Gaelle Walker went to meet five retailers who have mastered it
It's 7am on a bright September morning and independent retailer Vickram Karavadra is holding an important breakfast meeting with the founders of the business he now runs.
But it's a breakfast meeting with a difference. There's not a sharp suit or scrambled egg in sight.
Vickram is slouched contentedly over Atul and Rona Karavadra's large kitchen table, clutching a steaming cup of coffee and chatting calmly about the issues of the day. That's because Atul and Rona are not just the founders of Vickram's business, they are also his parents.
"We often chat about business matters around the kitchen table before heading out to face the day. Not many people can do that with their company's founders. It's definitely one of the perks of the job," he says.
The business, which now includes two large Londis-branded c-stores in Northamptonshire, was established almost half a century ago by Vickram's parents, who handed him the reins in 2006.
"Dad is still involved in some aspects of the business, such as the ordering, but the day-to-day running has now been passed to me," he says. "It was incredibly daunting at first, as I didn't want to mess up the business that he had spent so long establishing, but I knew that he was there to offer me advice should I need it, which was a real comfort, and still is," he says.
Vickram also has the added assistance of his aunt Pria, who for the past 10 years has also been heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the store. "Vickram and I have an excellent working relationship as we both care so much about the business and want it to succeed. This in turn is a great comfort to Atul who put so much into creating it," she says.
Handing over the keys to the family business can often be a testing time for founders, who find it hard to let go of the company that they put their blood, sweat and tears into establishing, even if it is being given to the next generation.
The transfer of power can often result in increased levels of friction between the parents, who want to leave their stamp on the business that they founded, and their children, who want to make their own mark on the business they are now responsible for. However, this has clearly not been the case for Vickram and his family.
Neither was it for Susie Hawkins, who now owns the convenience store and forecourt business set up by her parents Brian and Vicky Tew 32 years ago.
The business, which was established when Brian and Vicky began as licensees on a small Shell-owned site in Cheltenham, has grown substantially over the years and now includes six large c-stores on forecourts.
Susie joined in 1999 after completing a degree in economics and accounting at Bristol, and later a Masters in business management in the food industry at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. She was made group manager in 2000, and became a partner in 2004.
"Dad is still involved in the business, but is taking more and more of a back seat now," she says. "We have fantastic working relationship. He has let me get on with doing things my way, and I have the luxury of knowing that he's always there for me to fall back on for advice. In short, he gives me enough rope to hang myself with, but is always there to catch me."
Father and son team Roy and Paul Delves, the chairman and managing director respectively of Harry Tuffins on the England-Wales border, have a similar working relationship.
"Paul has gradually taken over the business and is now managing director, enabling me to take much more of a back seat," says Roy who turns 70 this year and joined the business with his wife Ruby in 1966.
"As you get older you become stagnant in your ways, which is not good in this perpetually changing industry. You need to move over for the younger generation and welcome their fresh ideas if you want to survive," he adds.
Roy says that the business has changed drastically since he first become involved in it 30 years ago. "It's all so different now days. Back in the 60's there was no such thing as a tea break, we just used to eat a snack at the till and get on with the job - that's all changed now!"
Paul has worked hard to bring the business into the 21st century, and his next big project, aside from opening more stores, is to take it online, something which Roy had never dreamed about.
"The internet is such a valuable tool these days, and my next big project is to bring the business into the 21st century by re-developing our website. Customers will be able to learn all about us at the click of a button, the possibilities are endless," he says.
Another man who has not been afraid to make changes to his parent's business is Lacky Chhina, owner of Stamford News in Brierley Hill, near Dudley, West Midlands.
Lacky has overseen a total refurbishment of the store, which was established by his parents 30 years ago, converting it from a traditional news and booze-based business into a modern convenience store with more chilled food and a bake-off.
"The business has changed dramatically in the past two years since I became more involved," explains Lacky, who began his career as a chartered accountant.
"I've brought it into the 21st century and installed a fully functional epos system, as we had nothing like that before. It has really given the business an extra impetus."
Like Susie and Paul, Lacky also has a "fantastic" relationship with his parents - this is especially important given the fact that he and his wife live with them above the store.
"It's a colourful life," he laughs. "Working in this industry can be incredibly demanding at times so it's great to live with people who understand exactly what you are going through, and can support you."
The ability to communicate with such ease is one of the greatest things about working in a family-owned business, adds 24-year-old Sarah Rasheed, who manages a large c-store on a forecourt site in Oxford.
The business was established by her father 10 years ago, and Sarah joined in 2005 after completing a degree in business studies.
"Dad and I are very like-minded," she says, "we both like to run a tight ship, so he trusts me completely. However, it's great to know that I can just call him up and ask for advice if I need it - most store managers simply can't do that."
Sarah says that the easy access to her father, who still owns the business, also allows her to implement changes much quicker than a manager for a company-owned store could. "I don't have to go through head office and wait days and days for an answer, I just pick up the phone and call dad. It's great," she adds. However, all parties agree that working in a family business is not always a story of perpetual love and laughter.
Family-owned businesses face a range of serious challenges which threaten their performance and future survival. In fact, the BDO Centre for Family Business in London has suggested that only 25% of family businesses survive intact to the next generation.
One of the most common problems, especially when family members live and work together, is when personal issues get dragged into work-related matters.
Conflicting opinions and viewpoints are another common symptom of the generation gap.
"The environment and industry have changed dramatically since my parents were in business and dad and I often have very different thoughts on how to deal with things, which has led to a few explosive arguments in the past," explains Susie Hawkins. Sons and daughters of family businesses also find themselves working around the clock, due to the increased pressure of living up to family expectations.
"You feel this overwhelming responsibility to do justice to the business that your parents started, and so you work so much harder," explains Vickram. "You can't just switch off at the end of the day like other people do. You never really stop working, as there is always something to think about."
"The unsociable hours can also leave you feeling quite lonely at times," adds Susie. "Especially when you have to cancel a diary date because you have to cover for a member of staff who hasn't turned up for work."
Meal times can also become incredibly tedious affairs for any non-affiliated dinner guests who have to endure endless discussions about red tape, rent and regulations around the table.
However, all parties agree that the reward of working in a successful family business far outweighs any pitfalls that might trip you up along the way.
"It's incredibly hard at times, but it's still the best job in the world, and I wouldn't change it for anything," says Sarah.
"At the end of the day, you've got a job for life and the opportunity - if you make the effort - to make some serious money," adds Vickram. "There aren't many people in this world who can say that."
The knowledge that you are building for future generations encourages the long-term thinking needed for growth and success
Taking up the reins of the family business can foster a sense of purpose and pride
Deep-seated industry knowledge can be passed down from generation to generation
Family members are often more willing to make financial sacrifices for the sake of the business, resulting in smaller outgoings.
The pressure of living up to family expectations can cause large amounts of stress for the next generation
Sibling rivalry can result in bitter family feuds when one sibling outperforms another
New owners can feel intense loneliness due to the unsociable work hours and a lack of peers in the same industry
Different management techniques can cause collisions of opinion between the old and new generation.