and leadership was an important component of this.”

Realigning the business took time, years in fact, with inventory holdings audited and trading arrangements redefined to improve cash flow to ensure the long-term financial viability of the company.

Good leadership, David says, is not being afraid to say something is wrong and that improvements can be made.

“Running the business has been tough, but we had to make a few changes and now we are in a solid position with strong market share,” he says. “You have to undergo the tough times if you want to make positive change for the long term.”

In recent years David slowly transitioned from the management and day-to-day running of the business, having put in place his succession plan, which included ensuring all three of the fourth generation Haymes family had a place in senior management. His son-in-law is general manager.

Since retiring, David and his wife Jenny get to spend more time with the grandchildren and “on the crosswords and cryptics”. Retirement came, he says, when he knew the business would be in good hands and he was ready to step aside for new adventures.

“You need to know when to go and not linger around and stick your nose in. You have to trust people, otherwise what are they there for?”

We have always tried to be really, really good at everything. We don’t take shortcuts on quality and what we put in the paint can is a reflection of us. - David Haymes on Haymes Paint

However, he says installing their children into key roles at the business was not a given. Each had to prove themselves and show talent and success in their chosen careers outside and inside Haymes Paint.

“For us succession planning has worked well - we have the finances sorted with our daughter, who has a commerce background, one son is a whiz in sales and is our national sales manager, and another has shown a real flair in the commercial side of understanding production. Our son-in-law has shown strong aptitude for management.”

However, it wasn’t achieved by just luck, David, as the company leader, did his research on ensuring the viability of maintaining a business run by family and an external provider reviewed operations.

“The organisation is a family business, but I had to ensure I communicated with the right people at the right time and place. A facilitator came in and we realised we had three things that were strongly in our favour - we had good sales with a loyalty base, our marketing was solid and we had good kids who could bring in their experience and be involved in the business. This helped me lay the right foundation for succession.”

Working with Family Business Australia, David says, helped him work on his communication skills when working with family. As a long standing community leader who has sat on boards and built up a multimillion-dollar business, developing his own personal skill set, no matter the age, was vital for continual leadership growth.

Community minded: David Haymes (far right) joins others at the 150th anniversary Clarendon College. Photo: FILE

Community minded: David Haymes (far right) joins others at the 150th anniversary Clarendon College. Photo: FILE

“We set boundaries and if it was a work meeting there was no good going off tangent and turning it into a social occasion with a bottle of wine. We all had to ensure everyone had a voice, we listened and we could then make good recommendations that were right for the business.”

David says the family brand has “regularly punched above our weight” since 1935, maintaining a solid share in the paint market that is filled with the brands of multinationals.

"We have always tried to be really, really good at everything. We don’t take shortcuts on quality and what we put in the paint can is a reflection of us,” he says about Haymes Paint.

Haymes Paint employs about 180 people nationally, with David proudly saying many are long term.

“We feel a loyalty to people. They help us produce the products possible, so we  care about our people, offer a growth path and they help us get to where we need to go.”

The destination for Haymes Paint is to offer a boutique brand that will continue to strive for excellence and be sold only in specialty paint stores, where expert advice is provided. It is this point of difference that will ensure the longevity of the brand, David says.

“We are known as the heritage brand and there are so many fabulous older buildings being stored and cared for. So we have a niche there but we also have an expansive colour range that is suited to all homes.”

But it is the commitment and passion for crafting quality products that David says will ensure the longevity of the business. “Well, as I said on those ads, it’s our name and reputation on the can," he says.

Read previous articles in Fairfax Media's series on leadership: 

Part 1: From battlefield to boardroom: Ben Roberts-Smith

Part 2: RAI's chief executive Su McCluskey on putting regional areas in the spotlight.

Part 3: Regional Arts Victoria CEO Esther Anatolitis.

Part 4: Goldfields Australian Football League Commission's Sue Brown.

Part 5: Quotes on leadership from world leaders past and present.

Part 6: Karden Disability CEO Karen Robinson

Part 7: Pret-A-Porter co-founder Megan Quinn on establishing and guiding teams.

Part 8: Haymes Paint's David Haymes on leading a family business..

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