To celebrate International Friendship Day, we asked our founders, Ann Quirke and Becky Firth, what it’s like running a business with your best friend!
What did you think of each other when you first met?
Becky: I thought Ann was beautiful, slightly bonkers yet brilliant and the best sales person I have ever met or worked with! We had such good fun both in an office environment and at social work functions, we just clicked with the same humour and worth ethic. I learned so much from Ann during the early part of my career and this has moulded me into the way I work today. She was my mentor who I wanted to emulate and endeavoured to be like her, something I still do today! 😊
Ann: At the time we both lived quite a long way from work and use to arrive at the office early in the morning pre 8am. I loved her blunt chopped fringe and on-trend look, very pretty and believe it or not a little bit shy, well it was he first office job. Then we went on a Company night out in Burton upon Trent of all places; we danced and sang ALL night, and I soon realised that the very pretty shy blonde girl in the office was full of fun and actually as loud and crazy as I was and that’s where our friendship was born; at a nightclub in Burton, quite apt really. Shortly after that Becky came to work in my Team on a huge project that I was given, which was actually set up to fail. Fail is not a word in either of our vocabularies and we actually turned around the ‘Titantic’ with bells and whistles on it and that’s when our friendship was set in stone forever. I soon realised working on this project that Becky had something really unique and special, she was very talented and creative and had a work ethic and ambition to succeed and win that matched my own.
How would describe each other’s style? Which HoM Mosaic perfectly reflects their style?
Ann: Becky’s style is rainbow glitter, that’s it! There is NO mosaic that reflects her style ..it would just be too much to take! If I had to choose one, I think it would be the party mosaic Ibiza; on trend, colourful and gives you joy every time you look at it.
Becky: Ann is classic yet on-trend. I would say Ann is a Grey brick, timeless marble always looking on -trend!
What’s it like working with a friend? Why do you think your partnership works?
Becky: Most people say don’t work with your friends, but with us its different. We grew our friendship over 18 years through work and we have the utmost mutual respect for one another. She is my best friend, work wife and all-round confidant in life. When I’m having a stressful day, she perks me up..and vice versa! When we have a success, we share and have a little revel together! We know each other so well that we can even finish one another’s sentences in meetings! We complement each other perfectly, Ann’s speciality is the sales and logistics side, and mine is the creative marketing side, so the formula just works!
Ann: We became friends from working together, the quick answer is that it works because we always have each other’s back. It’s like a marriage, Becks is my best friend and work-wife. I can honestly say in eighteen years, we have never fallen out or even had a cross word. We have total respect for one another and I love her to bits. In our industry it is quite rare for sales and marketing to be so joined at the hip, traditionally in this industry the sales person has all the ego and doesn’t want the marketeer stealing any limelight, but the irony is that these creative marketing people can make us sales folk look really good, it makes perfect sense and has been key to our success over the years. Of course, the added benefit is that Becky is the best of the bunch, I’ve lost count over the years of how many Buyers have told us that was the best presentation they’ve ever had. We both have different qualities and it’s a formidable unstoppable force when we are together. We are both highly motivated and have the same work ethic. In our previous work life and from very early on, I would push us to go the extra mile, I wanted us to stand out from all the other Suppliers, I would drive the business hard and run fast and Becky was the only one that could keep up with me! It’s a WIN WIN. Nowadays we both run together, sometimes at one hundred miles an hour, but we keep each other going and when one of us is a bit down or stressed the other one is there to pick us up.
What’s your funniest story about starting a business together?
Ann: There are SO many funny stories, we could literally write a book. Sometimes we laugh until we cry and can’t speak any more. Over all the years and in more or less chronological order, I know these phrases will make Becky smile:
- Burton Night Club
- ‘Hey Britney’
- ‘Wanna get Dirty’
- Buttermilk pancakes
- Bread and butter
- ‘loosey goosey’ bikini clad white water rafting on the Olympic course
- Cowboy Charlie
- Fat Sam’s Grand Slam
- They day I took ole Patsy down
- ‘Hungry like the wolf’
- Extra in Will Smith films
- ‘Surreal moment’ flying to Vegas via Manchester
- Jake Bugg – two fingers
- Aircraft walk of shame
- ‘Looking like we didn’t want to be seen’ first day out of competitive covenants at B&Q
(We’ll let you ponder on what they could mean!)
Becky: There are many, most we cannot publish..! 😉One that sticks in mind is that the literally the day we were out of competitive covenants we were down at a retailer head office presenting our business and a new range. When we look back at starting a business, we always laugh and say “Who the hell did we think we were, starting a mosaic business in a well established tile industry…we must have had balls of steel…!” It was risky but has paid off and we love what we do.
What are the best and worst things about each other?
Becky: Ann is so tenacious and always looking for the next new chunk of business, I love that about her. She is a brilliant Sales account manager – the best in the business! With that comes the Tsunami of work that usually follows for me to execute the project…!! That’s the best and worst thing hehe!
She is also a fantastic (wo)man manager, and is fiercely loyal to anyone who works for her. For example, Lisa (our Head of Customer Operations) has worked with her for over 25 years and I have worked with her for 18 years.
Ann: You get to work with your best friend every day building a successful business on equal terms. Every day is different but it’s always fun and full of rainbow glitter. I love seeing and sharing the success of the business together, we drive one another forward and I honestly believe we can do anything, nothing is impossible. I love seeing the brilliance of POS come from Becky’s brain after a back of a fag packet idea, I will never tire of it! We talked about it and planned it for years, then had the balls to just do it. There are no bad things about it.
How has your friendship changed since starting HoM?
Ann: Our friendship and bond are even closer and stronger, we are equal Partners. It was hard at first with just the two of us building this business, but we had self-belief, a really strong friendship and respect for one another along with the confidence to do it. We always knew it would be a success, we don’t believe in fail.
Becky: I wouldn’t say it has changed, it has just got stronger, I have even more love and admiration for her now!
What has been your proudest achievement so far with HoM?
Becky: There are 2 that stick in my mind…When we hit our first turnover milestone was a very proud moment, I had a figure in my head that if we hit that with the business, then we had ‘made it’. That seems a distant dream now as we have far exceeded that figure and to get to share that with your best friend makes it even sweeter! The other is when we launched in the USA. When we saw our range of products live with the 2 biggest DIY retailers in the world, in our brand, that was a big deal and a ‘pinch-me’ moment
Ann: There have been so many, but I think my proudest moment was being accepted as a Vendor at B&Q. Who did we think we were? We marched into B&Q with not one penny of turnover, competing with an established category that had been supplied by the same businesses for years. The difference, was our outlook, presentation, analysis of trends and market intelligence, that blew our Buyer away. Overall, I would say that I’m very proud of the fantastic business we have built and the Team we have to deliver this success. It really is Teamwork that makes the dreamwork. We have a no blame culture and a set of business values that respect each other as individuals. We all pull together to drive the business forward, it’s a simple philosophy really, but every business I’ve ever worked in previously, waste time and energy on internal office politics.
What advice would you give to friends who are thinking about starting a business together?
Ann: I think our friendship is pretty unique, we are in total tune with one another and both want the same work and life goals, we are the Ant and Dec of the tiling industry. Our work ethic is the same which really helps; we are both extremely driven and highly motivated but we both like to have a lot of fun, I wouldn’t want to be on this journey with anyone else but Becky, I love her to bits, the Lady Gaga to my Honey Bey
Becky: You must have the same work ethic..Ann and I are very driven and self-motivating , so if one of you is but the other is not, then it will cause arguments and fall outs, the last thing you want! It will only work if you have worked together before and seen each other at your best and worst.
Lucky for us, we believed in ourselves and each other and it paid off! We are also lucky to have very supportive families who we love very much and love us unconditionally. Without their support, we couldn’t have achieved any of our dreams.