Propelled by a successful family business
Anna Gervasoni, general manager at Piccolino, Liverpool, part of the Individual Restaurant Company, has experienced firsthand the impact an Executive MBA can have on one’s approach to running a family business. The Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) EMBA alumna had worked for her family’s business, the Don Luigi Restaurant, since she was 14 and was running it alongside her parents, who were the company directors, when she decided to embark on the LUMS EMBA.
“I was working full-time for the family restaurant while also doing contracting work and studying at university,” Anna recalls. “This was a grueling schedule where I was working between 70-90 hours a week, but it bought me a house!”
However, 10 years in, Anna felt stifled and stuck; “I missed using my brain.”
She then found herself needing to make a quick decision about whether she wanted to carry on with the family business, as her parents were suffering some major health problems and were about to retire.
Preparation through the LUMS EMBA
“I didn’t feel as though I had the knowledge required to go out by myself and I felt a LUMS EMBA would help to contextualize everything I learned from my parents. I also wanted to be part of a professional community again, and learn the language of business. I couldn't take any time off work, and an EMBA allowed me to study part-time which I could fit around running the family business. The LUMS program would also open doors, as I originally considered studying patisserie, but this pushed me down a more defined career path.”
Anna felt the Lancaster University Management School EMBA was very liberating. “I loved the time spent with the other students talking about their different work environments and learning from them. I really appreciated the time out of work – doing something that was related but not the same old routine. My dissertation, which was based on the role of women in family business and the continuation of the family business to the next generation, enabled me to make a decision about what to do with the restaurant.”
Directly applying EMBA skills to the family business
Family business is all about family, so Anna says she talked through her LUMS assignments with her parents around the kitchen table, regularly arguing and discussing pros and cons. “This process, over the two years, allowed us to look at our business and see where we were making mistakes and correcting them, while also reinforcing areas that we were doing really well in and maintaining them.”
When Anna’s family came to have the business valuated for sale, she did her finance assignment on valuing a family business to see if the valuations they had received were correct and indeed they were!
“Working through the process clarified and justified things to us as a family and as a business. Finally, we decided to sell the business based on a number of factors, but mainly working my way through the dissertation! Although that may sound negative, it was actually a very positive step for the family in general.
“I am still in hospitality – more fool me! - but have used my skills and knowledge cemented on the Lancaster University Management School EMBA to go corporate so I can start to climb the ladder!”