RUNNING a business always comes with its challenges. Running a family business comes with all the usual challenges, and then some!

Agriculture is an industry where family businesses and their trials and tribulations are commonplace and the Fraser family from Drymen are one such team, running their agri-services business from their site to the west of the Campsie Fells.

Lorna Robb is second generation in the business, although she hasn’t always worked at home, choosing to go elsewhere and get career experience before coming back to apply what she’s learned over the years.

The family business was started by Lorna’s father over 40 years ago and has grown and evolved around new products and technology.

Lorna and her brother Struan are both now part of the business, so along with their parents, it’s a real family affair.

Struan’s kids are also a regular sight, with his son Callum in the showroom on the day we visit, earning some holiday pocket money. Callum’s brother Angus and sister Orla are also regular visitors, so three generations all muck in.

We visited her on a busy day in the showroom where she explained what they family do, and how they do it so well – without falling out!

Can you tell us a bit about the background of the business?

My dad, Fraser, started the business – Fraser C. Robb – in 1975. It started with a small site at the same premises where he had served his apprenticeship and worked with Mr McAinsh from 1959 to 1966, but he had left to sell commercial vehicles for nine years before coming back to Drymen in 1975 to start up in business for himself.

His vision was engineering support for all industries and he started very small and the business has grown and expanded over the years, all from the same original site.

I grew up at home in the house next door!

The company sells and services all types of agricultural and horticultural machinery, from lawnmowers for small gardens to tractors. We are approved dealers for many brands including Stihl, Toro, Hayter, Mountfield, Cub Cadet, Stiga, Iseki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Scag, Jenz, the list goes on!

Are the family all involved?

My brother Struan joined the business straight from school and got his apprenticeship in engineering.

He’s definitely the technical and mechanical brains behind the business!

I joined the business in 2007.

Dad is 75 now and still works every day, he’ll never retire. My mum, Kate, has always been part of the business too.

What path did your career take?

I did a diploma in human resource management and I’m CIPD qualified.

I started my career within the hotel industry, latterly within the HR department, then remained within HR for numerous year.

I was a commercial sales manager for Britvic for Scotland and Northern England, and I managed 60 people in that role, so that was invaluable experience.

I then joined to set up the sales office within Scotland, then established my own job board, ScotJobsNet with my business partner, prior to joining Fraser C. Robb.

Did you always want to join the business?

No! I’m the first to admit that I wasn’t into farming and didn’t think the family industry was for me. When I was 17, I left home but every time I progressed in my career or changed job, dad would say to me, ‘do you not want to come home to work?’.

I said no every time, but then when I was 35, something different clicked, and it seemed like a good idea. I think the experience I got elsewhere was great for me, but I also think it was what brought me home eventually, so it worked out great.

I don’t think the family would have got on working together if I’d come home straight from school. I had to go away and learn things so that I had something valuable to contribute. I had to earn my stripes!

How would you describe your role?

I look after commercial sales and look after the workshop. I suppose I manage the day to day operation of the business, but I certainly couldn’t strip an engine.

What changes did you decide to make when you started in the business?

It wasn’t that there were lots of changes to make – it was already a fantastic business without me – but when I came home, the first thing I said to dad was the we needed to develop a brand – something I’d experienced at Britvic.

He was sceptical but we hadn’t had much consistency up until that point, so we developed our logo and started developing our online presence and I don’t think we’ve looked back.

The online side of things means we can provide back up and support to our products and people can have a look at what we provide. We do sell online so that’s great.

Social media is also brilliant – Facebook is free, so you can’t underestimate that. David, who works in the showroom, is brilliant at our online side of things.

Do you have a large team of staff?

The business now has a team of 14. In the workshop we have, Kiall, David, Struan, Elliot, Robert, Darren, Hughie and Alan our driver.

Myself, David and Jane look after sales and parts from the showroom with Dave is responsible for our accounts, hires and sales and Gary is our commercial sales manager.

We’re proud of our staff. People tend to come here to work and stay for a long time and we encourage them to gain qualifications alongside their day to day work.

We also take on apprentices that go to college along with their ‘day jobs’.

It sounds like looking after your staff is important to you?

Oh definitely. I feel like if we look after them, they look after us.

We have regular training days, where we get staff from right across the business to take part in an activity and we have days where we all catch up and go through things that are going on in the company.

We’ve got a team golf day coming up, so that should be fun. Happy staff work better!

Our company strapline is ‘quality service from quality people’ and as much as that’s a tag line for the public to see, it’s also something for us to aim towards each day. We want to deliver quality and our team of staff are just as keen on that as the family. They’re all so committed.

A lot of our staff progress within the business, if they want to, so that works out great for both sides.

Fraser C. Robb seems to be a part of the fabric of Drymen, would that be accurate?

We are always keen to support the local community, but Dad’s never felt there’s a need to be showy about doing it, so that’s the way it’s always been.

We’re great believers though, that the community support us with their custom, so we should give back as well.

We have a partnership with local charity Trossachs Search and Rescue, so we provide support and funds to this great cause.

You’ll also see Fraser C. Robb tractors out cutting the local football pitches and we like to support a lot of local teams.

How do you try and get yourselves out there?

A lot of people still don’t really know what we do so we do mail drops and e-marketing to try and get the word out there.

Word of mouth has and will always be a great way of advertising.

In 2019, social media is also an undeniable force, we would be silly not to utilise it and we get a great response from doing so.

It really gives people a window into the day to day aspect of a local business. They see what we’re up to and can interact with that, if they want to.

How do you keep things current and up to date?

In any business, but I think especially in a family business, you do have to look to the future and think about succession.

We’ve built the showroom and that’s a long-term investment. We always think about what something can bring to the business going forward.

The business was just dad on his own to start with and it’s grown gradually and steadily over the years. Once we’ve done something or built something, we say that’s it, no more, but that never really works out, we never stand still.

We also constant have to look at new products that are coming out so that we can keep up with things.

Have you diversified, at all?

We now have the Drymen Business Hub upstairs in the showroom, and we’ve just launched it this year.

When we were building the showroom, we were looking at what all we could do, and we decided we wanted to add an element of something different to what we’re doing.

We want to attract rural businesses to use the meeting rooms we now have or to use the workstations to hot desk or co work.

We got LEADER funding and some from Stirling Council to help with the project and we’re hoping that it’s something the community can make the most of.

How do you make things work, working alongside your family?

We are very lucky that we get on very well… most of the time! As a family, we constantly talk to each other and discuss thing, and as a business, that is key. We’re all directors of the company and everything’s equal.

We don’t need to have formal, sit down, meetings, we just have to communicate with each other.

Do you enjoy a country lifestyle, yourself?

As much as I love working here, I’m still not much of a country dweller.

We did try for six months when I first started working back in Drymen, but I live in Milngavie now with my partner Neil and our two Labrador dogs. I enjoy have the best of both worlds – getting to enjoy the countryside, then going home to somewhere a bit more urban. I love coming out here every day.

How do you like to spend your ‘spare’ time?

Outside of work I love spending time with my dogs, they’re like my kids. I enjoy going to the gym as well and Neil and I like going out nice places for meals. We head to Glasgow’s West End and places like that, so that’s a nice change of scenery at the end of the week.

What are your plans for the future?

As far as the future is concerned, having completed the new showroom, we are now concentrating on getting people through the doors.

We’re always trying to keep up with new products and innovations.

We’ve got no current plans to do anything dramatic, but we just want to keep things ticking over and going well.

My niece and nephews are keen to come in and lend a hand just now, so of course we encourage that, and we’ll just need to see what happens in the future. It would obviously be lovely to see the next generation carrying on such a family orientated operation.

We won’t put them under too much pressure though – I’m a prime example of ‘getting there eventually!’

You don’t know what the future holds, you just need to take each day as it comes.