With separation comes bitterness and white lies

When it comes to recalling events its surprising just what gets emitted to save repute or avoid shame. In recent weeks I have been involved with several companies that share corporate history as well as family ties. Attempts to link them, even in passing, proved difficult. Questions were met with silence. You’d have thought three businesses rich in history, steeped in etiquette would provide something…anything…to show they were once united.

Instead I am forced to power-phrase. Forced to repeat my tale without breaking confidences. Back in 1930s Samuel Smith worked in textiles in Lancashire before marrying Daisy Saint John. They had six children in 10 years – Samuel, Daisy, Deirdre, Doris, Josephine and Beckett – then moved to Cornwall for the weather. With no immediate textile industry to immerse himself in Samuel Smith Snr opened a barbers called ‘Something for the Weekend?’ in 1935.

It offered the finest short, back and sides money could buy west of Chard. His ascent was stymied by the second world war. Too old to be conscripted he started to pioneer other aspects of hair garnish and management; from the shed emerged a two-handed comb, a wind up hair dryer and a hair jelly made primarily from recycled lard.

With both sons, Samuel Jnr and Beckett, lost to the war, he started to integrate his eldest daughters into the business. Daisy Jnr, Deirdre and Doris embraced technology, and started to evolve the wind up hair dryer. They made it smaller and easier to operate and fashioned it with silver-plated handles and pistol-shaped nozzles. Doris, the luddite of the clan, worked more closely with combs and brushes.

Samuel Snr went back to his second love, textiles always dominated his thoughts, trimming mops of hair on the shop floor. Daisy Jnr started to replace the lard in the hair jelly with water, flour and sugar, much to the relief of the locals. By the time Josephine left school it was clear only a job creating short, back and sides on the heads of local wayward lads was in the offing.

In 1960, and with Samuel Snr’s blessings, the three D’s left to start Smiths Hair Solutions Products and Solutions, manufacturers of hairdryers, combs, brushes, hair jellies and sprays. Deirdre quickly realised that marketing cheaper and better electrical hairdryers from America, and then the sub-continents, as their own under license was a more successful route and the wind up hairdryer was consigned to history. Combs, brushes and hair products also floundered against cheaper imported products.

In 1966 third eldest Doris, tired of the being in the shadow of her older sisters, decided to go it alone. She bought the rights to Smiths Hair Solutions Products and Solutions’ array of combs and brushes, called the company Smith’s Own Combs, and moved to Brighton. Whereas the minutiae of badge-engineered hairdryers evaded her combs, more so than brushes, established her as a leading player in implements that created the ‘combed hair’ look. The toothless comb was consider the finest of its type the world over.

In 1968 the hair jelly and spray side of the business was also defunct. Josephine, spurred on by Doris’s success, took the bottled hair jellies and liquids sector by the scruff of the neck and transformed it. Out went water, flour and sugar, and she developed a lacquer based on tar macadam before moving onto chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. After catching her hair on fire while spraying too close to a lamp she abandoned sprays and went organic. Returning to her roots with water, flour and sugar mixed with extracts from plants to offer colour and smell, Its Stuck To You, an organic jelly for men, sold in its millions.

Jealous of the successes enjoyed by Doris and Josephine, both Daisy Jnr and Deirdre retorted by celebrating Smiths Hair Solutions Products and Solutions subsequent anniversaries by removing their triumphant completely from its history, and going so far to instruct lawyers to re-analyse the divestment agreements to see if they were entitled to any of the profits.

Angered and betrayed by Daisy Jnr and Deirdre, Doris went off the rails. She left her company in the hands of its management team, married a roadie call Dave and went on a five-year drink and drug binge that took in several continents. She emerged from the stupor in Brazil with a banging headache, a hotel bill running into thousands and two-day old twins. Dave was no where to be seen. She phoned Smith’s Own Combs head office, got the money wired to the hotel, and arrived at the new company premises in Lewisham two days later. She got back to the basics of combs and sent Dave Jnr and Elizabeth to boarding school.

Josephine seethed quietly. Always one to harbour a grudge she took against Daisy Jnr and Deirdre simply because it suited her. She adopted Sally, a five-week-old orphan, and knuckled down to the making Hairspray by Smiths a global brand.

By the late 1980s backstabbing, airing of petty grievances, harsh words, and all-round spitefulness had been duly administered at various family engagements. Deirdre didn’t go to Josephine’s 40th birthday party, Daisy Jnr never sent Doris a birthday card, Doris never returned any calls from Deirdre, Josephine refused to recognise the letter ‘D’… Each denied the history, input and knowledge of the others, and it was only when Samuel Snr passed away that all four were reunited…albeit briefly.

In 1990 Daisy Jnr lost interest in marketing re-branded hairdryers. Deirdre bought her shares for 30p in the pound and Daisy Jnr emigrated to Australia to start a foundation for lost back-packers. Deirdre quickly removed Daisy Jnr from the companies literature but before she could explain why she keeled over and was dead before she hit the ground – heart attack. It was often said she died before Daisy Jnr’s plane touched down down-under. No one knows why this was frequently referenced, but it was. Deirdre’s daughters Barbara and Phyllis, barely out of university, were given joint-MD roles. Ignorant of Daisy Jnr’s input they continued none the wiser. They played with the company for a bit before selling what was left of it to a hedge fund in 1996.

Like Daisy Jnr, Doris tired of combs and brushes. As society became more unkempt through the Grunge Era so the company lost more sales. Despondent, she handed it to her twins Dave Jnr and Elizabeth, both fresh from private education and Oxbridge. They enjoyed corporate life and took the company forward, rebranding it several times. Comb OverBrush With Greatness, and i:Comb Air, the latter an app for phones – all enjoyed limited success before the pair reinstated the original company name.

Josephine remains ‘actively involved’ with Hairspray by Smiths and its sister-company Noggin’ Jelly but its Sally who runs the show now. Ignited by the alleged treachery of her two aunts, burned into her sub-consciousness at every turn by her foster mother, Sally bought Smiths Hair Solutions Products and Solutions at cost, just weeks after it had been bought by the hedge fund. The first thing she did was rewrite its history…

I guess my delayed point is that people are human, family strife is a natural by-product of being a part of a family. History is written as fact by those who tell the story but you’ve only to scratch the surface for a very different picture to emerge.

"Business as usual" for OSE European

UK and European road transport company OSE European has said it is business as usual after a management buy-out that took the firm out of administration.

It had appointed joint administrators Julie Swan and Mark Phillips of PC Recoveries on 28 September to help get the company back on track.

Swan told CM that the business and its assets have been sold, but did not name the buyer.

Subsequently OSE European director Tony Jurczyk has confirmed to CM.com that the firm has continued to trade as usual through the process, with no detrimental effect to staff or clients.

The management buy-out had been conducted on the same day as the administration.

OSE European provides road haulage throughout the UK and Europe from its offices in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Veurne, Belgium.

Starting out as a Newcastle-based scooter courier service, the company has an O-licence to run eight vehicles and two trailers.

It delivers for customers all over the Continent, including routes into Italy, Turkey and Russia.