Tag Archives: Mental Health UK

Things Mark learned from trekking in Cambodia

Things Mark learned from trekking in Cambodia

Mark Smith completed this challenge in October.  I was lucky enough to grab some time over  breakfast to talk about the trek itself. Here are some of his most memorable moments and observations:

 

 

 

 

 

1.Team spirit really, really works!

The hardest day was day 3 – a 16 mile walk with 1600 foot climb in 40 degree heat and very, very humid. The previous day the local guides had been chopping down the undergrowth to allow the group to get through the thick vegetation.  Sometimes we walked through sand and streams – it’s really tough walking on the sand. The support and encouragement  of the rest of the group was all that kept some people going yet everyone made it safely to the end of the day.

2. Blisters!

No need to say more here – some were so large I was seriously alarmed.

 

 

 

 

 

3. The scenery was stunning.

Most of the villages had Buddhist temples and we were able to camp in the shelter of their  pagodas. Because of the remote location, the water supply was often coloured. It was a treat to be able to take a dip in a river on the evening of day three. We didn’t really notice many insects but the size, colour and variety of the dragonflies and butterflies were amazing. Angkor Wat itself was an amazing experience and it is a major site for archaeological discoveries.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants |Traditional Cambodian house on stilts

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Cambodians are incredibly welcoming.

The hospitality of the people was great. The children were on their school holidays, so would greet us as we approached their villages. They were always smiling.  We gave out hundreds of pencils so they could use them in school! One day of the walk it rained so hard everyone had to walk through running water. A local family offered shelter from a thunderstorm  in their house built on stilts. Everyone squeezed into the living room of their two bedroom house and all the mattresses were bundled into the smaller room so that everyone had enough room to sit down. After a couple of hours the storm abated and the walk could continue but everybody  left feeling very grateful for local hospitality.

5. Food is basic but delicious.

The variety of fruit and veg was huge, with most evening meals stews containing either rice or noodles. The local bananas were tiny and their oranges were coloured green.

6. There are no bin collections

This was a sad observation – it’s caused by visiting tourists. Any dropped  litter – mainly plastic water bottles and energy bar wrappers – is swept up by the local villagers, but simply deposited at the boundary between villages as there is no local infrastructure in place to collect or recycle waste.

7. Personal organisation

The challenge of doing this trek as a diabetic is do-able. Blood tests, insulin injections and tablets CAN all be managed in a jungle if you are sufficiently focused and organised!

Chatting to different members of the group revealed a variety of reasons for taking part and many had either suffered themselves from mental illness or seen close family members suffer. The group came from many different functions in the bank and many different pay grades but all were united in their commitment to raising money for this good cause. The 70 people in the two groups raised over 1/2 million pounds for Mental Health UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It ‘s been a  real pleasure and a privilege  for me to  work alongside and support  the amazing Mark Smith with #MarksMentalHealthMarathon this year. Chris and I are  delighted that he has personally raised over £26,000 to date for this great cause of mental health. The seminars provided some great practical tips for the local  business community. It’s been fun meeting and interviewing all his local business sponsors and supporters. Thanks, Mark, for asking us to share a small part of your  personal project.

Gill Hutchinson

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Simon Davies of Spectra group

Meet our co-sponsor Simon Davies of Spectra group

Meet our co-sponsor Simon Davies of Spectra group

Spectra group has just been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation for its ‘Slingshot’ communications system. Spectra started when Simon moved into civilian life after 24 years in the army, where he worked in IT and communications in the Royal Signals. The business was initially set up as a one-man band, but now employs 35 people in Kingstone, Herefordshire.

The Queen’s Award is highly contested and is a noteworthy recognition of the outstanding commercial success that Spectra has achieved with their revolutionary system, SlingShot®.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Simon Davies of Spectra group

 

 

 

 

 

SlingShot is a lightweight device that delivers game-changing capabilities to existing military and civilian radio networks.  When connected to military or commercial UHF/VHF radios, Slingshot extends their range from under 50 miles to potentially 1000s of miles by utilising the commercial satellite network. Versatile enough to be used in aircraft, vehicles, maritime platforms and by individuals on the ground, Spectra is successfully marketing SlingShot internationally for military and non-military use, such as emergency services and disaster-relief, with a capability that has proved to be of critical importance and has undoubtedly contributed to the saving of lives.

Simon has built the company around quality products and services using radio and satellite technology. For their customers in the defence & security or the emergency services, communication is vital – it must work the first time, every time. “Failure is not an option” says Simon.  As the company has grown, having the right calibre people in the business who share this vision of quality has become one of the major challenges for him. “We’re fairly lucky” he says “our staff have stayed around, and one third of them have been here for over 10 years, but we are always on the lookout for good people.

A second challenge is that which comes from working in the defence sector; where politics and defence budgets are closely aligned. Spectra sell to customers all over the globe, but it can occasionally take several years from meeting a new potential customer to getting everything agreed. “Budgeting within these organisations can be done 1, 2 or even 3 years out, so there is a very long lead time before we start to supply them” explains Simon. The reputation of the company is important, as different organisations talk to each other and share information. The company has worked on recruiting proactive distributors, who know individual countries and the business customs, culture and practices they follow, to enable them to supply each new market.

Spectra understand their competitive advantage in their marketplace. “It’s very useful at times to be an SME” says Simon “it means we can be flexible and agile in our approach, in a way that’s not always possible within larger organisations”. A great example of this is their Slingshot system, which took just a week to get to a working prototype stage and was on sale in under 8 months. The beauty of this product is that, although the satellite technology that makes it work is complex, people operating it find it very simple to use in practice. This advantage means the product gets many word of mouth recommendations.

Simon decided to support Mark Mental Health Marathon when his HR manager attended the inspiring Mental Health – Practical help your business seminar at Hereford Cathedral School. “This is an issue we’ll all have to deal with” says Simon “Obviously, as an ex-military man you are very aware of the impact the work in Afghanistan and Iraq had on the mental health of the personnel who served, but this is an issue that is growing in the whole of our society.

The future for Spectra will be to continue to grow organically, as Simon has turned down several offers of acquisition from larger corporations. The need to attend many international trade shows means his diary is always full but Simon relaxes by following horse racing and is comfortable with the balance of work and relaxation he achieves in this beautiful part of Herefordshire..

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Co sponsor Spectra Group

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Business Community Carol service at All Saints

A warm invitation to the Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints

A warm invitation to the Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints

As the year draws to a close we’re delighted to welcome you to the 2019 Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints, in the heart of Worcester city centre.

Our friends at All Saints have kindly agreed to host what will be a fabulous event, so come and join us on Tuesday, 10th December to celebrate the festive season, catch up with friends and soak up the traditional candle-lit atmosphere at All Saints Church.

The Carol Service is the final event of 2019 which has seen your kind support help Lloyds Bank raise over £25,000 for Mental Health UK.  Thank you to everyone who has taken part in our awareness seminars, quizzes, art exhibitions and to those who have corporately or personally donated during the year.  Your encouragement has been hugely valued.This is our opportunity to say ‘thank-you’ and to bring together the Worcestershire business community to celebrate all that is good in this marvellous county.

This will be Lloyds Bank’s final 2019 event in support of Mental Health UK, where the huge generosity of the business community has raised over £25,000. Thank you for your
marvellous support! Mindful of the local needs of the county, there will be opportunity to support the Worcester Foodbank at a really important time of the year.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Worcester Foodbank Christmas appeal

 

 

 

 

So we can make sure we have enough prosecco, nibbles and mulled-wine for everyone, please let us know how many from your business would like to come along and we’ll see you
there! Please email mark Smith  Mark.Smith5@lloydsbanking.com with your business name and the contact email(s) of those attending.

Agenda

5pm        Doors open, soak up the Christmas atmosphere and enjoy a glass of Prosecco

6pm        Candlelit service with your favourite carols, readings and the All Saints Christmas Choir

7 – 8pm  Christmas nibbles, mulled wine and a chance to chat with friends and business contacts you may not have seen for far too long!

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Co sponsors Tudor Building Supplies

Meet co-sponsor Darren Burge of Tudor Building Supplies

Meet co-sponsor Darren Burge of Tudor Building Supplies

  1. You often hear MDs of successful companies say, “My door is always open”. For the team at Tudors Building Supplies, that is literally true because the office door is propped, permanently, open and a warm welcome awaits you when you say hello to Darren. In fact, when I visited the builders’ merchant on Burcott Road in Hereford, no fewer than four people had already said hello to me and offered help whilst I was just getting from my car to his office! For me, it sums up Tudors perfectly – these people run a large, complex business on family friendly principles, and they really do know all their customers inside out.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Tudor Building Supplies donate to Marks mental health marathon

 

 

 

 

 

 

The business has grown from the original timber business in 1993, complete with sawmill, when there were 8 people working there. Today they supply ‘bricks and blocks’, roofing, kitchens and bathrooms with a staff of 48 across three sites in Hereford. It’s managed by the ‘gang of four’ (Darren, David Wilkins, Paul Hann and John Davies) all local to the Hereford area, who went through a management buy of out of business in 2008. It was during the buy out that they first worked with Mark Smith at Lloyds Bank and they have valued his advice and support ever since.

The directors, who are all very modest about their business success, attribute it to being a trusted, local Herefordian supplier. They know literally hundreds of their customers, most of them are small and medium sized family builders, always dealing with them on first name terms. A customers’ personal phone call to a director will result in a short conversation to agree the best specification of product followed by a confirmation to ship it to ‘the usual address’ at an agreed time. Despite trading with several thousand customers, a director will have an in-depth knowledge of every one. “It’s not possible for us to be the cheapest supplier for every product, every time” says Darren “so we always offer a fair deal plus great customer service –  something you cannot always get from buying online – and we’ll always get something for a customer if it isn’t in stock. We’re also reasonable about putting things right if necessary, although this is very rarely required “. The team are happy to do a local site visit to help a customer solve particular building challenges and they have expertise in dealing with repairs to many of the heritage buildings around the county. By building long term, trusted advisor status in the trade, the staff have established Tudors at the heart centre of the local Herefordshire community.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Co-sponsor Tudors Building Supplies showroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

I asked what happens if they don’t all agree about a business decision, since the shares in the business are equal, with no-one holding a majority interest. “Real honesty is important” was the answer from Darren “and we usually have a chat over a pint and resolve the issue”. In fact, the only issue that keeps him awake at night is the future for their staff should there be an unexpected downturn in the housing market. As ‘family’, people are the most important factor in running this business.

Aardvark Marketing Consultanst Ltd | Co sponsors Tudors Building Supplies

 

 

 

 

 

The business has changed over the years, adding more products and retail showrooms for garden landscaping, kitchens and bathrooms, which means they are also open to the public, but their customer knowledge and great service has remained a constant. Behind the scenes there has been investment in new facilities such as showrooms and improving the layout of the yard, and a state-of-the-art stock and finance IT system has recently been installed.  This helps Tudors remain competitive on prices in a very competitive marketplace.

It’s not possible to maintain outstanding customer service without the right staff in place and, over the years, Tudors have recruited and retained the best staff at the core of their business. Their management style and training opportunities result in staff staying with the business and gradually assuming greater responsibility and new roles. People that joined as drivers or apprentices are now managers in the sales office or running some of the retail showrooms. Staff stay because of the friendly workplace atmosphere and the approachability of their managers, making the workplace feel like one big family. That real open-door policy means staff can talk to a director, at any time in the working day, simply by popping their head around the door and asking for a few minutes of their time. “In the past we’ve been able to help and support members of the team when they hit a personal issue, whether this is due to physical or mental health, or a family matter” explains Darren “so we think we’re pretty approachable”.

Community is very important to Tudors; they are very generous donating both their time and money to local charities. Darren is a big supporter of St Michael’s Hospice and Tudor sponsor their quarterly magazine. Tudors regularly send teams to support many charity golf days or quizzes and there will be a competitive team presence at the Marks Mental Health Hereford quiz night. Often, it’s practical help that’s required rather than donations and the Tudor team are happy to do their bit for a local school fete by donating something for the raffle. These guys are really part of the fabric of Hereford, not simply another large national company.

So, whether you are a trade or DIY customer, you can be sure of getting friendly advice from the guys at Tudors when they ask you “How can I help?”

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Lts | Tudors Building Supplies logo

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 4

Jeremy Houghton art exhibition supports Marks Mental Health Marathon

Jeremy Houghton art exhibition supports Marks Mental Health Marathon

Aardvark Marketing are proud to sponsor Marks Mental Health Marathon. This week, Mark Smith is delighted to announce that renowned local artist Jeremy Houghton will be exhibiting his latest works of art at Webbs of Wychbold on Thursday, 17th October and donating a percentage of his sales to the charity, Mental Health UK.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 1“Jeremy and I were friends at school and have known each other for over 30 years” says Ed Webb, “so of course we’re very pleased we can help Mental Health UK by hosting this exciting fundraising event here at Webbs.”   As a large local employer, Webbs takes the mental health of its employees seriously, with a variety of support available for all staff. Webbs have just been recognised with an ’Excellence in Wellbeing Award’ through the Great Places to Work scheme.

 

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 2Jeremy Houghton is a British painter whose work attempts to capture movement and journeys. With a career marked by contrasting experiences and places (he studied in France and then worked for a number of years in South Africa), as well as a long-standing commitment to the countryside, Houghton’s work spans a broad spectrum – from the arresting drama of dynamic sports to the ever-changing patterns of migrating flamingos.

 

 

 

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 3Since he began to paint full-time in the mid-2000s, Houghton has divided his practice between creating standalone pieces in the studio using reference photographs and sketches and producing work via documentary residences. Over the last ten years he has been invited to detail the life of a number of high-profile communities, from those at Windsor Castle and Highgrove to last year’s Wimbledon championships, and the competitors at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Last year, inspired by the centenary of the RAF he sketched former airmen from WW2. With each of these projects Houghton is interested in getting beyond public perception, documenting instead the everyday scenes that characterise an event or place.

 

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 4Although Houghton’s focus ranges quite widely, his technique remains a constant. Emphasis on painted shapes of light and space, (or unpainted paper with his watercolours), contrasting against areas of liquid colour enables his subjects to shimmer in the liminal territory between figuration and abstraction. With extraneous detail removed, the paintings are also hard to place, giving them an ahistorical quality that serves to underline their fluidity.

 

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 5Houghton continually explores the potential of negative space to represent light, and often references ma, the concept in Japanese aesthetics that translates roughly as ‘gap’ or ‘pause’, and which in traditional practice helps balance the relationship between different areas of an image. This focus on the space between things lends his paintings, even when they are of something as solid as a horse or a racing boat, a surprising delicacy. Houghton holds his subjects on a very thin, almost invisible line between motion and the ability to transcend time.

 

Marks Mental Health Marathon was started by Mark Smith of Lloyds bank, who is raising money for Mental Health UK to allow them to support more people going through challenging times with mental health issues. He is organising a series of local seminars for business owners to learn more about the practical steps they can take in their business to support their teams should they encounter someone in need of help.

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Meet our co-sponsors – Tom Blencowe and Imogen Heath of RLUK

Meet our co-sponsors – Tom Blencowe and Imogen Heath of RLUK

We are proud to be sponsoring Mark Smith in his Mental Health Marathon as he takes on the Cambodian jungle later in the year. We are also delighted to be supporting Mark alongside some truly outstanding people…

“Diversify or die” is the business mantra of Tom Blencowe, CEO of RLUK group. He believes in today’s fast-moving world of retail, being quick off the block with new ideas and having a flexible approach is the key to long term success. Labels Shopping is certainly in a challenging marketplace, with the toll of failures in big name, big brand high street retailers happening at almost frightening speed. “It’s become almost impossible to predict future retail trends,” says Tom, “which is proving difficult even for even the bigger retailers to do; we’ve always focused on moving forwards rather than staying still, reacting quickly and flexibly to changing market and local conditions”.

I met up with Tom and Imogen Heath, Commercial Director, in their impressive Labels shopping outlet at Ross on Wye. The business has changed over the years, outgrowing the original country store, developing new business models and adding new attractions to make Labels Shopping a better experience. The shopping centre has a enticing mix of outlets – over 50 brands of clothing, plus accessories,shoes, luggage, home furnishings, furniture and giftware.

It’s also a real foodies’s paradise, with a tempting array of brands and lots of local produce in the Food Emporium, Farm shop and local butcher. Fruit, vegetables and free-range eggs for the shop comes from their own local farm, as well as meat from the small numbers of sheep, Tamworth and Welsh pigs. Eating out options onsite include the café, with lovely views of the Herefordshire countryside and the Seafood bar.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Inside the Gateway cinema at Labels

The latest addition is the Gateway – a 50-seater cinema with comfy Anemone red leather sofas, where you can watch a movie, a streamlined live opera, pop concert or ballet or enjoy live theatre. You can tuck into a meal before a matinee or evening performance or just relax in the bar beforehand. The business plans on having more comedy nights and foreign films into the future, building up new audiences. Much of the upper ground floor of the building is being developed to be an entertainment and leisure space and there are exciting plans in the pipeline to add more health and wellness options – a hair and beauty salon, a health foods store plus physio and therapy space.

Tom has seen many changes to the site over the years, from the original purchase of the site and developing a purpose-built building to developing the office block. Originally the offices were going to be run as a hot desking/flexible working option, but a couple of organisations snapped up the site for new offices, so the plan was changed, and this now provides the group with rental income. It’s this ability of the management team to adapt and offer something new and exciting at the park that has underpinned their success.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | The Gateway cinema bar at Labels

Imogen explained how the shopping business had changed in the 5 years she’s been working there. “We moved from a concession model to a tenant basis in 2015 on the lower ground floor, which gives a more stable income and have retained some space for our own brands, as with, for example, the Food Emporium.” The cinema has a superb state of the art sound system and Tom designed the space.  “The popularity of the opera and ballet performances are due to the quality of the sound” she says “and the events sell out really fast, so you have to be quick to get tickets”.  She’s also a believer is surrounding herself with a strong team and the group employ an expert from the film industry to plan the diverse events calendar. The July and August programme includes magic, puppet theatre, vintage cars, craft workshops, or you could try the story time and illustration workshop with children’s’ author Hannah Shaw.

Tom and Mark Smith go back many years and they have developed a strong partnership based on mutual respect. “I really enjoy working with Mark” says Tom, “as we can have a chat about life as well as talk business”. We’re pleased to be supporting Mark in raising money for Mental Health, which Tom knows from experience of working as an architect in hospitals, has been a poor relation to physical illness in the health service for years. On 2nd October Labels are generously hosting a Mental Health– Practical Help For You & Your Business seminar in the cinema. The business is also involved in fundraising for a local charity as Teenagers In Crisis are their chosen charity of for 2019. On 9th October, they will be hosting two fashion shows, with some of the teenagers who have used the helpline becoming their models for the day.

Naturally, I couldn’t leave Labels without indulging in a little retail therapy involving clothes and puddings and I’m sure every visitor will feel the same about this treasure trove on our doorsteps!

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Labels

If you would like to read more about Mark’s Mental Health Marathon please click here.

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Meet Rob Bartup of GB Liners, one of our co-sponsors

Meet Rob Bartup of GB Liners, one of our co-sponsors

We are proud to be sponsoring Mark Smith in his Mental Health Marathon as he takes on the Cambodian jungle later in the year. We are also delighted to be supporting Mark alongside some truly outstanding people…

Keeping the family business on the road through the peaks and troughs of economic cycles isn’t easy, but MD Rob Bartup takes everything in his stride and has resilience written all over him.

The business was started as Bartups of Brighton by his grandfather in 1923. His father came into the business after being in the RAF and having ended up in a PoW camp in the Middle East in 1944. Coming home aged just 26, he was dispatched to manage the ‘Hereford office’, which then had just one van. He remained working at GB Liners until he passed away in 1995. Rob has always worked in the business, although he was tempted by a several job offers in accountancy after finishing University and has one regret – that he might have preferred taking up the law as a profession

.Marks Mental Health Marathon | GB Liners 3

Rob took over the Hereford office in 1975, when the team had grown to about 15 and there were half a dozen removal vans in two locations – Hereford and Brighton. Today their dedicated staff operate a fleet of 90 vehicles from 11 UK offices. The network has grown by acquisition of smaller businesses – not always at opportune moments – and frequently when tough competition had drawn smaller competitors into serious cashflow difficulties. The sites at Bristol and Cheltenham were the first to be taken over when the owners went bust, their Hereford site merged into GB Liners Hereford.  Leeds was another smaller, 2 van business which was acquired next; then came Manchester, ‘a difficult’ start up’ according to Rob. A warehouse storage site in Cirencester was later bought and a branch established. Loughborough and Edinburgh followed, then a business in St Helens which was merged into the Manchester office. Aberdeen was bought at the height of the North Sea oil and gas boon, only to present problems in 2007/08 as the oil price crashed. The last acquisition was of a sales office in Paris, to help manage growing demand for intercontinental business. Rob denies there is an overall ‘grand plan’ however is currently on the lookout for strategically placed acquisitions in the Northeast, East or South.

Rob appreciates the role of Mark Smith at Lloyds Bank in these considerable number of property acquisitions. Some have had complex compliance requirements; others have gone through in a remarkably smooth and speedy manner. What’s been valuable is knowing at an early stage whether the interest shown by GB Liners would be likely to lead to a successful purchase, and a great deal of time, effort and energy hasn’t been expended on those unlikely to fly. Mark has given sage advice and has an ability to explain in simple language the intricacies of some of the things GB Liners have tried to do.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | GB Liners 1

The housing market and the removals business follows what Rob refers to as the ‘the economic cycle magnified many times over’. There are times when house sales are buoyant, and their existing staff and removal vans literally cannot cope with the high volume of consumer demand. At times of economic downturn, the opposite happens. “2008-09 was the worst” says Rob, “when nothing was happening”. He also recalls recessions in 1979 – 81, the introduction of the 3-day week and describes 1988-1992 as ‘extremely horrible.’ The business has always had to stash the cash at peak capacity and then watch it pour out in the downturns when the few business opportunities available get drawn into ‘silly price’ competition.

The challenge of new regulation changes and politics is never far away. The imminent introduction of Clean Air Zones around the country will have a severe impact. GB Liners managed the introduction of London’s’ Congestion zone by moving the vehicles around between offices, with newer models that complied with changing regulation on diesel engines used there. In the very near future, new zones could potentially be introduced in Bristol, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Birmingham and Leeds. Rob predicts that Manchester will introduce restrictions. This makes life difficult for a business that has a vehicle  lifecycle of 15 years, as they’ll either have to be replaced early (and the old ones cannot be sold off as their residual value will be lowered) or customers will have pay a surcharge of about £100 per day if it involves a congestion zone.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | GB Liners 2

Currently GB Liners has about one third of its business coming from moves across Europe, so Brexit could have a huge impact on the business. The scale of the challenge getting goods moved through the channel ports is huge, with the number of staff at customs agents reduced from a pre single market peak of 3,000 to around 150 people today in just five agencies. This could potentially mean each person having to process 12,000 consignments per day! Rob explained that even the planned ‘Simplified Transit Procedure’ wasn’t finalised yet and would require paperwork to be processed both before and after the movement of the removal vans. Without advance notice of what would be required it’s difficult for the business managers to put Brexit plans in place.

GB Liners have adapted to every change in the past and will, no doubt be equally successful in the future, whatever the economic and political climate. Over the years, the managers and teams have pulled together to share ideas and solutions and Rob is very proud of his staff who have stayed with the firm through thick and thin. GB Liners takes pride in their excellent service delivered by very dedicated people. “One thing I’ve learned, says Rob, “is that the cost of putting something right is unbearable, so we work very hard at making sure things are right first time. The reputation of the company for their high-quality service is our most important asset”.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Sponsor GB Liners

Marks Mental Health marathon | GB Liners

If you would like to read more about Mark’s Mental Health Marathon please click here.

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Meet our co-sponsor Mark Harrison

Meet our co-sponsor Mark Harrison

We are proud to be sponsoring Mark Smith in his Mental Health Marathon as he takes on the Cambodian jungle later in the year. We are also delighted to be supporting Mark alongside some truly outstanding people…

Mark Harrison had a background in manufacturing and then in corporate finance before starting to manage glass processing businesses. United Glass Group has grown out of small team of dedicated directors who spotted opportunities to buy and transform family businesses where the owner was ready to retire. The team are close with Mark’s Father involved. His brother introduced him to Mark Smith at Lloyds bank who were involved with financial support from the start. The first company acquired was Brownhills Glass Co, in 2012 as a management buyout team, followed by a part share in Tufwell Glass near Gatwick when this was divested by the parent company (a PLC orphan was how Mark described the company). In 2015, a further finance deal enabled the group to expand with the acquisition of PLG in the Northeast. In 2018 the latest refinance deal, with alternative finance company Duke Royalty enabled the group to acquire the remaining shares of Tufwell Glass to form the group as it is today.

Mark is a very modest capitalist, who doesn’t have a particular ‘grand plan’ for commercial acquisitions, however he has a good eye for spotting an opportunity when the time is right and is not afraid to be opportunistic. Going through some tough times with difficult market conditions has focused the new management teams on what matters to grow each company and realise commercial success. He is a big believer in transforming attitudes towards customers and proactively seeking new business rather than waiting for orders to arrive. Each business is committed to processing orders and confirming the supply date within a few hours. Integrating the businesses within their customers supply chains and trying to improve communication at all stages has been one of the keys to growth.

Much of this transformation has come from some good senior hires along with working hard to change the teams’ attitudes to be more customer orientated and focus on delivery. Some recruits have experience outside the glass industry as well as some from within it but all are prepared to knock on new doors and ask for an order rather than have a chat about the state of the local football team! As the group has grown, customers have also appreciated having more than one UK manufacturing site to call upon, which adds security and flexibility into their supply chain.

Having a larger market share has improved the commercial buying clout of the group and allowed specialisms to flourish. Tufwell Glass are market leading, through short lead-times, in the supply of partitioning glass for commercial applications. PLG is a market leader in over-size production capabilities providing bespoke glass for stunning structurally engineered pieces often in iconic construction projects. At Brownhills in the Black Country the business is split in half. 50% of the sales are made to measure, bespoke products for tradespeople, the other half comes from having large stocks of flat glass in standard stock sizes products, for example for double glazing businesses. As Mark explains “apart from printing and glass bending there is nothing we cannot do. We do everything else”.

The management team are unafraid to challenge traditional ways of working. “We are confident in taking a long, hard look at ourselves to see how we can make the most of our opportunities” says Mark. The way the group has grown has meant that, at times, we were very driven by decisions that would help manage the short term cashflow, and less focused on the longer term, strategic decisions. We have been fortunate to have good people around us. Mark Smith at Lloyds has been supportive at every stage and a non-exec board member has been invaluable in introducing us to contacts in the corporate finance arena.” The group is now successfully building a cash buffer and Mark has his expert eye on another related acquisition opportunity.

As the group success has grown, Mark describes how he takes satisfaction from being able to employ around 140 people “making stuff”. He believes there is always a fine balance to be struck between having group systems and processes that add efficiency and profitability but not losing sight of the unique character and flavour of the original businesses. Whilst they are building their reputation with larger customers who need products supplied across across the UK, many of their customers remain those who prefer to deal with someone they know, like and have trusted for many years. Black Country tradesman still phone up and ask for Rose or Linda at Brownhills, and many remember their fathers doing the same!

The competitive engineering streak is alive and well in this team. Mark describes how he joins his Father and his Brother in motorsport activates at the weekend, often racing around a circuit against other cars. As a child Mark’s hobby was Go Karting. Now his son, who loves Lego, is getting excited about a visit to Silverstone, his youngest, a daughter, seems also to be developing a no-fear personality. After buying Brownhills he says the family weekend conversations were mainly work related but they realised recently this has changed with work rarely being mentioned. Whatever their next project, the future looks bright!

If you would like to read more about Mark’s Mental Health Marathon please click here.

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Thoughts on Mental Health

Thoughts on Mental Health

Further to our previous blog “Spotlight on Mental Health” we have two more individuals discussing their reactions to the brilliant Mental Health seminars as hosted by Mark Smith. Mark Smith is aiming to raise a staggering £25,000 for Mental Health UK for his forthcoming Cambodian trek. As part of his fundraising he is hosting a series of seminars tackling mental health in the workplace.

At Aardvark Marketing we are proud to be supporting Mark Smith in his efforts, alongside some truly inspirational business leaders. Speakers at the mental health seminars include Harrison Clark Rickerbys discussing the legal aspect, and a speaker from Bishop Fleming who gives an incredible and honest insight into managing mental health both personally and professionally.

Here are two attendees from the recent seminars sharing what they learnt. The first is Richard Nicol from Nicol & Co Estate Agents.

The second is Gill Wooldridge from Bradley Haines Law, discussing how she found the seminar helpful given her role in HR.

There are three more Mental Health Seminars planned for later in the year.

All these events follow the same format:

  • Light refreshments.
  • Opening remarks and introduction.
  • Mental Health UK – support for you and your business.
  • Harrison Clark Rickerbys – legal obligations and implications.
  • Bishop Fleming – Honest and practical experiences of a business leader in managing personal and employee wellbeing.
  • Close and light refreshments.

These are free events, with a suggested donation of £25 or more to Mental Health UK, via this Just Giving site, to support Lloyds Bank’s national charity.

Date: Wednesday, 25th September
Time: 8am – 11am
Venue: Malvern College, College Rd, Malvern WR14 3DF
To book your place on the Malvern seminar email Mark.Smith5@lloydsbanking.com and put Malvern 25th September in the email.

Date: Wednesday, 2nd October
Time: 2pm – 5pm
Venue: Ross Labels, Ross Park, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 7US
To book your place on the Ross on Wye seminar email Mark.Smith5@lloydsbanking.com and put Ross 2nd October in the email.

Monmouthshire – November
Date: TBC
Time: TBC
Venue: Monmouth, details TBC

We look forward to seeing you all there!

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants are sponsors of MarksMentalHealthMarathon

Spotlight on mental health

Spotlight on mental health

We recently attended two Mental Health Seminars, hosted by Mark Smith of Lloyds Bank as part of his fundraising for his Mental Health Marathon. Mark is aiming to raise £25,000 for Mental Health UK and is taking part in a Cambodian trek.

Mental health is one of more pressing problems of our time, and managing mental health effectively in the workplace has a massive financial implication for businesses. Not only is there the obvious sick leave, but the less obvious reduced productivity has a huge implication. Considering the mental health of your employees, is not only compassionate but also shows good business sense.

During the seminars there were a variety of speakers, talking about mental health from different angles. Mental Health UK discussed how to support you and your business, Harrison Clark Rickerbys discussed the legal aspect, and a speaker from Bishop Fleming gave an incredible and honest insight into managing mental health both personally and professionally.

Here are two attendees reflecting on what they have learnt from the seminar. The first is Mike Forrester from Orchard Valley Foods, also representing the Chamber of Commerce.

The next clip is Rev Dr Richard Johnson. Rev Johnson is vicar at All Saints church in Worcester, Mark Smith’s church, but also attended as representing the church, to increase their understanding of mental health in the workplace.

There are three more Mental Health Seminars planned for later in the year.

All these events follow the same format:

  • Light refreshments.
  • Opening remarks and introduction.
  • Mental Health UK – support for you and your business.
  • Harrison Clark Rickerbys – legal obligations and implications.
  • Bishop Fleming – Honest and practical experiences of a business leader in managing personal and employee wellbeing.
  • Close and light refreshments.

These are free events, with a suggested donation of £25 or more to Mental Health UK, via this Just Giving site, to support Lloyds Bank’s national charity.

Date: Wednesday, 25th September
Time: 8am – 11am
Venue: Malvern College, College Rd, Malvern WR14 3DF
To book your place on the Malvern seminar email Mark.Smith5@lloydsbanking.com and put Malvern 25th September in the email.

Date: Wednesday, 2nd October
Time: 2pm – 5pm
Venue: Ross Labels, Ross Park, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 7US
To book your place on the Ross on Wye seminar email Mark.Smith5@lloydsbanking.com and put Ross 2nd October in the email.

Monmouthshire – November
Date: TBC
Time: TBC
Venue: Monmouth, details TBC

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Please follow and like us: