Broadhembury is a 2nd generation business which has been running for 48 years and up until 2016 was run by Keith and Jenny Taylor. In 2016 Keith and Jenny’s daughter, Sally, and her partner Lee took over and they now run the park entirely, alongside a team of fabulous and many long-serving, staff.
Sally, tell us a little bit about your background and how you decided to come on-board with the family business?
After school I studied Economics at Exeter University and then straight on to Deloittes in London to train as a Chartered Accountant; working primarily in financial services audit. After nearly 8 years with Deloittes I decided to leave Practice, and London, and returned to Ashford taking a job as Financial Controller of Seafrance in the UK (well before they went broke, I should add!). By this time my parents had realised the economic advantages of having an Accountant in the family and I had become heavily involved with Broadhembury’s accounts. During these years I also began to take on more ‘admin’ roles from my Mother, such as advertising, staff contracts and also worked in Reception. It really wasn’t until this stage that I fully realised what a fantastic business Broadhembury is and that I really wanted to be involved with its future. At the same time, my parents were fast approaching their 70s and realising that we needed to start some serious planning with respect to the future of Broadhembury. My parents & I began talking about succession, but I knew that with a young family, I couldn’t do it without Lee’s support. I asked Lee if he would be prepared to ‘hang up his tools’ (he’s a Carpenter by trade) and come to help me run Broadhembury. Fortunately he agreed!
We’ve been exceedingly lucky to have had the full support of my parents throughout the transition process – although they do say we have to ‘make our own mistakes’ (I hope we don’t make too many!). My sister lives in Barcelona and supports me with childcare during the holidays. Fortunately my Mum & Dad and sister completely understand the pressures we’re sometimes under and so step in to help whenever they can.
What is your role at Broadhembury? How do you split things between yourself and Lee?
I look after all the ‘front of house’ reception duties, our booking system, the accounts, the advertising, the staffing, the external accounts (such as insurances and waste management), our seasonal contracts and holiday homes.
Fortunately we have a superb team of staff who help to make this a real pleasure rather than a chaotic mess!
Can you describe a typical day for you at Broadhembury?
That’s a really tall order because there truly isn’t a ‘typical’ day, that’s why it’s so much fun!
At this time of year (beginning of March) we’re really busy getting everything in place for the new season. In the low season I do a lot of my admin work in Reception so that I can answer the phone and address any booking enquiries whilst getting some emails answered or accounts done at the same time. So, a “typical” day might be something like this:
8.15: Arrive in Reception and cover off with the wardens any issues that have arisen since the time we left the day before. This week topics have ranged from parking options when we’re very busy on hardstanding positions, but the grass is too soft to use; through to whether or not we’re going to have a maximum group number; through to whether or not we can accommodate 48 hikers in May!
09.00: I’m usually sitting at the computer by now. I look at the online bookings that have come in over-night, making sure we’ve accommodated any ‘special requests’ that may have come in with these. I really interrogate the system to check it’s allocated the best pitches for our visitors – availability permitting, I want everyone to be on the very best pitch for them. For example, if someone’s listed ‘infants’ on their booking I’d always look to get them as close to the facilities as possible (unless they’ve stated otherwise) and mark on their booking to offer them the Family Bathroom key on arrival. We also receive quite a lot of email enquires and I like to answer these straight away; so people can begin planning their breaks.
10.30: Usually Lee & his team will come in for a quick coffee and I’ll run anything past Lee that’s come up....like “I’ve had an enquiry from a 12 meter motorhome, and I’ve only got 2 hardstandings free, which one will be easiest for it to get onto?” – Lee knows about things like that!
11-1pm: In between taking calls I’ll get some admin done. I also like to head out for a walk around the park; it’s good to get some fresh air but also it’s another pair of eyes for spotting things promptly that might need attention.
1pm: Our official arrival time is 2pm for touring, but at this time of year we’re often able to accommodate visitors earlier and from around 1pm they’ll start arriving. Although it’s low season, mid week we’re still having around 4 arrivals a day. I love that in low-season we’ve more time to spend with people helping them get the very best from their stay; this might be booking a special restaurant for them, or talking about which gardens and castles are best to visit at this time of year.
3.30pm: I leave at varying times through the winter months, but do try to do the school run a little more often than I can in the summer. So the wardens will come in around this time to take over from me. I’ll communicate any issues that have cropped up during the day, let them know which arrivals we’re still expecting, and then head off to school.
Broadhembury initially started out as a small farm, but your parents quickly decided that camping and caravanning was the way forward. Lots has changed over the years whilst the business grew, can you tell us a little bit about any changes you have made since you and Lee took over and what your plans for the future are?
Since Lee & I have taken over Broadhembury, we’ve made the following changes:
- Brought in a fully computerised booking system (amazingly until then we were still ‘paper based’!)
- Fully renovated and refurbished Reception & tourist information
- Extented the Park road around the lower Meadows area
- Put in 4 new hardstanding positions and 2 new fully serviced positions
- Added a barrier onto the Adults’ Meadows area
- Redecorated the games room
- Installed ‘Paxton’ software for both the barrier and the electronic gate which is fully integrated with our booking software; meaning that each camper has their own specific gate code for the dates of their stay
- Thoroughly investigated our Wifi options, resulting to us moving over to a ‘bonded line’ to get the best connectivity for the business and our campers. This has meant a large investment in new equipment. Our rural location will always limit us in this regard, but we now know we are definitively doing our very best in this area.
The big plans for the future include getting the Glamping arm of the business fully operational and then a full upgrade and refurbishment of the Hollies building on the Family Park.
Why did you decide to launch Glamping at Broadhembury?
I had initially been worried that those who wanted to go Glamping would want ‘wild camping’ rather than a 5 star touring park. But then I realised that there’s a whole lot of people that would still like 5 star facilities whilst glamping; that they would like our underfloor heating in the facilities, the endless hot water, well equipped campers kitchens and great children’s play areas. Broadhembury’s offering is very different to ‘wild camping’, but there’s a large market for it nonetheless.
What 3 words best describe Broadhembury for you?
Tranquil. Friendly. Quality.
Having grown up at the park, do you have any favourite childhood memories?
The park was much smaller then and my Mum would put the ‘back in 20 minutes’ sign on the reception door when she left to collect me from school. Usually there’d be a queue of campers outside by the time she got back! On the way home she’d often tell me about some children that had arrived that day and we got home I’d wiz up to whatever pitch they were on to ask if they wanted to come and play. With families returning year after year some wonderful friendships developed (one really survived the test of time and I was a bridesmaid at her wedding!).
In those days the Park closed through the winter months and we used to exercise our ponies on the sports field. One time I decided to ride my pony under some wooden football posts we had...we both got very stuck!!
Do you hope that your children one day take over the reins?
I’ve got mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, as we were lucky enough to have inherited Broadhembury, I do have a very big sense of ‘looking after it for the next generation’; that we are ‘guardians’ rather than ‘owners’.
However, it needs to be the children’s decision and not ours. To successfully run any small business I believe you need to have a real passion for it; and Broadhembury is too demanding to be able to take on without really wanting to do it.
I guess the short answer is ‘yes’, but it needs to come from them and not under duress. If I had a real ‘wish list’, I’d also like them to have gone away and experienced life, and working elsewhere, first. That way they’ll return better able to put their own spin on things (they might even teach us a thing or two!).
What do you like most about working at the Park?
It’s difficult to pick one thing and I’m so emotionally attached to Broadhembury that it means so many different things to me. Overall though, I think the best thing is the challenge of it. It’s so demanding and varied. I love meeting all the different campers; it’s such a ‘spice of life’ kind of environment! Lee & I couldn’t run Broadhembury without the tremendous help and support we get from our staff; to whom we extremely grateful.