COLUMN - Success is in the family for owner of Boston based sweet manufacturer

Lanes Health is a successful family owned business with a long-standing history as a regional employer and British manufacturer of health products.
Jonathan Groves.Jonathan Groves.
Jonathan Groves.

They proudly manufacture and distribute many household, category-leading brand names such as Olbas, Kalms and, for the last 17 years, Jakemans sweets of Boston.

Lanes Health Executive Chairman and fourth-generation leader, Jonathan Groves has reflected on navigating success through the generations of a regional family business - after 90 years of calling Gloucestershire their home and 17 years in Boston.

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Jonathan says their journey is one of continuous evolution, driven by a deep-seated belief in the power of health and wellbeing to transform lives. And in 94 years, they have learnt a lot about running a family business.

Jonathan said: “Running a family business in today's dynamic marketplace presents unique challenges and opportunities. Navigating market nuances with import and export legislation, supply chain management, and shifting consumer demands means that businesses are constantly having to adapt to this ever-changing landscape. It can be tempting to compare oneself to large stakeholder companies and trying to follow their ways of working. However, family businesses are at an advantage as, on average, they perform better than non-family businesses, perhaps due to the agility they have for quicker decision making and are therefore able to adapt their business quickly to these changes.”

Invest in your business

“The exciting opportunity within a family business is the ability to build upon the foundations that previous generations have laid. The retained knowledge and experience passed down provide unrivalled insight which can help mould future decisions, but driving innovation and investment back into the business is key to propel companies forward. Whilst it’s important to stay true to your roots – ensuring that your morals and company values still remain the same – embracing change and investing in new technologies to keep up with supply and demand are key. Don’t be scared by change, that’s probably what made your business successful in the first place, because you were doing something different.

“Additionally, family run businesses have the freedom to be able to adapt quickly to the landscape around them without the sign-off, rigmarole or input from external stakeholders. This puts them at an advantage to be able to respond to customer needs and advance products to supply this change in demands.

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“And we have taken advantage of this ability to adapt our products quickly. For instance, in 2023 we launched a sugar-free Jakemans in response to those actively looking to reduce their sugar intake, and we’ve got some exciting new flavours in the pipeline. We also recently launched our Pro Plus effervescent product for those looking for an alternative to tablets.

“By investing in this form of innovation, we’ve seen the business go from strength to strength and this dynamic way of working has put us on the path to achieving £50m turnover by 2026.”

Invest in your team

“Central to a family business is always the team around it, those doing the work on the ground and delivering the product or service to the customers. Never underestimate the power of cultivating a strong employer brand, this is how you attract and retain top tier talent who will be crucial to your business.

“By fostering a culture of integrity, respect, and teamwork, you will be able to build a team that is not only highly skilled but deeply invested in the success of your business. Family businesses are already at a strong advantage to attract talented employees as new research reveals two thirds (66 per cent) of people who work for a family business would recommend doing so. This can be seen within our own workforce with the average length of employee service being 9.4 years for our Lanes site and 6.6 for our Jakemans site, with our longest serving employees being with us for 34 years.

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“The top reasons for this include that you’re not thought of as a number (44 per cent), there’s a more relaxed environment (34 per cent), and there is a real family atmosphere (34 per cent)ii.

“For over 90 years, we have been proud to call Gloucestershire our home, and in 2007 Boston became part of the family when we acquired Jakemans. Our team of 250 people across both sites is more than just a group of employees; they are the heart and soul of Lanes Health. A philosophy my family has always shared is the importance of investing in your team as this gives them reason to invest in you.

“And we’ve been doing that. Through mentorship programs, professional development initiatives, and a supportive work environment, we empower our employees to reach their full potential. By investing in their growth and development, we ensure that Lanes Health remains at the forefront of the industry.”

Invest in your future

“As you look at the future of your business, it’s important to ensure that you:

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“Innovate. Don’t be afraid to innovate. What might have worked for your predecessors may not work for your current business. Adapting your service or product doesn’t mean changing your company’s ethos. Stay true to your values but embrace change.

“Put people first. Commit to your staff. If you look after them, they will look after you and allow you to retain talent that can take your business into the next phase. Equally, a strong employer brand will help attract new talent who bring strong skills into the operations.

“Look to the future. Make sure you have a clear vision that drives the direction of your business. A clear shared goal is crucial to future success.”

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