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Celebrating Women in Family Business with Rachel Louie

In conversation with Rachel Louie, Managing Director, The Jones Family Business

The Jones Family Business Managing Director, Rachel Louie gives her personal insights on her role as a female leader working in a family business in the interview below.

What do you love most about your business?

I love the fact that Kitchen Things and Jones Family Business is in the fashion business. “An oven is not just an oven” is something I regularly say as it is true, and every year appliances have incredible technology built into them and absolutely beautiful aesthetics. Who would have thought there is a blast freezer in our range, that is also a slow cooker and can cook the most beautiful piece of Wagyu meat at 70 degrees C to perfection. It is like going to a candy shop when you visit factories or go on international buying trips, and when you think back to the early days, this industry has come so far. When my father, who started the business in the 1980s, was a boy, he didn’t even have a fridge (he had a safe) and now look at the options in refrigeration – we have a sub-zero fridge in our showrooms, that is over $50k! And what a beauty it is. The appliance industry is very exciting as it is always evolving.

It is also very cool that so many appliance businesses, including Smeg, Miele and Liebherr, are family businesses passed from generation to generation. When our family meets with some of these businesses it is very special to know that it is one family dealing with another.

What is something you wished you knew starting out?

If you mean what I wished I knew when starting in a family business I would say, once you are ready to lead, you need to be more proactive in working on the succession planning. I have been with training wheels for almost 20 years, and I wish I had been given the chance to do more, earlier. I was ready, but my father was so passionate in what he was doing. If we had had a more even role say 10 years ago, we may have been able to achieve more, together. However, I am also so very lucky to have travelled the world with my father, it has been a real honour.

What have you found to be the biggest hurdle to female leadership?

Women tend to have more empathy, which as you mature, you realise it is an incredible asset to have in leading a team, however, if you do business with empathy, it can sometimes hold you back. I always put myself in others shoes and sometimes you don’t push as hard as you would like.

The other hurdle is that often a lot of relationship building and business is done after hours, and women generally are not part of that. Thankfully I have always been a bit of a tom boy, and have never had children to prevent me from being involved, so are happy to join the golf tournament, the fishing competition, or go for a drink after the dinner. Having those relationships are important and it would be nice if it wasn’t generally after hours so that more females could participate.

It is incredible that there are so few women in senior roles in kitchen and laundry appliances – you would think the traditional nature of females being more traditionally known for the cooking, would inspire more women in this field (oh and by the way, my husband is the best cook in our household so I am not trying to stereotype, but was surprised by the amount of board tables I have been around where I am the only female). I am pleased to see more females now entering the industry and I look forward to being able to support them.

What do you think are the top 3 habits to successful leadership?

  1. Be inspiring – help your team feel like they are a vital part of the company vision, with positivity and humility

  2. Have good communication – clearly relate your vision and expectations to the team, be transparent to gain trust, and keep everyone working towards the same goal

  3. Listen well – remain objective and unbiased when listening to others, stay calm and confident and “there”, make sure you understand all that is said (and sometimes not said), ask the right questions and remain curious

What is the best advice you have received in business that has supported your success?

Learn to be a confident public speaker and then be involved. I am happy to stand up and talk about our business or our products to our industry or put myself out there on LinkedIn as it supports our NZ, family business. Being able to speak clearly in front of a large crowd or in a meeting, is an incredible asset. To add to that, speak from the heart, which is something that is much easier to do when you are passionate about your business and your family business. If you speak with passion, then it is easy for people to engage with what you are saying.

Another learning is ensure you have work / life balance. It is easy to stay and work all hours, especially in a family business, but you need to be able to do something else to switch off. The work will always be there! Spending time with family and friends and doing other hobbies and activities help bring enthusiasm back into work.

What advice you would give to the next generation of female leaders?

Start early in building your confidence and your career. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what is right, use that empathy for good, and fight for what you believe in. With all of that though, I add, knowing when to read the room and adjust your tone to the room, is extremely helpful.


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