With Father’s Day approaching and having been asked by a local magazine recently to answer some questions about working with my dad I thought it would be appropriate to share some of those memories.
Frank Moss ‘Bossman’ 1924 – 2000
I started working for my dad aged 14, working as a Saturday lad and also during school holidays. The shop, known then as F. H. Moss Limited, was in Combe Down near Bath.
I never thought that it would be a job for life, I worked for my dad because I wanted to earn pocket money, I enjoyed the buzz of retail and I was bored in the summer holiday.
My duties included restocking shelves, dusting product, assisting with deliveries and making regular cups of coffee.
I left school at 16. My initial thought was to become a carpenter/cabinet maker and I enrolled on a part-time course at Bath Technical College whilst continuing to work in the family business.
The more that I worked with my father the more I became involved and I wanted to understand how business worked. I wanted to learn about the buying process, margin, the products, P&L etc. But above all I wanted to learn how to ‘be’ with people, how to talk to customers without necessarily talking about product and how to find ‘common ground’. I wanted to understand interaction and how to close a sale. For that and much more, my dad was the best tutor.
A couple of memorable pieces of business advice from my father who, incidentally, everyone called ‘Bossman’. Firstly, no individual customer is more important than another, a customer spending £10 should be treated in the same way as another spending £10k. Secondly, customer service must always come before profit.
Bossman once asked me ‘why are we in business?’ to which I naively replied ‘to make money’. Annoyed by my response he said ‘no, we are in business to offer the very best service to our customers and provide an experience that other local retailers cannot match, only when this is achieved will we make money’. This remains at the very centre of the business today.
Initially, when working with my dad, I found it frustrating that customers would ask to see Frank as they only wanted to be served by him. It took me a long time to understand that the customer felt they had a ‘personal’ relationship with him, they trusted his advice, they enjoyed his company and had history with him. People buy from people. I’m certain that some of the current Moss team get equally as frustrated now when customers insist that they want to see me!
In the days before credit cards and direct transfers, the business would generate a lot of cash. With no bank safes or cash deposit points, dad would bring the takings home and hide them in the freezer before banking, ‘no thief would look in there’ he would say, and thankfully they never did!
Now a father myself to Laura 29 and Fin 16, I wouldn’t push either into joining the business. Laura has a very successful career in London working for Freuds PR, and Fin has just completed his GCSE exams at Kingswood.
As for the future of Moss of Bath, we will continue to grow the business and invest in products and services. We are currently working on a project to create a ‘Smart Home’ showroom on the first floor as well as expanding our installation teams.
The downside of working with my father would be that in doing so our only common ground and interest became the business. Our business relationship, albeit sometimes fractious was very good. Our father/son relationship however could sometimes be awkward and uneasy. For all that however, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Tim Moss: Moss of Bath