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Business management

Family business week: Wild Thang

Andrew and Chris Dwerryhouse share how they’re future-proofing their family business.

Why innovation has always been at the heart of Wild Thang

Andrew Dwerryhouse, Managing Director of Wild Thang, runs the business with brother, Chris, sister, Sarah, and brother-in-law, John. Started 27 years ago with a small Prince’s Trust loan, the family always had big ambitions and a desire to stand out from the crowd. Today they lead a multiple award-winning branded clothing, merchandise and print business based in Liverpool, operating in Ireland and the US. Wild Thang is a truly family-run business with a passionate team of more than 30, and over 200 years of combined industry knowledge and experience between them. Wild Thang prides itself on taking account of its economic, social and environmental impact, and aims to become net zero by 2030.

This year Wild Thang came full circle when it announced a new long-term support agreement with the Prince's Trust to directly fund the next generation of aspiring young entrepreneurs through the Trust's Enterprise Program.

Here, Andrew and Chris share their insight on how they continue to balance growth with family values.

How do you protect family values and innovate for the future?

We are a fully-fledged family business with strong values and ethics, which is why we see the rest of the Wild Thang team as our extended family. Our dad was an influential figure - he was a businessman and encouraged us when we had this idea to make branded clothing. He said if we renovated a room above his engineering company, we could have it rent-free for six months. He passed away last year but he’s synonymous with this business and supported us with our ambition to do something different, to be OK with growing step by step. 

How do you manage change in a family business?

You must continuously adapt, make improvements, and deliver consistency. That requires learning how to delegate because you can’t survive on hard work and energy alone. You have to build stable foundations and get your team on board with what you’re trying to achieve. We were fortunate to have a supportive family. We’ve learned you can have an ambition to be world class and scale up as well as keep your family values if you have the whole team bringing their ideas to the table. 

What business opportunities are you excited by?

We’re growing Wild Thang internationally in Ireland and most recently in the US - the opportunity to expand into a new frontier is exciting. Even though we’re the biggest company of our type in the Liverpool City Region, we know there’s more to achieve. Part of our growth projections require space and we’re looking to expand our footprint. We’re UK manufacturers as well as creators and distributors, so we’re excited to manage that while retaining the firm financial footing we’ve built from scratch.

What are the challenges for your family business?

There will always be some form of challenge, it’s about expecting that. You do build resilience over the years to find a solution or adapt. Your biggest challenge could become your biggest success. We were already on our net zero journey but by investing £2m in the redevelopment of our building to make it more sustainable, which includes solar panels and insulation, we are now less susceptible to uncontrollable energy price rises in the future.

What leadership tips can you share?

We’re driven to create a great future for our family and our business. We’ve built a large senior management team because we know the answer doesn’t always come from us. We plan the company vision, our values and what we’d like to achieve, and communicate it so we have everyone aligned. We’ve got some people who have been with us for 20 years now, we’ve been as much a part of their lives as they have ours, and the decisions we’ve made together have had some fantastic outcomes. We’re proud of that.

How are you managing sustainability for the future?

We believe we’ve created good sustainable foundations to build on, now we must go even further for our families, our team, our community, and the rest of the world. That’s why we’ve created a new long-term sustainability pledge. We’re extremely proud of the building we’ve developed, which shines a beacon for us locally and is our legacy. We wanted something much more than adequate and we’ve really delivered on that.

What have you learned about managing finance?

Financial stability is ultimately what defines the business. You’re not going to be around unless you’re thinking about the bottom line and how you’re going to achieve it. We have decided to invest and reinvest for the long-term because ultimately our pay day is the business will have the legs to go on. We scrutinise our financial decisions to make sure they have a high level of success. We might not be the biggest but we 100% believe we’re the best. 

 

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