What’s it like working with your mother? We ask Tricia, Anna and Suzy from Look Fabulous Forever

A few weeks ago we interviewed Tricia Cusden to find out what inspired her to launch Look Fabulous Forever.

Tricia runs the business with the help of her daughters, Anna and Suzy. And, to celebrate Mother’s Day, we decided to find out what it’s like working with your mother/daughter/sister!

Tricia, when did you decide to get your daughters involved in your business? Was it always the plan or did it just happen organically as the business grew?

Tricia: It wasn’t something I planned for. Anna was working at a PR agency and increasingly fed up with juggling her job with small children. One day she rang me up and said “Mum, you look like you’re having fun, can I join you?”.

At this point the business was six months old so I told her there was no pay and I wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but she took the leap of faith and joined me anyway. Within three months I was able to pay her and she’s now our MD.

Suzy joined about a year later – again she was struggling to balance family life with her corporate banking role, and I knew her financial background would be a huge help to the business. She is now our Operations Director.

What are all your career backgrounds? What do you think you individually bring to LFF?

Tricia: I’ve had several careers, first in teaching, then I ran a slimming business. At 38 I got my first ‘proper job’ with a management training consultancy. In 1996 I started my own business in people development which I continued to run until my granddaughter India was born in 2012.

Anna: I worked in PR for many years mainly in the art world, but when I started working with mum, I knew there was a good story – a 65-year-old woman starting a business and taking on the anti-ageing beauty business. Luckily, I was right, and it wasn’t long before press coverage in places like the Daily Mail and The Guardian started to help drive sales.

Suzy: Having had a corporate background for 12 years, I knew I would be able to bring lots to the table for a small business. I had a lot of HR, Management and Financial experience that   enabled me to set up a more professional working environment and to ensure we always have enough stock to sell and cash in the bank!

How were your different roles within the business determined? Is it easy to step away from a mum/daughter/sister role?

Tricia: It’s easier now than in the beginning when it was just Anna and I working in the business. Then it was harder to draw a line between family and work. Sometimes the lines got blurred leading to some difficult conversations happening at the wrong time.

Anna: As the business has grown, we’ve become better at separating the business from family time and we now know when it’s appropriate to discuss it and when it’s best to save it for a working day.

Suzy: On occasions, conversation about work can turn emotional in a way that just doesn’t happen when you’re not related to your colleagues! But we have usually managed to talk it through and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 What’s the best part of working together?

Tricia: I get enormous pleasure from developing the business with the help of Anna and Suzy. They have very complementary skills with few overlaps in their respective roles, which makes it a lot easier. During lockdown we have had daily zoom meetings at 4.30pm and knowing that I’d see and talk to them every day was brilliant.

Anna: I think I’m very lucky to spend so much time with my mum and my sister. We generally have a lot of fun, and when things are tough, which they can be from time to time, we can give each other a lot of support and help which always makes things better.

Suzy: It’s easy and it’s a lot of fun. There’s no politics and we know we’ve always got each other’s backs.

And what’s the most challenging?

Tricia: When something major goes wrong! I had a huge falling out with someone who supplied services to the business and told her we no longer required her input.

Anna and Suzy were furious with me for not consulting them first as they disagreed with my high-handed behaviour. I had to apologise, eat humble pie and learn from the experience. We are, however, quite good as a trio at talking things through after the storm and letting it go.

Anna: The most challenging part is not letting emotions spill into work conversations which does happen every now and again. But we’re only human and it’s impossible to have hard  and fast rules when family is involved.

Suzy: When the business has gone through difficult periods, we have all dealt with it in different ways and it’s hard to see the people you love get distressed.

What do you do together outside of work? Is it easy to switch off ‘business chat’?

Tricia: We have got better and better at compartmentalising our business and family lives. I rarely mention LFF now when I visit Anna or Suzy and the grandchildren are around. It was so much harder to do that in the early days but the children really minded, so we had to stop.

Anna: We do things that normal families do – when it was allowed, we’d see each other for Sunday lunch, or dog walks in the park etc. Suzy’s girls and my boys are good friends so they like spending time together and luckily our husbands also get on well. We do sometimes talk about business during our time together, but now it’s rare that it gets difficult.

Suzy: Yes! We’re much better at switching off these days when together. I have three young girls and Anna has two boys and when we’re together it’s noisy and hectic and pretty impossible to chat about business to be honest!

What are your top tips to anyone thinking of going into business with their mum, daughter or other family members?

Tricia: Don’t go into the business with family members unless they have the right skills, experience and ability to do the job! When Suzy wanted to join us there was an obvious gap in supply management and financial control.

Neither Anna nor I were particularly good at either, but Suzy (who loves a spreadsheet!) had all the knowledge and experience required to do a great job.

Anna: Clear job roles and responsibilities are helpful in creating boundaries and having clarity on who is doing what prevents things getting complicated.

We’re lucky in that we all have different skill sets so I don’t want to be doing what Suzy does and vice versa! Tricia has a very important role as the face and the voice of the business that neither Suzy and I could do even if we wanted to!

Suzy: I agree with mum and Anna regarding skillsets and separation of roles. It’salso important to be honest with each other at all times and I think as a family we’re great communicators. You need to be able to deal with difficult situations and then move on.

You can find out more about Look Fabulous Forever on their website