With Crick around the corner, Peter and Susan Mason are now looking for the right new owner to take their company forward
Change could be afoot at Braidbar Boats
Succession planning in inland waterways businesses is a curious thing; often it just happens in the natural cycle of events as the new generation gradually takes over from the old while dad and mum slip gracefully (usually…) into the background.
But not always – and when you talk to Braidbar’s Peter and Susan Mason you realise that sometimes life can be a little more complicated.
In 2006, Iain and Louisa Bryceland wanted to sell their boat-building business Braidbar, although they had son, Josh, and daughter, Maria. The couple had a good reputation for building six or seven classically executed craft a year to a very high standard and they had built up a loyal following; an independent owners’ club had even sprung up around this simple formula.
Peter and Susan Mason, however, had come into the boating world by a rather unusual route. Peter’s career was founded on the tanning business (“that’s leather rather than sunbeds”, he says wryly), and Susan’s was in banking with Barclays.
They’d both known each other since meeting at college in Ewell, Surrey in 1977 when Peter was studying for the tannery business and Susan was studying finance, and they married in 1987. Initially, Peter had a tanning business in Sandwich, Kent, before moving to another tannery in Rochdale and Susan moved to be with him as a corporate manager for Barclays in Chester.
You might think that living in Rochdale, not a million miles from Braidbar at Lord Vernon’s Wharf on the Macclesfield, makes a quick end to this particular story, but you’d be wrong.
Peter and Susan had a son, Michael, in 1990 followed by daughter Catherine in 1994, and Peter pursued a fairly intense international career, moving to a tannery based in Maine, New England. The family liked life in America and, in some ways, their story could have ended there. But with two young children and Susan on a two-year career break, they knew they would have to make a decision about the future – to stay or return to the UK.
They opted for the latter and Peter moved back to work in the tanning industry here while Susan moved back into the banking world as a project manager in Knutsford. During this time Peter had to help the company through a period of change of management, which meant he spent a fair amount of time on the tannery shopfloor learning how things worked and picking up technical and DIY skills, experience that would stand him in good stead for the next, unexpected change in their lives.
Michael fell ill in 2006 and, despite a brave fight, they lost him in 2007. It was a family tragedy that caused them to reassess both their lives and the future. “I missed a lot of him growing up while I was in America,” admits Peter.
With such a shock to contend with and Catherine still only 13, they decided to