…..and the beginning of a brand new adventure!
4 weeks ago, I had no idea that my love and loyalty to my family would come before my career. Yet, on Good Friday, I was faced with the consequences of a decision. Dad, after carrying the beacon of light for Mallalieus of Delph had made a decision to retire. He has been a Managing Director of triumph. He has seen its rises and its falls like no other. He deserves his retirement more than any other. One of the most incredible, gentle, generous noble men I know has given his life to the textile industry and his decision, I know, did not come easily. In the complexities of his retirement, came a need for family solidarity.
Fast forward to today and I am now facing my final days at Bailey Laine and Mallalieus of Delph. Like those last liaisons with a familiar lover that brings a lead weight to your throat that you can’t swallow or breath past as you suffocate in your last embrace and tender moments, I realise the little things I will miss. My solid little upstairs unit that are Linda and Sharon, the stationary, the name, the WOW! winner mug. Sibling banter with my little brother. My Dad in his office chair happy yet moany in his stressful workload.
With these thoughts and words, tears are burning as they rapidly build to find a way to flood from the kohl soaked corner of my eye, nipping like the sharp sting of a nettle. I desperately do not not want to give into them or the pain and grief that parting will bring. I’m not ready for that journey yet.
The mill is not a job, it is a vocation and an all-consuming, ambrosial entwining of heritage, hopes and passions.
Whoever takes over once Dad retires and comes out of the business will follow a line of Mallalieus that have taken that Directors chair. They will be the first person that does not carry the Mallalieu name, to take up the chair and own and run this businesses. They have very big shoes to fill. 154 years worth of big shoes actually and they will be in for the most intoxicating experience of their life. I have learnt so much in my 3 short years here and I thought, just in case the person in question gets to read this, that I would take a moment to share some of this knowledge as someone new begins their own roller coaster ride at Mallalieus of Delph.
What makes the mill tick is the employees. I have always said, that from a cleaner to a Managing Director, whatever the job, like a machine with a missing cog, without one of them, it doesn’t work. Usually full of happiness, they are full of initiative and are actively willing and generous beyond anything I have ever known before. They are alive to the tragedy of life as well as the fun, they have taught me to speak with them not to them and to capture the moment with instinct, meaning and most importantly, wit. They are the heartbeat and energy of this extraordinary place and will tell you what they need, but most importantly what you need. Listen to them.
I have learnt to work with others. With people whose path my life would not ordinarily cross and what a gift they have been! Heroes, friends and champions. People that have inspired me and have cracked open my experience here and shown me such sagacity, strength, vision and punctiliousness. I thank them all from the deepest depths of my heart. Every single one of them are champions of this exciting hive of manufacturing glory. Most importantly, I have learnt to trust my little upstairs squad with my heart and soul. They are true lovers and fighters, dedicated and loyal beyond belief. You will need to find your own little squad. Whether you believe that or not, you will find out to your own cost. The employees here will listen to you, help you and support you. Your first failure will be in not letting them do so. They are the ones that will make your dreams here real. Your passion and belief in them will make you or break you.
Richard Branson says, “look after your employees and the business looks after itself”. Whether they feel they are or have been looked after up to now, I don’t know. Only they will know that when their next employer takes over.
I have learnt to love this place. Its unique smell, its dark corners, its creaking floorboards, its haunting emptiness felt mostly when I’ve needed to collect something at a weekend. I have learnt where my personal and professional boundaries were. I was born to please and on the whole, I have enjoyed a life filled with encouragement, delight and love. I walked into the mill three years ago expecting this to continue forever. After all, it is 154 years old so what would stop it in its wonderful tracks before my retirement? However, its blessed path has been crossed and in that, I have had to call on my beliefs, postulate and rectitude for guidance. I have put my family first because they are my life. Their health and happiness are my priority. We will walk out of here as the solid family unit that we are. Together.
My decision mainly came because I will not allow myself to be excluded from the board room where decisions are made. For years before my arrival and more so in my time here, I have watched puppetry take place and I will not be one of those puppets. I know from experience in different jobs, how some management teams work. Pay the “minions” pittance whilst we take our millions. Lower their pay so that ours does not change. We were not one of those management teams. So, my friend (I use that term exceptionally loosely. My Dad has often said “there are no friends in business”) Karma is a beautiful thing for this kind of management strategy….I will watch and I will wait…
I have learnt that I have many friends. I have learnt that those friends support you through the thick and the thin. The good times and the tough. They are what makes life rich. Not money, not position, not buildings, not portfolios. These precious little things I have learnt and I am profoundly grateful for.
But, dear friend, no more lessons. I chose to leave because, as important and beloved as the Mill is to me, family, friends and health are far too important and should be put before any job. If I stay, I will not be loved and respected back now as I have been. It is not understood what I saw at the beginning of my journey here, what I felt and what I created from nothing and how it has grown into something so wonderful and how it would continue to do so. There will be a new set of rules that I did not sign up to and could not and will not stand by. Nothing is worth giving away my creative freedom for, it has been too hard fought for.
I have happily given 3 years to Bailey Laine. It was my lover, my partner, my children and my future. I do not choose what I see, feel and do, it chooses me. I have spent my life developing skills to be able to hear my instincts, reveal my inner stories and to be able to communicate them. I need to listen now more than I ever have done before to reveal these truths. I have always used whatever medium best tells that story and having listened, I truly believe I have no story left to tell here now.
There are a magnitude of experiences that have made me who I am but I honestly believe that the Mill has been the making of me. It has shown me my strengths, my weaknesses, my passions, my desires and most importantly my passion for creativity. Here, I have found my fight and true sense of belonging. I have stood up for what I believe in and tried to do it with kindness, care, compassion, professionalism and seriousness. However, in the wake of recent events, the mill will wrestle with what, at its core, it now stands for. It is still in the process of deciding and clarifying what its fight and its belonging now are. I had to choose to leave because I choose myself and more importantly, my family. Never think that my decision to step down was simply just about not wanting to be someone’s puppet. It was about personal trust and creative freedom. You must make sure that your own freedom is guaranteed.
I hope whoever comes next can ask the right questions, not only of Mallalieus but of themselves and take on the challenge with independence, vigilance and resolve. Mallalieus deserves a passionate leader so fierce and true that they would do anything, and I mean anything, for what they believe in. It needs a leader who will shout through the valley it nestles in and all those beyond about what it is to be free and loving and one who is determined to make a difference to its success.
Mallalieus of Delph will ALWAYS be part of me, and always pump through my veins. So, always remember, you are part of a magnificent line of intrepid, fierce, energetic mill owners and Directors; without them, its demise would have long passed and you wouldn’t be entering something steeped in magnificent, time-hallowed heritage. In its astonishing 154 year history, this warm bosom of humanity has been conceived, erected and led by free-thinkers, staunch to textiles and heritage. The minute you forget that, you will see your demise. As I plan and dream of the adventures I am yet to have, I hope you take the tiller with pride. It is with immense sadness that I say goodbye to this glorious, never to be forgotten chapter of my life.
I envy you so, but my heart cheers you on because it will always be my family name above that door.
“Some people want a big house and a flash car whilst others want a cabin in the woods away from those kinds of people”