After nearly 30 years with FEM, co-founder Jim Doherty retired on 31 December 2020.
He established the business with Harry Hogan in 1993, and while Hogan works on, Doherty decided to call it a day. Originally he had intended to retire in June 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant it was all hands to the deck and Doherty agreed to carry on to the end of the year to help see the company through the crisis.
Doherty and Hogan became one of the best known ‘double acts’ in the catering market, the key to their success being the partnership that exploits their different skills, Hogan as MD and Doherty as sales director.
Back in 1993, it was just the two men and a telephone, in a small premises in Glasgow. In 2018 FEM entered the top ten of largest catering equipment companies operating in the UK and now has a warehouse of almost 50,000ft2 in East Kilbride.
Doherty detailed: “The idea behind FEM was to establish strategic partnerships with major American manufacturers. We made early contact with the Vollrath Company and went on to sign an agreement with them at the 1993 NAFEM Show. To have a market leader like Vollrath as our first partner manufacturer was a fantastic start to a new business. Subsequently we’ve enjoyed wonderful partnerships with many companies, such as Hamilton Beach Commercial and Cambro – the longevity of our business relationships has been fantastic.
“The greatest success has been seeing the ongoing growth of FEM. From a zero start, FEM has grown year on year, becoming one of the most successful businesses in the industry. We have done this together with an outstanding team, and have been fortunate in having supportive, market-leading supply partners and a great customer base, many of whom are now personal friends.”
Hogan praised the partnership with Doherty: “Over the years Jim has been the face of FEM, opening many doors for our products and services. He’s professional, tenacious, perseverant, friendly and understanding, and always endeavoured to help the clients with his can-do attitude.
“Along the way we’ve had many adventures, many late nights and a few lucky escapes! We have enjoyed the journey together and one of the things I will miss will be our evening phone call, going over the day’s business. Jim has been my business partner and is my best friend and I’m delighted that he’s has agreed to become FEM’s first non-executive director.”
So how does Doherty see the future for the industry? “I feel desperately sorry for the owners, employees, and suppliers of all the businesses that have suffered badly, especially those that have not been able continue. However, I believe that the industry will start to recover in the spring, once the vaccines begin to kick in, and will continue to grow during the second half of next year. Full recovery will obviously take much longer, but the operators and suppliers that remain will come out the other side stronger and more robust.
“At FEM, my successor as sales director, Mike Inwood, joined on 1 April, so it’s been a very strange transition! Mike has been brilliant and I know that he, Harry, Mark Hogan, and our fantastic FEM team will take the company to the next level and continue to thrive.”
As for whether he is embracing retirement, Doherty added: “I don’t view this as retirement, just moving on to the next edition! I look forward to continuing my relationships with FEM with the great friends that I have in the industry.
“On a personal note, retirement will allow me to spend more time with my long suffering wife Sahira and the rest of the family. We had our first grandson earlier this year and haven’t been able to spend much time with him. Hopefully we can put this right soon. Travel is also on the agenda when again Covid allows and Sahira has been putting together a list of destinations, hopefully starting with South America sometime in 2021.”
While Hogan noted: “I have received many calls and best wishes from both our clients and suppliers wishing Jim all the best for his retirement and we will have a party to celebrate, when it’s safe to do so.
“On behalf of all of us at FEM, and our suppliers and customers, congratulations, Jim, on your retirement and best wishes to you and Sahira for your future.”