All posts by Paul Andrews

Paul is the founder and editor of More Yorkshire, the latest digital publication that he has launched.

10 Steps To Achieving A Pension Scheme Buy-Out

Ben Fowler, Managing Director of Western Pension Solutions, shares his thoughts.

If you’re a family business with a legacy final salary scheme, a full buy-out of your scheme with an insurance company will almost always be the best outcome for all stakeholders. For your business, it removes an unpredictable non-core liability from the balance sheet and liberates you and the company from the cost and complexity of pension regulation. For your current and former employees, an insured buy-out provides the strongest guarantee that the pension promise will be paid in full.

You will no doubt have been told that the cost of a buy-out is prohibitive, but that overlooks the many things you could be doing to make what seems a distant dream an achievable reality. At the Vestey Group, we achieved a full Buy-out of the £500m liability Western United Group Pension Scheme without any cash contribution from the company and with very significant benefit improvements for members.

Positive outcomes such as this can only be achieved by developing a fully integrated long-term strategy. Of course, all businesses and all pension schemes have their unique features, but there are many aspects of the Vestey strategy that can be readily transferred to other family businesses.

Here are 10 steps towards a successful buy-out strategy…

Taking the lead – It’s vitally important that you take the initiative in setting the long-term strategy for your pension scheme. That’s because you are uniquely placed to take into account the full range of diverse stakeholder interests, including the needs of the business and future generations of your family. The Trustees of your pension scheme (and their advisers) are required to take a much narrower view based entirely on the interests of scheme members. Once you’ve agreed your objective from the shareholder and company perspective, the next step is to make sure that everyone is aligned behind it.

Find the right advisers to support your strategy – Both the Company and the Trustee’s advisers need to understand the unique features of your business and the scheme. More importantly, they need to share your commitment to success. These are challenging times for businesses with pension schemes – it’s no longer good enough for advisers to earn their fees by simply turning up at meetings and letting their modelling tools do all the work. Neither is it helpful to have consultants present you with big-ticket projects that promise much, but often deliver little in supporting your strategy.

Set an ambitious but realistic funding target – It’s important you set a long-term funding target that reflects the cost of achieving a Buy-out on good commercial terms. This will almost certainly be a lower target than the Scheme Actuary’s prudent estimate. In the case of the Vestey scheme, the actuarial reports were still showing a significant deficit when the deals themselves produced a significant surplus.

Investment strategy – Trustees are often required to spend far too much time discussing the minutiae of investment strategy at the expense of broader strategic objectives. Ultimately, the aim is to build up a portfolio of assets that can be transferred quickly and cost effectively to the insurer. That means having a strategy and usually formal mechanisms in place to de-risk the assets as you move closer towards your funding target.

Governance matters – Having the right governance structure and processes is essential to support the strategy. The pension schemes of family businesses often benefit from strong governance and it’s not unusual for family members to be represented on the trustee board. That’s all well and good, but for a Buy-out strategy to be effective, there need to be processes in place that facilitate quick decision-making and fast execution. Otherwise, opportunities will simply pass you by. There are several models you can adopt and the one that is appropriate for you will depend on a range of factors.

Make your money work harder – Putting your money in a pension scheme feels like feeding a black hole, which is why it’s important to look at ways that existing budgets for pension expenses (including those for deficit recovery contributions) can be better used to create long term value. That means investing in elements of the strategy that will ultimately reduce the cost of a Buy-out. As you get closer to your funding target, you may even be willing to make a final cash contribution equal to the discounted value of future adviser expenses.

Data and documents – Achieving a Buy out on good commercial terms can only be achieved if you have optimised your data and your scheme documents can stand up to insurer due diligence. Most pension schemes have only carried out the most superficial of checks aimed at meeting weak regulatory standards and often the opportunity to gather highly price sensitive data is missed. Data cleansing and due diligence are incredibly dull subjects to engage with, but anybody who has been involved in buying or selling a business will understand its importance in securing a good deal. The Vestey scheme was a complex arrangement made up of more than 200 separate companies. Cleansing the data was a long and difficult process, but the hard work paid significant dividends when it came to transacting in the Buy-out market. Failure to deal with these issues in advance can lead to nasty surprises when you go to market.

Manage your liabilities for mutual benefit – A successful Buy-out strategy will focus equally on both sides of the pension scheme balance sheet. A series of carefully-managed liability management exercises has the potential to significantly accelerate your journey towards Buy-out in a way that can lead to more positive outcomes for members. The key to a successful exercise is to find the optimum trade-offs where a benefit that would be otherwise expensive to insure can be paid to members in a different form that better suits their personal circumstances and lifestyle needs. It’s essential that these types of exercises are carefully planned in relation to the overall strategy and only after you have fully clarified your scheme’s data and benefit structure. A poorly executed exercise may result in overall liability reduction, but it will erode the trust of your members and can potentially lead to long term reputational damage for you and your business.

Crossing the line – The market for buying out pension schemes is more dynamic and innovative than you might think. Timing your approach into the market is clearly important, but securing insurer engagement is key. That means your pension scheme needs to be fully transaction-ready and you need to demonstrate your ability and willingness to follow through with the deal if an insurer can meet your price target. A highly process-driven approach to securing a Buy-out, which ignores the dynamics of the market, may give the illusion of efficiency, but it’s unlikely to yield the best results.

Pension schemes rarely buy out in one go (the Vestey Buy-out was a series of three transactions spread over 2 years). In practice, it’s more likely you will insure the benefits in a sequence of smaller insurance deals (known as Buy-ins). Once you start on this process, you will find the process develops its own momentum and insurers will always be more willing to engage with schemes that have experience of doing deals.

Delivering on the promise – Buying out your pension scheme is a big step but securing the benefits of your members with an insurer is the most effective fulfilment of that promise, not a dereliction of duty. Your members will thank you for it and so will the next generation of your family.

Western Pension Solutions (“WPS”) is a specialist pension consultancy that provides strategic advice to family businesses for managing their legacy defined benefit pension schemes.

Following their success in managing the Vestey pension scheme, we were founded by Ben Fowler and the Vestey family with the clear purpose of helping other families solve their pension issues in ways that are fully aligned with their objectives as business owners.

Find out more by visiting their website here

Businesses Need Sustainable Products

A recent global report from the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed online searches for sustainable goods increased by 71 per cent from 2016 to 2021, proving that consumers have changed their buying habits.

It’s no longer enough for brands to produce just ‘any’ item. Customers want products that are kind to the environment, as well as guaranteed to last a long time. Expert design and graphic company Novograf explains what sustainability is and how your business can tick the right boxes.

What is meant by ‘sustainable’ products?
The ultimate goal would be to live in a world where all products are made from raw materials that can then be reused over and over again.
Reality isn’t quite there yet; however, there are ways we can shrink our carbon footprint by expanding the lifespan of the products that we produce and consume.

As a result of this, as much use will be gained for each kilogram of waste produced at the end of the lifecycle of a product.

Keep the three Rs in mind
If you’re serious about creating sustainable products that have a long-life expectancy, keep the three Rs in mind.

Reduce – Maximise material usage and minimise waste, both in process and product.

Reuse – Adopt reprocessing practices that reinforce sustainability throughout the whole supply chain.

Recycle – Use natural or recycled materials. It’s the key to the sustainability of products!

Ross Campbell, Digital Business Development Manager at Novograf, commented: “The three Rs of sustainability are at the core of everything we do. To reduce waste, we’ve implemented clever nesting techniques to utilise offcuts, and when it comes to reusing, we reprocess packaging to reduce waste.”

“Our base materials comprise of 30% recycled materials, and we’re currently working towards developing 100% recyclable products. All these small measures combined have resulted in <0.73% wastage in the last 12 months and challenging targets for the future.”

Now we’ve established the three Rs, let’s look at two other important components that determine the sustainability of a product: quality and repairability.

Quality and durability
Durable, quality materials must be used to create a product that has a long life span. Strive to improve your supply chain by partnering with high-quality construction suppliers that are Considerate Constructors accredited, ensuring reduced risk and improved safety, as well as sustainability, on all projects. As well as this, it’s important that the utmost care and attention are given to the production process, using skilled staff and robust equipment.

When it’s time to launch the product, first check all your efforts have indeed resulted in an item that’s quality and built to last a long time. Of course, it’s inevitable the product will reach the end of its lifecycle at some point, but the longer it lasts, the better for the environment. When it is time to dispose of it, it can be done consciously.

Longevity equals repairability
A guaranteed way to generate more waste and produce further CO2 emissions is to continuously replace products. As well as this, more natural resources are used and there are higher levels of consumer spending. One way to combat all of these issues is to create a product that can be repaired over replaced.

Campbell continued: “If a section of the surface of one of our products gets damaged, for example, you only need to replace the patch that needs repairing instead of the whole thing. That extends the life span of our products by another ten years compared to traditional surface products.”

“We offer customers options to conserve, protect, and extend the life of existing furniture items while reducing waste. Our 3D surface emulations and range of external and internal graphics mean that you can easily change the colour and brand design without replacing the whole unit. This is a win-win situation both for the environment and your budget.”

Making small changes in our lives can create a greener future, which is what we all need to be doing. Be excited to be a part of the change and pay the eco mentality forwards with more and more customers embracing sustainability.

Workers Set To Storm The Office This Winter

New research indicates that 85% of office workers find the idea of working from the office more appealing amidst rising energy prices.

Working from the office is looking more and more tempting to over four in five UK workers amidst rising energy bills, according to new research. The study, conducted by online printing specialists, instantprint, involved interviewing 1,000 UK employees in the hopes of exploring how staff will be planning on working this winter.

Nearly half (45%) of hybrid workers were found to be more likely to make the commute into the office to alleviate the impact of high energy bills, with 15% claiming that they’ll choose to work from the office the whole of winter.

The influx of workers may pose a problem for employers. When asked whether workers’ office spaces, 15% admitted their office wasn’t able to provide capacity for the full team.

The survey aimed to uncover the reasons behind why office workers are more inclined to work from the office this winter. The top reasons are:

  1. Collaboration opportunities (46%)
  2. Better work-life balance (46%)
  3. Free tea/coffee/snacks (39%)
  4. Temperature control (36%)
  5. Easier to concentrate (33%)
  6. Gets me out of the house (24%)
  7. The people (17%)
  8. More training/progression opportunities (6%)

Although free hot drink facilities and temperature control scored highly (39% and 36% respectively), the top perks for employees working from the office were better collaboration opportunities and work-life balance, both securing 46% of the vote.

Only 6% believe working from the office will present them with more training and progression opportunities, and just 17% see spending time with their co-workers as a perk.

The survey also found that nearly one in four (24%) of UK workers feel like their employers could be supporting them more during the cost-of-living crisis, and 73% believe that employers in general should be doing more to support their workers with their rising energy bills.

4% of respondents admitted that they aren’t being supported at all. This translates to over 1.3 million employees in the UK.

Top ways to support employees during the cost-of-living crisis

  1. Pay rises or bonuses (45%)
  2. Educate employees on any tax relief that’s available to them (44%)
  3. Encourage/incentivise the use of public transport (39%)
  4. Provide free hot drinks (37%)
  5. Encourage/incentivise car-sharing (33%)
  6. Provide free hot meals (23%)
  7. Offer finance and budgeting training (22%)

At 45%, pay rises and bonuses to help with the cost-of-living are perhaps unsurprisingly at the top of the list. Following closely behind, 44% of respondents want more education on tax relief that’s available.

As well as incentives for public transport (39%) and car-sharing (33%), 37% would appreciate their firm providing free hot drinks to keep them warm this winter.

Alternatively, three respondents shared that they believed it’s not the employer’s responsibility to support employees at all during the cost-of-living crisis.

Despite men and women stating they are both as likely to come into the office more this winter (58% and 59% respectively), men are more inclined to find this an appealing option (86% vs 83%).

41% of men appreciate the free hot drinks available in the office compared with 36% of women. However, 39% women cited the office heating as a key benefit vs 32% of men. Women were also seen to be more likely to use working from the office as an excuse to get out of the house than men (27% vs 21%).

Perhaps shockingly, men feel more supported by their employer than women ahead of soaring energy prices (73% vs 65%).

When asked what support hybrid workers want their employers to provide, more women want a pay rise than men (48% vs 43%), whereas men are more likely to want finance and budgeting training (25% vs 20%) and education on tax relief (46% vs 42%).

Laura Mucklow, Head of instantprint, commented on the findings: “With the demand for office space set to surpass maximum capacity for many businesses, it’s important to prepare your space and processes early for remote and hybrid workers coming into the office.”

“If your office space doesn’t have the capacity for a full team, you’ll need to find a way to manage the space fairly, for example by introducing a seat booking policy. From tidying up the office to modifying it with wall mountable storage, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to work from the office as and when they need to this winter.”

Helping Employees Deal With Stress & Anxiety

It is entirely normal for working professionals to experience increased stress and anxiety at some point throughout their careers. As a matter of fact, stress and anxiety have been found to be highly prolific in the UK.

This has been correlated with the Coronavirus pandemic, as an estimated 449,000 individuals report that work-related stress, depression, or anxiety was either caused or made worse by the impact of Covid-19.

However, this prolificacy has encouraged the destigmatisation of mental illness in the workplace, as businesses and employers have come to recognise the importance of awareness, acceptance, and support. Of course, this is complex, and employers sometimes aren’t familiar with the best means of supporting any staff members struggling with stress and anxiety. Understandably, it isn’t something they want to get wrong.

Fortunately, we have an ideal expert on hand to help. Anthony Webb, ‘The Brain Whisperer’ is now showcasing some of the most effective strategies for supporting impacted employees, helping every business enrich the wellbeing of their teams.

  1. Promote open communication

Recent surveys conducted by mental health charity ‘Mind’ have revealed that 20% of working adults feel they can’t tell their boss if they are stressed at work, whilst one in two employees diagnosed with a mental health condition such as stress, anxiety, or depression haven’t told their manager. Developing a culture of open communication within the workplace allows employees to feel comfortable discussing their personal troubles with without fear of judgement, which is fundamental to their success.

With many businesses now offering remote working opportunities, encouraging communication through something as simple as regular 1-on-1 meetings with each team member, or maintaining an open-door policy, is all the more important; this will facilitate the development of a positive and connected professional environment, with no employees feeling isolated. As open communication has been found to correlate with heightened productivity and engagement amongst employees, communication is evidently an important consideration for business leaders.

  1. Make employees aware of mental health resources

Increased mental health awareness over recent years has made valuable resources readily available which help employees manage their respective struggles, and employers confidently support their teams.

Mental health apps, online training courses, and support from mental health professionals, for example, all provide pragmatic solutions for helping employees deal with their stress and anxiety. By directing employees towards these resources, whilst implementing their teachings yourself as an employer, you can showcase your commitment to the health and wellbeing of your workforce and ultimately create a more supportive environment.

For example, as a guest speaker I visit businesses and share with their employees valuable advice, practice teachings which help to shift mindsets in the right direction, and ultimately equip team members with the skills and support they need to succeed.

  1. Maintain a healthy work-life balance

Alongside the traditional 8 hour working day, as many as 3 million UK employees have found themselves working, on average, an additional 7.7 hours per week, with many finding themselves checking their emails or finishing tasks late on into the night.

This increasingly demanding work culture has become one of the most significant factors behind stress and anxiety among working adults. Therefore, if employers hope to tackle these struggles, it’s incredibly important that they encourage their staff to enjoy and maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Whilst flexible working opportunities can help staff sustain an effective work-life balance, there are further approaches which can be implemented. For example, regularly reviewing workloads can help managers identify team members who are being overworked, alongside those with capacity to support their colleagues. I would recommend that employers regularly discuss workloads with their team members to ensure they are not feeling overwhelmed or overridden; in doing so, a balance can be found which benefits both employers and employees alike.

Overall, it is crucial that employers engage with their staff, encouraging open communication with regards to stress and anxiety.

You must show that you care about their wellbeing, are willing to provide necessary flexibility and support should this be required and aren’t doing so as a novelty. The benefits to this are mutual, with subsequent employee satisfaction boosting productivity; this is something every business ought to prioritise.

Generations Of Growing At Johnsons Of Whixley

Johnsons of Whixley have been supplying the nation with millions of quality plants and trees for over 100 years from their nurseries in Yorkshire. Paul Andrews went to visit them to find out more.

Johnsons of Whixley is a three-generation family business located in North Yorkshire, equidistant between York and Harrogate, with over 100 years experience in growing and supplying trees, shrubs, and plants to UK-wide planting schemes.

12 members of the family have an active role within the business, from senior leadership positions and administration to more hands-on roles on the shop floor. The team is made up of 130 full-time staff, which can increase by up to 50% during peak seasons.

From those in the office, on the shop floor, or on the ground tending to the plants and trees, this is a family business that puts people first. They strive to nurture and develop all their staff and are proud to say that each staff member plays an important role in the growth of the business.

Spread over five production sites covering 200 acres across North Yorkshire, they are one of the longest-established and largest wholesale commercial nursery businesses in the UK, annually growing and supplying millions of plants, shrubs and trees to the UK trade for 100 years.

As a business they supply in excess of five million plants and trees annually, which enables them to operate across three channels to market, providing plants and trees to the wholesale commercial sector for amenity and civil engineering projects, direct to garden centres, and wholesale direct via an on-site professional trade outlet supplying landscape gardeners, garden designers, tree surgeons, estates, caravan parks and Universities, with a large variety of stock all year round.

The journey for the current family owners dates back to 1964 when John Richardson had just got married, had their first child and then bought this small nursery.

But even prior to that there was a long family history in the sector, with hard work and entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of all that he did. Growing up, his mother’s family had been growers for generations with their main crops being rhubarb, vegetables and salads, and from the age of 12 he spent every spare minute helping out on the farm, being paid for the work he did. “My wage at this time (aged 15) was £3.20 for a 47 hour working week which was paid to my mother in return for all my food and clothing and I kept the money that was paid for any overtime that I did,” John explains.

“I then got a place at the local agricultural college, but was encouraged to do a two year course in Essex, which resulted in a big move down South. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time in my life as I was working hard and building up a good amount of capital too. I then moved back to the East Riding of Yorkshire with work with the Bean family in their horticultural business whilst at the same time earning extra money by doing gardening projects at weekends.”

Entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to be successful was evident from a young age. Balancing jobs with extra work in the community helped to build up savings and John was never shy of trying something new. Working for Secretts in Surrey provided more opportunity too as he was driving lorries to Covent Garden with produce from the farm and then stopping off on the way home at Buckingham Palace to collect horse manure on the return journey!

His career continued, and when he was considering his future, a role in Scotland as a commercial grower advisor arose, which he took, moved to Scotland, and it was here that he met his future wife. As a rep on the road life was busy but John loved it, clocking up about 25,000 miles a year back in the late 1950’s and he was happy.

It was whilst he was based in Scotland, away on a business trip to Aberdeen and staying in a hotel, that John received a call from his Uncle back in Whixley. A Mr Johnson, who was 67 years old had a nursery business that he wanted to sell, and his Uncle asked John if he was interested in taking it on. 17 trips between Scotland and Whixley and the deal was done, and the journey to begin the business that it is today, had begun.

For John, looking back today, he recognises the effort that has been put in to build the business and for him one of the proudest moments is the fact that it provided an opportunity for his three sons to join the business and to work together building it. “I worked with my kids and that was fantastic,” adds John, “but they had to work for the benefits and make a real contribution, which they did, and over time they took on more and more of the responsibility too,” adds John.

Graham, one of John’s sons adds that “I learnt a lot from my Dad and he led by example, as we do now, doing it the family way. There was no ‘big stick’ and there was no pressure to join the business, but it is in the blood and part of the ‘working the land mentality’ that we have as a family. We have never had a family fall-out, and every decision has always been made by consensus.”

As a family they grew up on the nursery, in the house that was previously owned by Mr Johnson. As John explains, “he built another home next door which my brother now lives in. When we took on the nursery and bought the business we took out a loan to help pay for it and at the time there was £2,000 left to pay with two years to go. Mr Johnson and his wife, both veterans of World War I, were so pleased with the way that we had taken on and run the business, feeling that it was in safe hands to such an extent that they wrote off the balance of the loan.”

The family business has grown from an 11 acre site with 11 staff and a turnover of around £30,500 to what it is today, 200 acres, multiple sites, turnover of around £17 million and a full time staff of 130 with a further 50/60 added to cope with seasonal pressures.

The business has grown under the Richardsons and there are now seven of the third generation actively involved in the business. As John explains, “My great satisfaction is that the family have become so engaged in the business and are taking it forward, something that gives me so much pleasure and pride, knowing that it is continuing into the next generation. Graham has developed the business elements of the company, whilst Andrew concentrated on sales and promotion, and Iain controlled physical expansion and production.”

As Graham adds, “It is fantastic for us to be working together, each and every day, coming together as a family, as one, and building on the legacy that has been created by our parents. It is a pleasure to be taking it forward and continuing to build something for the future with an engaged family, core values, and a great team of staff too.”

John is the first to admit that the business has changed a lot since he acquired it back in 1964. “So much has changed and yet so much remains the same. The way things are grown and the need for sustainability is high on the agenda but the passion that we have as a family to continue to invest in the business is still evident for all to see. We work together as one and continue to invest in the future of the business and I am truly proud of the business that we have created today, and delighted that it is passing safely into the hands of the next generation.”

Johnsons of Whixley continues to grow and develop new routes to market. As Graham concludes, “We are proud of the business and our family values that shape our growth. We are also proud of our low staff turnover and ability to identify, recruit and develop staff members who go on to give 20, 30 or even more than 40 years’ service, and endeavour to recognise and reward long service.”

This is a great family business, a great ambassador for Yorkshire and a business that is proud of its’ heritage, the plans for the future, and one that continues to successfully build on the entrepreneurial spirit of the generations that have gone before.

We look forward to seeing their continued growth and development in the years to come.

A Journey Of Growth And Innovation

The roots of Econ Engineering date back to the late 1950’s and the entrepreneurial vision of the late William George (Bill) Lupton.

Bill was the youngest of four children from a farming family in Otley, West Yorkshire. As was the tradition at the time, it was always going to be the eldest son who inherited the family farm, so Bill knew that he would have to make his own way in the world. Bill was an inquisitive individual who was far more interested in tackling and solving technical challenges and less interested in the world of farming. It was this curious mind that led to him spotting an opportunity which he pursued, and which ultimately has resulted in Econ becoming the business that it is – the leading manufacturer of gritters, spreaders and road maintenance vehicles in the UK today.

Jonathan Lupton is the second generation of the family in the business and as he explains, his father was the real embodiment of entrepreneurial spirit: “He (Bill) was working with machinery and came up with a concept to merge a mower with a hedge trimmer to enable the automation of cutting hedgerows. It all started with the purchase of a welding kit and after a few false starts, the first innovative hedge cutters and flail mowers had been created.”

Interest in the business grew until the day when Bill was approached by someone who wanted to buy his business and the business was subsequently sold to an agricultural machinery manufacturer, Bamlett’s.

Bill joined as part of the deal which meant commuting to Thirsk from West Yorkshire, which was not ideal and so, he and his wife Helen, looked to move house. Helen wanted to remain close to family and friends and was reluctant to move south of the A1, so they settled on Ripon. Three sons were born after the move, Andrew in 1966, Jonathan in 1968 and David in 1972.

Unlike many family firms, Bill was an entrepreneurial founder with a plan. His long-term plan was the creation of a business that would provide jobs for all three sons. At the time he was still working for Bamlett’s but had realised that he wanted to be his own boss and circumstances were such that as his contract was soon to expire, he could begin formulating his own plans once more.

Lucky circumstances and perfect timing led to the creation of Econ Engineering. After leaving Bamlett’s, Bill needed to find premises in Ripon and a chance conversation with the town clerk saw him directed to the site owned by Vaux Brewery who were keen to sell. Soon after moving to the brewery, Bill was searching for heaters for the premises which took him to a Bradford-based business called Econheat.

As Jonathan continues, “Bill visited and found that the business was on the verge of liquidation so rather than just buying some heaters, he bought the business, stock included. So, back in 1969, Bill’s plan was to start production of the flail mower, as well as to move into industrial heating through the acquisition of Econheat.”

Initially, business centred on making a success of the heater business and to grow the agricultural side of the business too. Business was good and developed a national profile across the UK but there was a strong seasonal pattern of business between April and August. It was here that Bill decided to create products that could do well over the winter months.

“Following the impact on the UK with the big freeze in 1963, he came up with an idea for a salt spreader,” explains Jonathan. “A blueprint was developed and resulted in two initial designs, a bulk hopper that was mounted on a lorry chassis, much like the ones we make today, and a trailer that could be pulled behind a tractor, which incorporated a spinner attachment,” he continues.

“There was plenty of testing and eventually, in 1971, the very first Econ salt spreader was ready to be launched to the world. The business was up and running and the orders started to come in, Econ moved to a new state-of-the-art factory in 1978.”

Econ is proud to be a British manufacturer based in Yorkshire. Constant investment has taken place throughout the journey to date, something that has continued today, with another location added in the shape of a new, super service site at Sowerby near Thirsk. This building houses 24 service bays to maintain and service the fleet.

More products have been added to the range to enable them to perform year-round tasks on Britain’s roads, including pothole and surface repairs. New ways of working were also introduced to help councils who were struggling to purchase sufficient gritters to keep roads moving during the winter period, and Econ introduced a rental scheme. The introduction of the hire fleet was a transformative business strategy from Jonathan and his brother Andrew. As Jonathan adds, “We are an entrepreneurial family and it made sense to offer the hire fleet solution. It worked out well and continues to help the business grow.”

Innovation is on the Econ agenda and state-of-the-art production is evident for all to see. Mobile technology has been integral to recent developments and across all departments, improvements have been introduced to increase productivity and efficiency.

From starting out on the family farm to where the business is today, is a monumental accomplishment and a real family business success story. Bill would be delighted with how the business looks today but could not possibly have imagined that it would be the size it has become. Econ vehicles are used all over the UK to keep the roads clear and are iconic in their livery of bright yellow with the letter ‘E’ firmly on display too.

Annual turnover is now over £40 million and the business has become an integral part of the Ripon community, not least through the employment of staff, generation of income and creation of wealth, but also through the direct impact the business has on the local community.

As Jonathan concludes, “As a family business we have come a long way and have created something that as a family we can be rightly proud of. Dad would be ‘gobsmacked’ to see where the business is today and really proud of the work that the family and our broader team have done to make it successful.”

“Strong family values are part of the culture here at Econ – honesty, reputation, reliability and service are all integral to what we all do day-in and day-out. We are proud manufacturers based in Yorkshire. We are proud of what we do and the products that we make. Being a family business is special too. Above all, we are committed to continuing the legacy of my father, and the family to continue to build and invest in our future and continue to make products and services that we know will keep Britain on the move, today, tomorrow and long into the future.”

ECON’s Finance Director In Running For Two Awards

Beverley Shepherd is nominated for Northern Finance Director of the Year – Leadership, and Best Northern Finance Director of a Limited Company £25m – £100m, a title she won four years ago

Bev began her career at Ripon-based Econ Engineering in 2014 as its Company Accountant before being promoted to Finance Director three years later.

Family-owned and operated Econ manufactures eight out of ten of the UK’s winter road maintenance vehicles, employs a workforce of just under 250 and this year opened a new, £7m engineering hub at Sowerby, near Thirsk.

Beverley said: “It is an honour to be shortlisted for these awards. The interview panel was easy to talk to and it was a good chance as a candidate to reflect on the work I’ve achieved over the last year. Congratulations to all the other finalists and I am looking forward to the final in September.”

Econ Engineering’s Executive Director Jonathan Lupton said: “Bev is a highly-valued and respected member of our senior leadership team. Being shortlisted for two Northern Finance Director of the Year awards is a testament to the outstanding contribution she makes to our business.”

The Northern Finance Director Awards recognise and celebrate the exceptional talent of finance directors and their teams across the North of England.

The Northern Finance Director Awards embrace all that is brilliant about finance directors, who are often the unsung heroes of any business. Traditionally responsible for sustaining business continuity and managing cash flow, the modern finance director now exhibits creative thinking and strategic influence, as well as demonstrating leadership.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony and dinner in September.

York Dementia Care Home Receives A Garden Makeover

Award-winning garden designer Luke Arend recently designed a garden for a Dementia care home in York with plants donated by a local nursery firm, Johnsons of Whixley.

St Catherine’s in Shipton by Beningbrough is a dementia specialist care home run by Wellburn Care Homes which has recently gone through a complete transformation after months of research, development, planning and design.

The transformation sees innovative dementia-friendly interiors, gardens and exteriors added all of which were installed with the needs of patients with dementia in mind.

Garden designer Luke Arend, worked to a brief to tempt residents outside, and enjoy the garden with family members. It included functional requirements such as wheelchair access, safe paths with no anxiety-inducing dead-ends and clear edges, safe sensory plants (no poisonous, spiky, or thorny), plants which mark seasonal change, a safe water feature, dappled shade, clear views from the building and raised beds for interaction with the planting.

Luke created concept plans and mood boards and spoke to residents and family members about the design and considered garden features, materials, furniture, lighting and safe plants to invoke a positive, beautiful environment and memories.

Speaking about the benefits of the garden, garden designer, Luke Arend said: “ there is now a strong body of evidence of the enormous physical and mental benefits of just being in a garden and nature for patients with dementia including evoking memories, increasing confidence and socialisation, and importantly decreasing agitation.”

The garden is now complete and includes wet-poor rubber flexible non-slip paths, a beautiful Victorian-style central Gazebo, raised beds, a water feature, furniture, sculptures and memory-invoking plants.

The plant donation from Johnsons of Whixley was worth over £500 and included Hydrangeas, Skimmias, Echinaceas, Geraniums, Geums, Helleborus, Hostas, Lavenders, Lupins, Nepeta, Paeonia, Roses, Pulmonaria, Salvias, Vincas, Clematis, Buddleia and fatsia.

The aim was to include plants that residents are familiar with to help invoke positive memories, including lavenders, tulips, geraniums and roses.

Johnsons of Whixley is located between Harrogate and York and is just 2.5 miles from the A1 at Junction 47 they are one of the UK’s largest commercial nurseries supplying 5-6 million plants annually to landscaping projects throughout the UK.

Garden designer, Luke Arend said: “It’s so rewarding to see residents and family members enjoying the garden and savouring being outdoors. A huge thank you to Johnsons of Whixley for supporting this project and making it a reality.”

Discussing the donation, Johnsons marketing manager, Eleanor Richardson said: “It’s great to give something back to our local community, there are currently around 900,000 people with dementia in the UK so it’s great to support our local Dementia care home. We hope our plants bring joy to residents, staff and visitors of the care home for many years to come.”

Duvalay’s New Showroom Is Now Open

Duvalay’s new showroom was officially opened by the Mayor of Kirklees
It’s certainly been a busy few months at Duvalay HQ, with lots of exciting projects in the pipeline and the long awaited opening of the brand new showroom.

Since moving to their new premises back in 2020, they’ve been in the process of getting the showroom up and running to display all their innovative sleep products, including the Outdoor and Home range.

The move to the new premises was a huge milestone for the business. The larger factory has allowed them to consolidate their entire team into one site and given them much-needed extra space for a larger showroom. After many months of planning, designing, and a fair few delays along the way, they were finally ready to officially open the showroom to the public in May.

To mark the occasion, they invited the Mayor of Kirklees, Councillor Nigel Patrick, and Kevin Sharp, Clerk to the West Yorkshire Lieutenancy, to come along and celebrate the opening with. Nigel & Kevin had a tour of the factory, met the majority of the 80+ employees, and the Mayor did the honours and cut the red ribbon to officially declare the Duvalay showroom OPEN!

“We had a fantastic time opening our new showroom with Councillor Nigel Patrick and Kevin Sharp in attendance,” says Alan Colleran, Managing Director at Duvalay.

“It felt very special to have the Mayor here in all his formal attire and he certainly seemed impressed with our innovative range of products on display, and was pleased to hear of how we champion the local community and support local people with jobs.”

“Our new showroom has all our market-leading products on display in one place, including our bestselling Duvalay Sleeping Bag and Easysleep mattress range,” added Alan. “This gives our customers the opportunity to come along and test out our sleep products to ensure they’re making the right purchase.”

“The visit to Duvalay was one of Nigel’s last events before he retired as Councillor. We thank both him and Kevin for taking the time to join us for such a special day and another big milestone in our history. We wish Councillor Nigel Patrick all the luck in his next venture.”

Duvalay’s new showroom is now open to the public and is situated in Heckmondwike.

Over 70% Of Population Suffering From Data Dread

Over seven in 10 Brits suffer from ‘Data Dread – with no interest in figures and stats according to the latest research.

A poll of 2,000 adults revealed 30 per cent confess their brain ‘shuts down’ when they see or hear the word data. For more than a quarter it’s because they are simply uninterested, and 43 per cent admit they find data dull.

But despite 55 per cent actively avoiding figures and data, half believe improving their skills would put them at an advantage in the current economic climate. And one in five think it would also allow for better career opportunities.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) suspect they’d be able to deal with bills better each month as 22 per cent find it difficult to digest everyday information like bank statements or data-led news articles.

The study was commissioned by interactive learning platform DataCamp to raise awareness of data literacy as a fundamental skill.

With almost one in five not knowing that a quarter of a pie chart is the same as 25 per cent, the brand hopes to democratise data skills across the country.

It also emerged more than one in 10 believe a ‘Helix Chart’ is a real thing – and not a complete invention.

DataCamp’s co-founder, Martijn Theuwissen, said: “We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift and even if you don’t work with data, you need to know how to read and interpret data in places like the news, health apps, and phone usage reviews.”

“Nobody should dread data – it can really empower individuals to make informed decisions and improve their personal and professional lives.”

“That’s why, this World Literacy Day, we want to encourage people to consider data literacy a vital skill in everyday life.”

Regardless of the nation’s day-to-day interactions with numbers and statistics, 52 per cent admit to sometimes simply smiling and nodding along to a conversation about data and statistics, even if they’re completely in the dark.

According to the OnePoll study, 29 per cent admit they rely on their friends, partner or family members to take on any data analysis they may need in day-to-day life.

Concerningly, this could include reviewing mortgage rates, loan options or, particularly pertinently at the moment, energy prices.

Martijn Theuwissen added: “While most people might not be looking for a specific career in the data industry, many employers are looking for data skills across a variety of roles in sales, finance, HR, logistics, and more.

“Building these skills can help you to find a new career or excel further in your current position.

“That’s why we’re committed to democratising data through our online platform to help educators and students prepare for further education and improve data literacy learning.”