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Lamberts at 50

Revised January 2015
WELCOME
It all started in 1963 with my father buying a small business at 47 Cowgate. Little did I know that, 10 years later, after graduating from St Andrews university, and four years working in London, I would join him in running the family business.

Now my daughter Trina, with her business background, is taking up the challenge with the support of a management team with many years of experience. The success of our business has been built on the loyalty and dedication of a great team with a desire to give our customers, many of whom have been with us over these 50 years, the very best service.

A company also needs many business partners and we have been fortunate to have a very supportive bank in Natwest, our accountants Larking Gowen and Mills & Reeve, our solicitors, all of whom have supported us from the very beginning. Over the next few years, we hope to increase our penetration within our area and to look for new products to extend our stock profile.

When staff joined us my father would say they had "become one of the family", and that is as true today as it was then. I can assure all our customers that our tradition of care and service will continue.

Tim Beare
Chairman, Lamberts

 

Rule-breaker shows how to succeed in business
A business that breaks all the rules is celebrating 50 years of trading. The EDP went to see it to discover the secrets of its success.

It's come through four recessions and is still trading profitably after 50 years in business. But Norwich-based Lamberts, which specialises in selling and distributing industrial equipment across a range of sectors in East Anglia, does not do modern business by the book. For example:

It carries 16,000 stock lines - most of them available at the company's Whiffler Road site - contrary to the contemporary practice of housing minimal stock and ordering from a central warehouse.

It will source just about anything for customers - from microwaves to pens - as well as concentrating on its main product lines.

It has an up-to-date website with online sales facilities - but most customers prefer to place orders on the phone because they like talking to the staff, or arrive in person at the extensive trade counter.

It has a loyal staff - many have worked for Lamberts for more than 20 years - and promotions are often made from within.

Tim Beare, chairman, son of the founder Henry Beare and a 40-year Lamberts veteran, says: "We have always been flexible, able to adapt to changing circumstances. "At the same time, we have a wide customer base and that has helped us to weather storms where others haven't.

"Service is at the core of everything we do. How we look after our customers and how we deal with them has always been a priority. And the staff are key to that process. "My late father used to say: 'Staff, service, systems - get them right and you'll do well'.

"Now, as the company moves into its second half century, big challenges are on the horizon as senior directors, including managing director John Rudd (retired) - a former warehouse assistant who worked his way up the ranks to the top - get set to retire or are already in retirement.

Aided by father, Tim, Trina Beare will head up the next phase in the company's history. A third generation family member to work for the company, she joined as a purchasing assistant in 2006, joining the board four years later and becoming General Manager in 2011. "I'm very keen to see the company grow and develop, and I have a great team around me to help achieve that," she says.

The team, which totals more than 40 staff, includes:
Paul Gardiner, Purchasing Manager (33 years' service with Lamberts*).
Karl Eade, Operations Manager (27 years).
Neill Ives, Commercial Manager (23 years).
Mark Vincent, Warehouse Manager (20 years).
Stuart Lewis, Sales Manager (11 years).
Michelle Harte, Peterborough Branch Manager (11 years)
Natalya Weston, Accounts Manager (five years).

 

 



Stocking up for the future
Trina adds: "Our strength has always come from our wide customer base - we're talking about food factories, chemical plants, agriculture, engineers and contractors - so we're never aligned with just one line. With wide customer and product bases, if one sector is in trouble it shouldn't affect us too much." The broad product base also helps to cement relationships with customers.

Core products are pipes, fittings, valves and tools backed up by a Workwear division, which includes corporate clothing, safety equipment and janitorial products such as soaps and cleaners. Lamberts aims to turn around orders in 24 hours, and can achieve its target as much of the stock is on-site.
 
"In hard times, big companies tend to de-stock to keep cash flow going," says Trina. "But this can create problems when a customer needs something quickly - say, it's a breakdown in a factory - and they have to wait two or three days for the part to turn up. "So, because service is so central to everything we do, we took the decision to stock as much as we can so our customers can be confident that their orders will be out to them as quickly as possible. We can also offer a 24-hour call-out service for companies that register with us."

The level of service has helped to engender loyalty among customers, some of whom have been using Lamberts for 50 years. And, while the user-friendly website www.lamberts.co.uk is open for online business, many customers prefer to check products are in stock and then call the sales team to make an order. Why? "They like to talk to the team!" explains Trina. "Everything we stock, and more, is on the website. So customers can see what's available and then call us because they know the sales staff. We also like to think we're problem-solvers. Some people aren't sure exactly what they want, but our staff can find it - even if we haven't got it, we'll find it."

At the same time, the company belongs to a key regional buying group of independent family companies, helping it drive down end prices for customers. But, while Lamberts will pull out all the stops for customers, the company is not so cuddly with competitors.

Tim Beare and John Rudd (retired) recall: "We've beaten off the competition in the past, and we opened up in Peterborough for the same reason. "We have a unique profile in that we offer so much; while others can compete in niche areas, we have it all."

Lamberts now makes no secret of its plans to expand the business in East Anglia, although it's not naming any locations.

 

 
Peterborough branch
Lamberts opened a branch in Peterborough in 1997 with a full stock profile and sales support. But the logistics failed to gel and it was decided to bring the stock back to Norwich and retain Peterborough as a sales office.

Managing director John Rudd (retired)  explains: "Our philosophy has always been to do something else if the first idea doesn't work. Our strength is that, as a private company, we can react quickly and make decisions quickly." Meanwhile, the Peterborough branch has just recorded its most successful year under the leadership of Manager Michelle Harte, who is one of a team of five.

"2012 was our best year at Peterborough, now we're aiming to grow that in 2013," she says.

 

 
How Henry Beare built a business to last the distance
The acumen of a post-war Norwich businessman was at the core of an industrial company that has stood the test of time.

When London-based plumbing and engineers merchant Lamberts' branch in Norwich came on the market, Henry Beare saw an opportunity. Already managing director of builders merchant Ruymps on St George's Street, Norwich, Mr Beare believed the investment could secure his family's future.

In the event, Ruymps was sold to the oil company Charringtons, but Mr Beare stayed on as managing director of the builders' merchant division on condition that he could keep Lamberts for the Beares.

Fifty years on, with Henry's grand-daughter Trina set to join his son Tim at the head of Lamberts Norwich, his foresight proved impeccable.

The business started in 1963 at 47 Cowgate, with Peter Lawrence poached from Ruymps and appointed Manager of Lamberts.

Soon after, a 15-year-old lad just out of school was hired as warehouse assistant. In 1992, he would become managing director.
 
Expansion into wider industrial markets
In 1967, the company moved to its current premises on Whiffler Roadand began to expand its stock portfolio beyond industrial pipelines into wider sectors, such as engineering, agriculture and food.

From the start, Lamberts focused on industrial rather than domesticmarkets, avoiding competition with the burgeoning national DIY stores.

By 1973, Mr Beare's son Tim had joined the company after a spell at St Andrew's university in Scotlandand then work with Charringtons in London.

The next year, a branch was opened in Lowestoft to service the then-thriving food manufacturing industry, headed up by John Rudd (retired). Ten years later, the company was in the vanguard of computerised accounting and, with Tim Beare now managing director, it upgraded in 1990 to a full Charisma system.

By now the Lowestoft branch had been closed, following the demise of food processing in the town, but plans were being laid for another branch in the west, at Peterborough, another centre for agriculture and food factories. When Henry Beare died in 2004, Tim became chairman, with Trina appointed general Manager in 2011.

By the beginning of 2013, Lamberts' 50th anniversary, the company could boast that it had weathered recessions in 1975, 1986, 1992 and 2010 - and it still managed to improve profits each year of the latest downturn - including a record profit at the Peterborough branch in 2012.

 

 

 

If I were a carpenter... I'd have missed out
Young John Rudd (retired) always wanted to be a carpenter, but he ended up at the head of one of East Anglia's top industrial distributor companies.

"When I left school at 15 I was quite good at technical drawing and maths, but carpentry was my main interest so I tried to get an apprenticeship in joinery shops in Norwich," he explains.

"I tried everywhere, but there was nothing doing. As luck would have it, my cousin was friendly with a girl called Angela Beare, whose dad owned a company called Lamberts of Norwich.

"They took me on as a warehouse assistant in 1964 in the Cowgate building where I was in the warehouse, on the desk and answering the phone." It was a good grounding in a business which saw John rise to branch Manager of the Lowestoft depot in 1974, company commercial Manager in Norwich in 1982, general Manager in 1984 and managing director in 1992. John also played football to a senior level as a midfielder with Wisbech Town, Thetford Town and Lowestoft Town.

Meanwhile, his 49-year career path - from the bottom to the top - demonstrates the mutual loyalty which Lamberts and its staff bring to the business. Many of the team have been with the company for more than 20 years, fulfilling the wish of founder Henry Beare that when staff joined they would "become one of the family".

 

   

Time Line

           
1960's   1970's   1980's   1990s   2000's   2010's
1963
Lamberts was formed by the late Henry Beare in refurbished premises on Cowgate near the centre of Norwich. Originally known as a plumbing and engineers merchant, the business sold plumbing, industrial pipeline products and consumables. Peter Lawrence was the Manager with one representative and five other staff.

1964
John Rudd joins as warehouse assistant.

1966
The product range increases by becoming a Shell distributor for industrial lubricants.

1967
The business moved to Whiffler Road.

1968
The product range is extended by stocking fasteners, tools and more consumables.

1969
Richard Watson joins as warehouse assistant.
  1970
Peter Lawrence appointed managing director.

1973
Henry Beare joined in the business by his son Tim.

1974
A branch opens in Lowestoft, with John Rudd  as Manager. Industrial units 48 and 52 Whiffler Road, adjacent to the main site, leased.

1976
A warehouse and office extension built at Whiffler Road.
  1980
Tim Beare appointed joint managing director.

1982
Ray Fawkes appointed company accountant.

1983
Computers introduced into the accounts department. Lamberts becomes a founder member of the Regional Engineers Distributor Group (REDG), a purchasing group of independent distributors.

1986
Next day deliveries from Norwich introduced. Karl Eade joins as Warehouse Assistant.

1987
Order processing by computers introduced.

1988
Tim Beare appointed managing director; Richard Watson appointed Commercial Manager; Tony Batterbee appointed Sales Manager; Peter Lawrence retires. Closure of the Lowestoft branch.

1989
Lamberts achieves quality standard BS5750 (ISO 9001 2008) [RS00531].
  1990
New computer system, hardware and software, full Charisma system installed. Neill Ives joins as sales assistant and later a representative.

1992
Tim Beare becomes chief executive and John Rudd Managing Director, with Ray Fawkes appointed to the board. 24-hour emergency call-out scheme introduced.

1995
A Workwear division supplying corporate clothing introduced.

1997
Branch opens in Peterborough.
Richard Watson and Tony Batterbee
appointed to the Board.
 Lamberts first website.

1998
All systems updated to Year 2000-compliant.
  2000
Angela Pearce appointed non-executive director. Product divisions reorganised into one sales counter. Karl Eade appointed IT and Quality Assurance Manager

2002
A fully integrated website
(QVS1) introduced. First online order taken 15th January 2002.

2004
Founder Henry Beare dies.

2005
Tim Beare appointed chairman. New sales counter and display area introduced. The company joins the Troy buying group to increase tool purchasing terms.

2007
Neill Ives appointed Sales Manager.

2008
Nataliya Weston joins as an accountant.

2009
Trina Beare appointed representative. Ray Fawkes retires from full-time employment.
  2010
Trina Beare appointed to the Board

2011
Trina Beare appointed General Manager

2012
Neill Ives appointed Commercial Manager; Karl Eade appointed Operations Manager. Tony Batterbee retires.

2013
50th anniversary. New windows based computer system installed, supplied and maintained by OGL.

New Website unveiled.

New Workwear showroom.

Richard Watson retires.

2014
John Rudd retires.

2015
Trina Beare appointed Managing Director

Neill Ives appointed Commercial Director

Karl Eade appointed Operations Director
© 2014 Lamberts

Registered in England 749287

VAT No. GB104 711 415

 

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