Finding the right people.

Surrounding yourself with the right people is vital to running a successful business, especially if you’re starting out on your own or with a small team.

Many entrepreneurs and businesspeople don’t like to admit they can’t do everything and can be reluctant to find the right talent to encourage growth. Thankfully, Kirsty Gray, family historian, founder and managing director of Family Wise, is very familiar with finding the right people.

As a result, what started as a living room-run hobby has rapidly expanded into a buzzing office-based business that has doubled its turnover in a year.

The Problem

Family Wise specialises in finding people. Their mission is to bring families together, reconnecting relatives who have lost touch and mapping out their family trees. They are also expert “heir hunters”: identifying heirs to unclaimed estates and assets held by Her Majesty’s Treasury Department.

Kirsty Gray, Family Wise’s founder, took up genealogy as a hobby after her grandfather’s family tree sparked her interest at a young age. This led to her discovering the field of family history and heir hunting. Like many entrepreneurs, Kirsty found something she had a passion for and saw initial financial success.

“When I first started, I didn’t have a business plan or objective: it was a job. I couldn’t afford to employ people, so I ran the business from my home with help from a Virtual PA company.”

This inspired Kirsty to take the great leap and start her own company: Family Wise Limited.

In 2016, an appearance on BBC’s ‘Family Finders’ unexpectedly thrust Kirsty into the spotlight, and she received 75 phone calls the day the show first aired. However, without fixed processes, a marketing strategy or a team around her, the TV exposure did little to help build stable growth.

“I knew that I had something special, but I didn’t realise what I could do with it. At the time, if you’d asked me if I wanted to have an office and people to manage, I would have said NO! Yet, I was overwhelmed with work, and I hadn’t taken a decent holiday in a while – and had no plans to do so either. Typical obstacles, I thought – I now know that they needn’t be.”

The ETC solution

On the recommendation of a friend, the self-described ‘uncoachable’ Kirsty decided to try out the free two-hour business review from Executive Training and Consultancy Ltd (ETC).

After two hours at her kitchen table with ETC founder Doug D’Aubrey, Kirsty entered Family Wise into ETC’s Momentum programme; a tailored plan to help the business become more focused, improve efficiency, and increase profits.

After setting clear objectives for the future with a three-year business plan, the next step was to surround Kirsty with the support she needed. ETC worked with Kirsty to help her craft the requirements for her perfect employee and produce a commission-only service level agreement. From this, a job advert was created – Wanted: Family Historian Researcher (commission-only).

“I honestly didn’t think anyone would apply to a commission only job, but I was incredibly, and pleasantly surprised. Within a few weeks, I had a whole network of researchers helping me close cases. It was amazing!”

With a highly motivated team alongside her, Kirsty could divert some of her attention to managing and growing the business.

Working with ETC, Kirsty was able to bring new structure to the business, outlining the differences between operations, sales and marketing and applying the right skillsets to each to improve overall efficiency. With these structures in place, performance metrics were easier to understand, and the potential weaknesses and areas for development
became clear.

“There are so many elements to running a business; I don’t understand how anyone can do it alone. I was so focused on the job, I didn’t realise that I was missing so many other things.

“ETC ask the right questions. They don’t tell you what to do; they take the time to understand your business and then ask questions to encourage you to think differently.”

The outcome

Three years after the first meeting, Family Wise have outgrown Kirsty’s home, their first office space and are currently busting at the seams of their new three-storey offices in the centre of Calne, Wiltshire.

In year three, Family Wise increased its turnover by 100%. The plan is to repeat this in year four.

Thanks to that first business review with ETC and the first advert, Kirsty has surrounded herself with an extremely loyal and dedicated team and helped build a global network of researchers.

“I still maintain I’m ‘uncoachable’ – however, ETC seems to get the best out of me.

“I now have the right people around me, and we’re all working towards the same goal. As a result, I’ve actually been able to leave the country and enjoy some time out of the business. I don’t have to do everything anymore– I still like to try, but I can take a break every now and again!

“I like to think that I’m very good at finding people, everyone at Family Wise is, but I have to say, I think ETC is probably one of our best finds!”