Case study: Navigating success in a family-run business

SME Magazine caught up with Lanes Health Executive Chairman and fourth-generation leader, Jonathan Groves, left, to learn about success through the generations of a family business

Jonathan, can you start by telling us what are the main lessons Lanes Health has learnt about running a family business? 

In 94 years, we have learnt a lot about running a family business, including three main lessons. The first is around successfully investing in the business. Whilst as a family business, we already have the foundations of our company laid by the previous generations, it’s important to still drive innovation and investment into the business to propel it forward. For example, in 2023 we launched a sugar-free Jakemans in response to those actively looking to reduce their sugar intake. We also recently launched our Pro Plus Fizz for those looking for an alternative to tablets.

Secondly, it’s so important to invest in your team. Those doing the work on the ground and delivering our products to the customers are central to our business and we see each and every employee as a member of the Lanes Health family. A strong employer brand is how you attract and retain top talent and they make all the difference to what you’re doing.

Finally, we’ve learned a lot about investing in our future. Being able to adapt quickly to the landscape without external stakeholders causing hold-ups is a huge advantage of our family business, so it’s essential to make the most of it. 

What are the benefits of a family run business? 

The biggest benefit of being a family business is the ability to grow what’s already been built within your company over the years. The retained knowledge and experience passed down provides unrivalled insight which can help mould future decisions. That said, we still place an emphasis on investing back into the business to grow. Whilst it’s important to stay true to your roots – ensuring that your morals and company values remain the same – embracing change and investing in new technologies to keep up with supply and demand are key. It’s important not to be scared by change; that’s probably what made your business successful in the first place, because you were doing something different.

Additionally, family run businesses are at an advantage to be able to respond to customer needs and advance products in response to a change in demands, without the delays that companies reliant on external stakeholders might have.

What are the biggest challenges of a family run business? 

Running a family business in today’s dynamic marketplace presents unique challenges. Navigating market nuances with import and export legislation, supply chain management, and shifting consumer demands means that businesses are constantly having to adapt to this ever-changing landscape. It can be tempting to compare your own business to large stakeholder companies and try to follow their ways of working. However, family businesses are at an advantage as, on average, they perform better than non-family businesses, perhaps due to the agility they have for quicker decision making and being more able to adapt their business quickly to these changes. 

How is family still a part of your business? 

As Executive Chairman, I’m the fourth-generation leader of Lanes Health, and we are committed to expanding our reach and impact while staying true to the principles that have guided us for more than nine decades. As a family team we regularly meet to develop and sense check our vision and values, whilst also ensuring that we keep on track with our aspirations for the business.

We’re a dynamic team who are lucky enough to have learned from our predecessors and have them to guide us as we start our own journey in the business. My mum is still integral to the team and her knowledge of the healthcare industry and passion for our products is so valuable, but she’s taken a step back to let the next generation shine through and manoeuvre the business in the direction we want to go in. 

How and why has Lanes Health remained independent?

Over the last 40 years specifically, we have taken a considered and steady approach to growth with a targeted expansion plan that included developing current international markets and seeking new ones, which has seen us achieve significant market share, and ever-increasing shelf space and position.

We believe that two key factors have supported this success: a strong product range that translates across international markets, and great relationships with customers which have been nurtured and grown by our passionate and dedicated sales team. On top of our extensive distribution in the UK market we also currently sell in several different international markets and continue to look for further opportunities across the globe.

For over 90 years, we have been proud to call Gloucestershire our home, and in 2007 Boston became part of the family when we acquired Jakemans. As we embark on our growth plans, it is important that the traditional family values have a place in the future of the company. We work hard to ensure everyone who works here feels part of the business and appreciated, and the senior team feel empowered, listened to and able to implement change that shapes the company. 

What are your growth plans for the business? 

At Lanes Health our vision is clear: to become the UK’s leading family-owned supplier of branded household health products. We are committed to expanding our reach and impact while staying true to the principles that have guided us for more than nine decades. Our journey is one of continuous evolution, driven by a deep-seated belief in the power of health and wellbeing to transform lives.

What are your biggest brands – and what’s coming next for the business?

We have a wide range of respected OTC medicines, traditional herbal remedies, medical devices, foods and food supplements in our portfolio. Our brands consist of: Olbas, Jakemans, Kalms, Pro Plus, GOPO®, BlueIron, Earex, Sarakan and Teangi.

We’ve got some exciting news for Jakemans later in the year that will have tastebuds tingling, but that’s all I’m saying for now!