My first business memories involve going into Dwyer & Co. in Washington Street, a business premises still standing opposite the Court House in Cork. It was a wonderful, old fashioned building that housed the many different businesses which my family’s company was involved in. My father, grandfather and brother George all worked there when I was a young fellow. My godfather, John Harding, also worked there and he used to give me one of the bars of Fry’s dark chocolate, that he kept in his desk, whenever I called to see him. Happy days!
Many of the people who worked in that business became friends over the years and when the business ultimately closed in the 1980s, after trading for 160 years through five generations, it was really like a death in the family as so many wonderful loyal people lost their jobs.
I often asked myself why it happened. A lack of succession planning at Dwyer & Co was, I think, a big issue. Too many family members, including my Dad, who subsequently lost his job, vying for ownership and control.
I’m a realist. I have made it my life’s work to try and help family businesses survive, but I know they sometimes don’t, for many reasons. Even if one door closes, another can open and I have seen that happen too.
My brother George left the family business in 1972, having run the shirt factory for a number of years. He could see that the future was uncertain and that the company had no focus or long term plan. He then set up his own family business, Eurostyle. Initially making shirts, they then moved into the manufacturing of ladies golf wear and then the distribution of all kinds of golf wear. That business still goes strong under the direction of George’s two sons, Alan and Peter.