The last couple of months have seen a trio of well-known industry names announce their retirement. Court Catering Equipment’s Nick Howe, Linda Lewis of LLK and Wexiodisk’s John Shepherd all decided that now was the point to call time on their careers and head off into a life of relaxation and leisure – or that is the idea anyway.
So how can any of us know when it is time to swap the desk for the divan? Well, if you have enough financial security to ensure a good quality of life for the rest of your days, then I think the majority of us would jump at the chance. But for those who own their own companies, especially the SMEs prevalent in the UK catering equipment industry which can be ‘lifestyle’ business, it can be difficult to let go, both practically and emotionally.
In two of the three recent cases, the retirees were the business owners, though their approaches to handing on the enterprise slightly differed. With Court Catering Equipment, Howe sold the company to Unitech Industries last year, which given the most recent announcement, was clearly in anticipation of his retirement. This gave the distributor a sound financial backer, and now by handing the MD reigns onto Andy Fitzwater, there is still a loyal and knowledgeable executive in charge of the day-to-day running.
For Linda Lewis at LLK, the eponymous supplier she established herself, it made sense to pass the baton to her daughter Jenna, who has been steadily rising up the ranks of the pizza oven specialist. That meant the business could stay in the family’s hands while retaining privateer control.
Nevertheless, for those tempted to swan off into the sunset after decades of service to the catering equipment industry, it’s a sector that often doesn’t relinquish its hold on people. Being the small world that it is, often familiar faces will be dragged back in by sheer force of gravity (x person who I know has asked me to do y etc) and I have lost count of the number of supposed retirees who I have seen at industry events telling me they are boomeranging back into a temporary or even a permanent role.
While an experienced industry grandee can be a safe bet for firms, we do still need to consider that new blood must be injected into the sector, and developed and nurtured so that one day they can take the top jobs on too. After all, if everyone in the industry is of a certain age, and they all retire at once, then where would the sector companies be?
I am heartened to see major associations like CEDA and CESA take the bull by the horns on the training issue and help to develop new and existing talent though. Long may it continue!