Factory bosses share their secrets of success

Manufacturing leaders from across Yorkshire gathered recently for an afternoon of inspiration, insight and networking hosted by Armstrong Watson, Clarion and Yorkshire Bank.

Delegates at the Manufacturing Matters event heard from keynote speakers who have each had to battle with – and have overcome – the challenge of change in their respective manufacturing areas.

They were also joined at Broughton Hall, Skipton, by Steve ‘the Jarrow Arrow’ Cram, who explained some of the secrets of success that propelled his career as an athlete and, later, as a coach and broadcaster.

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Victoria Hopkins, the entrepreneur who heads up Pudsey-based family firm Hopkins Ltd, told guests how she went from scuba diving instructing to taking over and growing the catering equipment business.

The company, which started out as a shop on Commercial Road, Leeds, opened by her grandfather in 1957, initially engineered equipment for fish and chip shops.

Victoria explained how in more recent years she has driven its diversification, helping it through a tough period of loss-making, to its current healthy, profitable state.

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She said: “You never quite know what’s around the corner. Our business hit a really rocky patch a year ago and we’d suffered losses and were in a precarious position due to circumstances beyond our control. I was on the phone to the bank manager in tears begging him not to close the company down and I asked for one more chance to turn it around and came up with a really ambitious plan. Today we’re now doing well, we’re making a healthy profit and are just about to expand to Canada.

“My advice is that you must never rest on your laurels and you must always take every opportunity that is available to you. Challenges are not challenges, they are opportunities.”
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Also faced with challenging conditions in an ever-changing industry is William Whitaker, who shared an insight into his chocolate business Whitakers, based in Skipton.

The business, which started in 1889 as a grocery shop, now produces two million chocolates a day and supplies products across the world.

Explaining how the company has been able to adapt to change, William said: “We continually improve and develop our processes from a mindset of ‘ditch it or develop it’. We’re careful not to do things just because we can, however, we are always looking to use our machinery and investments for additional ideas to those originally intended. We don’t try to be all things to all people and we have learned that change leads to change and opportunities yet to be discovered. One thing always leads to another.”

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Among the other speakers at the Manufacturing Matters event was Steve Cram, who highlighted how sports stars handle intense pressure, set and achieve goals and target success. He also spoke candidly about his personal experiences as a runner and broadcaster and explained why he remains optimistic about Britain’s future Olympic medal prospects.