Parent and child outfits can be incredibly successful in business. There are retail, media and manufacturing dynasties and banking and finance families going back
to the foundations of the modern concept of money. This month's Think Like gurus are celebrating a shorter, but no less important, milestone, with 50 years in the public eye, and their influence can be felt (and very possibly smelt) far and wide.
When it comes to private operations, you can find tensions within the family are often carried over to the business, especially if you live together in a filthy junkyard and occasionally find your business partner and father taking a (rare) bath in the kitchen sink. (It should be noted at this point that the business partner and father are the same person.) Of course, the love and respect of family ties (or resentment, anger and guilt in this case) can also help a partnership stay together. Let's face it, if these two weren't related they wouldn't have survived six months in business (see also Trotter's Independent Traders).
Albert Edward Ladysmith Steptoe and his son Harold Albert Kitchener Steptoe run what today would be called a locally-based mobile recycling, collection and disposal service out of a dilapidated property in Shepherd's Bush, London. Theirs is a second-generation business (begun by Albert and his long-gone mother) with two partners and one employee
(a horse, Hercules).
Like Beckett with more laughs (but just as much pain), they provide invaluable lessons on running a small business: always have an eye on profits, work from home to cut down expenses and get a good slogan (although we wouldn't recommend "You dirty old man" for any business, frankly).
However, there is much intergenerational friction concerning, well, almost every aspect of the business, and health and safety don't generally warm to workplaces with outside loos and offices literally filled with junk. Despite this, the business has expanded across the world into various territories on a franchise basis — Sanford and Son in the US, Stiefbeen en zoon in the Netherlands, Camilo & Filho Lda in Portugal and Albert and Herbert in Sweden, plus movie and theatrical spin-offs, making it very possibly the most profitable rag and bone yard in history. And for that, and for turning rubbish into gold, wherever they are, we salute them.
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