Growing a family business by Martin Thatcher, Thatchers Cider

At the British Cattle Breeders Conference, a unique event renowned for its mix of practical, high quality speakers and its drive for innovation, we heard from Martin Thatcher, Managing Director for the much-loved Thatchers cider. He spoke about growing a family business….

Martin’s top tips…

  1. Keep it simple!
  2. Gut feeling is more important than brains
  3. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck – don’t over analyse things!
  4. Take risks (but never with your or your teams’ safety)
  5. Change is inevitable
  6. Do the job and the money will follow!
  7. Be proud of what you do
  8. Get out and talk to people, travel the world (Martin undertook a Nuffield Scholarship in 2005 and couldn’t speak highly enough of the experience)
  9. Have good people around you and train and develop them
  10. ALWAYS get a second opinion

The Thatchers story

Thatchers cider began in 1904 when William Thatcher went to Myrtle Farm, Sandford, Somerset where he would pay his farm workers some wages along with 3-4pts/day of homemade cider. Later, he sold three ciders (sweet, medium and dry) in barrels from their dovecote. Martin’s father, Stan, took over the farm in 1960 and over the years, they have increased from five varieties of cider apple to over 500 today! Stan also started selling the cider to local pubs. Thatchers cider can now produce more cider in one day than was produced in one year in 1992 – the business has increased efficiency and evolved dramatically!

Martin took over the family business in 1992. In 1995, Martin suggested that perhaps Thatchers should consider selling to the major retailers and after some interesting meetings, Thatchers were offered the opportunity to list three ciders (Katy Single Variety, Somerset Redstreak and one other) in 800 Tesco stores! Thatchers have seen considerable growth over the years but the entire business ensures that the “customer is always at the heart of what we do”.

During the recession of 2008, Thatchers increased their Sales & Marketing budget by £1.5m and employed 11 more salespeople – despite the difficult times, they sold 40% more! The benefit of Sales & Marketing for a business should never be underestimated, in Martin’s view.

Brand is incredibly important to Thatchers and they have grown a 4th generation family business from a turnover of £5m in 2005 to £100m in 2018. They have managed this by constantly investing in the business, automating as much as possible and by ensuring consistency and better quality than their competitors. Their team is incredibly important to them; they are constantly training, developing and investing in their people and are strong advocates of Apprenticeships.

A final word…

And as far as succession for the Thatchers business goes, Martin’s two children are nipping at his toes, it is his ambition to hand over a strong, sustainable and successful business to them.

Succession is an important consideration for any farming business, if you would like to discuss this with one of our Team, please contact them here.

For more information on the British Cattle Breeders Club and Conference, please see their website.