When Greg and Patricia Grant were killed in a car accident in India more than 12 months ago, they left behind more than a renowned saddlery business.
They also had carefully prepared a second generation of family members ready to continue running the business which they had started in a caravan 40 years ago. Family Business Australia estimates that two thirds of family businesses do not have a succession plan ready. This is despite around two thirds of chief executives being over 50 years old, and 20 per cent being more than 65. The Grants however had planned ahead for the possibility that they would not always be around. Daughter Amanda Innes learnt the business ropes from an early age. Founded by her father in the early 1970s, Greg Grant Saddlery and Saddlery Trading Company went on to become the country’s largest supplier of horse riding equipment. “I remember board meetings at the kitchen table and you absorbed all the discussions,” Ms Innes recalls. “The rule was everyone had to listen to the other person.” Later her husband Wroxton, who started working at the retail store in 1990, was included in the business when the couple married in 1996. Both now run the retail side of the business as well as the larger wholesale operation. “Dad started the business in the early 1970s after coming up from NSW,” she says. “He was a stock and station agent but during the livestock depression he started a horse auction, the precursor to the Magic Millions. “One day an old guy came up to him and gave him a lot of junk including saddles and he started to auction these at the end of a sale.” Ms Innes remembers there were very few saddleries at the time in Brisbane, with Uhls in Queen St near the Customs House being one of them. The first Greg Grant store opened at Coopers Plain in the late 1970s, followed by Annerley in 1980 and Aspley in 1982. Ms Innes worked in the travel industry before making the decision to return to the business in 2000 and take the reins. “From that time on, we were being prepared to run the business,” she said. “Dad was away from the business for about 10 years helping my brother set up his own business. So we have been in charge since about 2003.” Despite the succession plan, the death of the couple has left a huge hole in the business. Greg Grant’s colourful personality and Patricia’s organisational ability had shaped the business from the early days. “Dad and mum worked hard. Long hours were the norm,” Amanda recalls. “Their work ethic was amazing. If it had to be done it got done.” Wroxton Innes said he and Amanda never thought about giving up after the accident. “It just made us want to do bigger and better things for Greg and Pat,” he says. He said it would be up to the couple’s two young sons if they wanted to continue running the business as third-generation operators. “We have never said to them you have to run the business,” Mr Innes says. This story illustrates the importance of having some sort of exit strategy – or exit plan in place. Most business owners fail to plan – and that’s just like planning to fail. Take time to think about your business. What plans do you have in place? Do others know how to implement your plans? Don’t plan to fail.