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Worldwide, running a business as a family is the most common and enduring kind. But it’s a model that is being tested by the speed of technological change, which leads to all sorts of tensions between the generations. How can the younger generation convince their elders of the benefits of technology, and that it’s time to change their working practices when they seem to be just about getting by as they always have done? And how does the older generation know when it’s time to call it a day and hand over the reins?
The Bernardes family business is a hardware store in the East End of London, which has been in the family for over a hundred years and is now in its fourth generation.
Its narrow aisles are packed from floor to ceiling with household goods. Their location and price are only in the heads of parents Ian and Jan, who are approaching their 60s, and son John who is in his 30s. As John says ‘it’s a BC business – Before Computers’.
John’s own way of shopping is to use his smartphone, and he wants to convince Ian and Jan to computerize the stock control and have a website for online sales. But Ian and Jan are more comfortable with the physical reality of counting out screws by hand. Will John manage to convince his parents that it’s time to change? Will the Bernardes family business be there for a fifth generation?
“A Family Business” was presented and produced for the BBC World Service by Mair Bosworth, with studio production by Kate Howells. Photos courtesy of Mair Bosworth.