“Navigating a family business comes with unique challenges” Tom Boardman-Weston CDir, Managing Director, Manston Investments

Meet Tom Boardman-Weston CDir, the managing director of Manston Investments, a flourishing family commercial property investment firm. Tom shares his path, from hesitations about joining the family business to the transformative impact of the IoD's Chartered Director Qualification.

Joining the family business was not an immediate choice for me. Armed with a legal background, I initially ventured into financial consultancy. However, a pivotal moment occurred when a colleague invited me to join a fintech start-up as company secretary, opening a new chapter in my career. This experience provided me with a broad understanding of business and its intricacies – subsequently built upon working in SME mergers and acquisitions.

Five years ago, I faced a crossroads when our family business, Manston Investments, needed a new leader. Despite its success, an overall strategic direction was needed, and I was asked to step in. Joining as strategy director, I eventually took the helm as managing director. My belief that business-people need a broad understanding of various disciplines, rather than simply being experts in one, became a guiding principle.

My journey with the IoD began before I joined the family business, influenced by my father’s advocacy for the organisation and seeing the value that the IoD could provide. Starting with the Certificate in Company Direction, I found the IoD’s qualifications to be a valuable grounding for junior professionals. The Diploma in Company Direction delved into real-life situations, offering a practical perspective that I appreciated. Undertaking the Chartered Director Qualification initially seemed daunting, but the extensive questionnaire and preparation boosted my confidence by forcing me to reflect on and acknowledge my experiences.

Navigating a family business comes with unique challenges, such as the difficulty of switching off from work and the potential blurring of professional and personal boundaries. You have to foster open communication, and separate personal relationships from professional matters. Despite these challenges, I find value in the family dynamic, allowing for more fluid conversations about the business and its future.

I did initially have reservations about joining the business; I was concerned it might negatively affect my family relationships or that people would think I had benefited from preferential treatment rather than hard work and ability. However, by working hard, setting clear intentions, and engaging with colleagues transparently, I feel I successfully navigated these challenges.

My advice for those who are considering joining their family business would be to firstly gain experience elsewhere. I could have joined my family business 15 years before I did, and I think I owe my present-day success to the fact I didn’t. The experience you gain in other businesses, with different strategies and operating models will become invaluable. It has also helped me to manage any imposter syndrome I may experience as I know I have been successful elsewhere. I emphasise that you need to understand that family dynamics will change. If you can accept this, I underscore the importance of self-awareness, honesty, and addressing small issues proactively. My final piece of advice would be to seek independent advisors outside of the family to provide you with support and guidance.

Reflecting on the IoD’s impact on my career, I appreciate the organisation’s role in formalising my knowledge. Beyond qualifications, the IoD offers unstructured learning through networking and publications, providing context and support for directors. I see the IoD as a place that equips directors with essential skills beyond their specific domains.

The biggest learning from my career as a director to date has been that breadth of experience is more important than depth. As a director you must know a little bit about every role and trust that those with expert knowledge can do the rest, it is not necessary (or possible) to be an expert in everything. If you can achieve this with confidence that doesn’t become arrogance, then you will be an effective business leader.

Better directors for a better world

The IoD supports directors and business leaders across the UK and beyond to learn, network and build successful, responsible businesses.

Creating an inclusive and diverse workplace

Browse valuable diversity resources from the IoD.
Internet Explorer
Your web browser is out of date and is not supported by the IoD website. It is important to update your browser for increased security and a better web experience.