Committed to the Business and Each Other: An Interview with Diane & John Wass of The Acorn Gallery, Pocklington
Being in business with a partner or family member can work brilliantly, but it can also be extremely challenging. I specialise in working with family and couple businesses and I’m fascinated by how the relationship dynamics can make or break a business.
In my Committed to the Business and Each Other series, I speak to a range of couples and families in business to find out what they feel is the secret to their success along with some of the lessons they’ve learnt along the way.
Today I’m speaking to Diane & John Wass, a husband and wife team from Pocklington.
Elevator pitch time! Please tell us about your business.
The Acorn Gallery is a place where we can show off the artwork that we believe is really special. Work that is beautiful and unique. We deliberately look for artists whose work stands apart from the crowd and has a defining style about it. Sometimes they are already well known and collectable but sometimes they are at the very start of their career and we love to give them that boost and see them develop.
Customers know they are always welcome to come in and browse, there is no pressure here. Art was made to be enjoyed and it’s great when people come in to have a look around and see what’s new.
We love helping people find just the right thing to finish their newly decorated room, our Home Approval service is very popular because it allows people to see what the artwork looks like in their home before they decide to buy. Interest free credit also helps you manage to get what you want when you see it so that you don’t miss out.
Thinking right back to the beginning, what prompted you to go into business with each other?
This is our second business and it was always going to be a partnership. It’s what we do, it’s how we work. We are strong together!
Did you consider how your relationship would be affected by being in business together before you started?
We have been together since 1986 and married since 1990. We’ve worked together since 1993 and for us it really works! We’ve had people ask us how we do it and some have said they’d go mad if they were together 24/7 but for us it’s great! We talk a lot and we bounce off each other really well, so there isn’t much that we can’t do between us!
What kind of business planning did you do?
Diane: Well I’m the figures person so it was me that gathered all the financial information about monthly bills, how much stock we would need and how much we needed to sell to earn enough to make it viable.
John: Together we planned and organised the shop fitting that we needed and drafted in Diane’s dad and brother, both of whom are joiners, to help. This really was a family effort!
Would you say that you both have similar strengths or different ones, how do you implement them in the business?
Diane: Haha! John would tell you he just does as he’s told but for most things we talk about the options and then decide what’s best… then talk about it again just to be sure! I’m quite creative and John’s very practical so we balance each other well. We have learned that sometime’s it just best to just trust the other person and see where it takes us.
What has been the biggest challenge to you working together?
Diane: One of the biggest challenges has been getting our brand out there so that people know we exist. We always knew we couldn’t just sit back and wait for people to find us: we had to be very active in getting The Acorn Gallery’s name in front of people.
John: Another more personal challenge has been making sure we get ‘together time’ so that not everything we do is work: although we often do end up chatting about work related things but that’s just how we are
What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?
Diane: The UK has 5.2 million small businesses and in 2014 we were chosen to represent them as one of 100 Small Business Saturday UK Ambassadors. We attended a reception in Downing Street in December and had a ‘well done’ speech from George Osborne. It gave us the opportunity to meet other small businesses from across the country who are all striving to make their voices heard.
John: It’s a major achievement that we are still open and trading! It can be very difficult to be a small business in a small market town but Pocklington is very special and we are well supported by local people as well as visitors who come back to us in person and via the internet year after year.
Has working together changed your relationship outside of the business?
Not in a bad way, if anything it has made us stronger. If there is ever an issue we have to talk it out, or laugh it out! That’s our way
Have you made use of any outside resources to support you? If so, were they helpful?
Diane: We haven’t used any ‘official’ bodies but we love chatting with other businesses and swapping notes. Pocklington is great for that too! We’re members of the York Lifestyle Group too which gives us another forum to work out and share new ideas. We’re always happy to pass on ideas and helpful tools too… in fact someone joked with me yesterday: ‘that was a great chat, thanks, how much do I owe you?’
What advice would you give to other couples who are thinking of starting a business?
Be good to people and don’t rest on your laurels!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Being a small, independent business is hard work but infinitely rewarding. Support small businesses yourself and you will be part of something bigger than you could ever imagine!
If you’d like to find out more about The Acorn Gallery, you can find them online at www.theacorngallery.co.uk . You can also find and connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I’m sure they have some fantastic images to share, so be sure to check them out.
Thank you Diane and John for sharing your story with us!
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