Business News Derbyshire, March 2011

PUBLISHED: 00:16 25 March 2011 | UPDATED: 21:30 20 February 2013

Business News Derbyshire, March 2011

Business News Derbyshire, March 2011

Simon Turton reports on the latest news and views from the business community across the county ...

Simon Turton talks to James Harrison, a member of the third generation at the helm of family motor-dealership TC"Harrison

A report published by Credit Suisse recently found that the UK has the lowest proportion of family-owned enterprises in Western Europe. Just eight per cent are family-run, compared to 30 per cent in France and 38 per cent in Germany. It also noted that most family-run businesses dont survive beyond the first generation (only 17 per cent beyond the third generation) and that 42 per ccent of UK entrepreneurs have no succession plan in place.

In the case of TC Harrison, the Ford and JCB dealership group, succession planning has ensured that the company has effected smooth transitions from generation to generation since it was established in Sheffield in 1931 by Cuth Harrison. Today it employs over 500 people across six main Ford dealerships and five JCB operations, turning over 200 million and serving over 200,000 customers.

Part of TC Harrisons success story has been to attract and retain the best staff, which joint managing director James Harrison explained when I met him recently at Milford House in Bakewell: The most important element in running a successful business is never to rest on your laurels, as my grandfather, Cuth Harrison, demonstrated; you must always be looking out for the next generation who will become the managers and directors of tomorrow. This means were constantly looking out for talented future leaders from the day they start work with us, which is why we invest so heavily in our people at every level. As a result we have always enjoyed extremely high levels of loyalty; in the last four years we have only lost four managers, which out of over 500 employees is a real achievement.

James (49) is on the main board of directors and is responsible for the car and commercial division, along with his younger brother Jonathan (47), who looks after the companys property portfolio; their cousin, William (42), is responsible for the companys JCB operations. The three share the role of managing director and report to the chief executive and chairman, Mike Muscroft, who has been with the company since 1960.

For those born into a family running a successful business it would be all too easy to assume that the next generations place on the main board is a fait accompli but, as James explained, nothing is guaranteed and everything depends on your achievements: My father, Edward, started working for the company in 1954 after studying at college, training at Ford and working for another dealership, before joining the company as assistant service manager.

With Edwards arrival, TC Harrison had instigated its first succession plan, but as James explained, at one stage the future of the familys involvement in the company was in doubt: Although my father was working for the company, in 1968 the company floated on the London Stock Market. Overnight, the business was in the hands of shareholders and although family members remained on the board of the public company it was not until 1986 that TC Harrison returned to family control and that the issue of succession was back on the agenda. Buying back the company from shareholders was a pivotal moment in the companys history.

By 1986 the third generation of the Harrison family was already in place, in the form of James and Jonathan, who were steadily working their way up through the business. Away from shareholder control the company could continue preparing the next generation, as James elaborates: Although it was never in doubt that I would join the family business my father insisted that I experienced every aspect of the company and started at the bottom. In 1979, aged 17, I began as a general administrative assistant, which largely involved filing and making the tea. Rather than reporting to my father I reported to Mike Muscroft, which ensured that I was treated just like any other employee. If anything, I think I had to work harder because I was very keen to progress on the strength of my ability and not because I happened to be the son of the MD.

Prior to being appointed to his current role as joint managing director in 1999, James held a variety of posts across the group, including mechanic, salesman, commercial sales manager (?), fleet sales manager and sales and marketing director. James also spent a year on secondment at Fords UK headquarters in Essex and worked for an independent dealership in Hull.

As with his grandfather and father before, James is keen to ensure a smooth transition to the fourth generation, and is equally insistent that his son, Joel, works away from the family firm before he starts his career at TC Harrison. It is essential for Joel (22) to spend time working for other companies because the final piece of the succession jigsaw is the desire to really want to work for the family business and not take on a role purely because of expectations. By the time TC Harrison has been in business for 100 years, in 2031, I would like to think that Joel along with other family members will be at the helm, by which time we could be looking forward to handing over the baton to the fifth generation.

As I left the magnificent grade II listed Milford House it was impossible not to wonder what Cuth Harrison would make of his company today. With the fourth generation lined up to join the business, one thing is sure: his legacy of customer service, taking care of your staff and striving to be the best lives on.

Platinum Finance moves to Tideswell

Platinum Finance has moved its northern office from Sheffield to Tideswell. The company, established in 2003 in Brighton, has over 30 independent financial advisors operating from eight locations across the UK and is winning industry awards for the quality of its service and financial advice.

Robert Beaumont, who runs the northern operation and has over 20 years of experience in financial services, has plans to recruit up to five new financial advisers as well as taking on an estate agency franchise; a will writing service is also being launched in the near future. Robert can be contacted on 01298 873062.

Rail group support for Day Centre

The Derby and Derbyshire Rail Forum (DDRF), which represents over 90 rail-related businesses in the East Midlands, sponsored Padley Day Centres lunchtime food and support programme in January. The Centre, based in Derby, not only offers hot meals but also advice, guidance and a range of support to its users. DDRF brought together a number of local groups to support the initiative, including DBS Law and the Sikh congregation of Derbys gurdwaras. Members of the Sri Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara, joined by staff from Birmingham-based DBS Law, used the 1,500 donation from the DDRF to prepare and serve food at the Centre during the 10-day initiative.

LEPs take their mark

With the imminent demise of the Regional Development Agencies (RDA) details of the interim board to run the new Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Notts and Derbys, are emerging.

The chairman of the shadow board is Colin Walton, who chairs the UK and Ireland division of Derby-based Bombardier Transportation. He will be joined by Peregrine Cavendish, the 12th Duke of Devonshire, David Robinson, president of Nottingham-based Speedo and Peter Varnsverry, head of manufacturing at Laing ORourke. The board will also include Richard Horsley of the Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, and the leaders of the four main local authorities in both counties. A university vice chancellor will represent the regions three universities.

Twenty-four LEPs were approved by the government last October to take over from the RDAs, with the condition that they are led by the private sector. Their purpose is to help create the right conditions for future economic prosperity and resilience in their area of operation. An early priority is likely to be drawing up a list of schemes to submit for a share of the governments 1.4 billion regional growth fund.

Latest from the Derbyshire Life and Countryside