Gerard Eadie writes a letter to his younger self

Gerard Eadie writes a letter to his younger self

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The executive chairman of CR Smith Ltd, a company he bought as a 22-year-old businessman, lets his younger self - who left school to start a glazing apprenticeship - just what life has in store for him.

Dear Ger, At 20, you think that working for yourself is just a great way to earn money so that you can go cycling across Europe. However, you quickly realise that the buzz of winning business to fix people's windows gets the adrenaline pumping far more than the competition of road racing.
Within two years, you will buy Bert Smith's window company, CR Smith, so that you can tell everyone your business has a local history and so miles better than any other glazier in Fife; you'll latch upon the new craze for double glazing and be defying all expectations for someone from Cowdenbeath's mining community.

You'll have that same business 40 years later, still selling windows but also selling something called orangeries as well. Times change.

The good thing is that sense of excitement never leaves you, but you'll have to learn a lot along the way. You might have left school without any qualifications, but your mother's belief in you is justified.

You got an apprenticeship and that time learning a trade has given you much more than you realise now. You'll know what it's like to get all the worst jobs, and that when you're right someone will always think you're wrong, but the work ethic and the grounding that a trade gives is a blessing when the world of business gets hard.You can tough it out because you still know how to roll up your sleeves and get on with whatever's in front of you. Right now, you also know you are only as good as your last job.

Don't lose that sense of perspective. And never stop asking people questions, especially about running a business. For the next twenty years you'll learn much from those who are older than you and have been in business some time.

For the twenty years after, focus on people younger than yourself. They are the ones who will have all the new ideas to keep you in business for as long as you want. By now you will have taken on your own apprentice and will have felt the weight of responsibility for earning enough
to keep him in work.

At one stage in your career you will employ over 1,500 people. You'll also work with your brothers, sons and nephew but my advice is never to see yourself as a family firm. Everyone in the organisation has a value, otherwise why would you work with them?

When you become a father, you'll be asked constantly if your sons are going to follow you into the firm. But ask yourself: Are they good enough? Or are they too good and you would stifle their potential? And you never want to fall out with them, so think carefully about what it means to be badged "a family business". Interestingly, though, you'll find that it is the people that you don't take on that bother you most.

One in particular comes in for a job and you know he's not going to get a job with you or anyone else. It feels like a waste and as an employer you could change things. It drives you to support many projects from The Airborne Initiative for young ex-convicts and The Prince's Trust through to setting up your own Hand Picked academies to help young people understand what employers want in a new recruit.

The other challenge you will continue to face – and perhaps the most important is getting the message right. What makes you and your business different is not just a message for your customers, it is also for the people you work with. What makes you different or better than any other business is the reason people want to buy from you and the reason why people want to work for you.

When you eventually get to my age, people will be constantly asking if and when you will retire. Well, I still enjoy my working life and being an active part of the business. Best of all I can choose what I want to do, because I've surrounded myself with ambitious younger people. So why stop when life is still stimulating and still throwing up interesting new things?

Finally, I'm delighted to tell you that people soon stop using ‘Ger' and everyone calls you Gerard, making your mother very happy.