Buisiness Profile: Ian Valentine
RUGBY was always going to play a big part in Ian Valentine’s life.
The son of Fartown legend Dave Valentine grew up with a love of the sport which led him to play at a highly competitive level with Huddersfield Old Boys and Huddersfield YMCA.
But when it came to carving out a career rather than carving through the opposition defence, a keen interest in civil engineering was the driving force.
Ian has notched up more than 30 years service with the Myers Group, joining its concrete supplier Readymix Huddersfield Ltd and builders’ merchant Naylor Myers as a sales rep and rising to become general manager of the Readymix business.
Dave Valentine moved from Scotland to play for Huddersfield RL. He became one of the club’s leading stars – winning many honours during an illustrious career, skippering the Great Britain side that won the World Cup Championship in 1954 and playing in the Fartown sides that won the championship in 1948-49 and the Challenge Cup in 1952-53.
Ian grew up in Huddersfield with the family living in Longwood, Salendine Nook and Outlane at various stages. He attended Salendine Nook High School and played rugby with enthusiasm.
“I wasn’t pushed into it,” he says. “I just enjoyed it.” Ian played stand-off or centre and as his talent developed rose through the ranks. “Huddersfield played some good sides – Headingley, Sale and Newcastle,” he says. “It was a good standard of rugby.”
Although his playing days are over, Ian remains a director at Huddersfield YMCA. “I go when I can,” he says. “I have a fairly busy life, particularly with the grandchildren!
“But I play golf at Crosland Heath. There was a big hole in my weekend when I stopped playing rugby, so I and a few rugby friends started playing golf at Outlane to keep out of trouble on a Saturday afternoon. It keeps you busy and there is the social side. There’s also a competitive element, but it is a pastime rather than a sport for me.”
After leaving school, Ian got a job with R T Haley, a civil engineering contractor in Cleckheaton, as a junior civil engineer. “I realised I was not going to be a professional sportsman,” he says. “I got interested in civil engineering because I enjoyed the idea of being outdoors.
“At school, we went on trips to all sorts of work places. Traditional engineering had no appeal and I didn’t fancy working as a clerk in an office.
“I took a civil engineer technician course at Bradford College on day-release and gained my ONC and HNC qualifications. I moved from school where all learning was theoretical to applying it in practice when I was learning in real situations.”
At R T Haley, Ian worked on major infrastructure projects, including Yorkshire Water’s Cooper Bridge sewage treatment works and water treatment works at Bingley. He was working five-and-a-half days a week and earning £20 a month.
His work also brought him into contact with Readymix. “We bought from Readymix and knew them as a good company,” he says. “When work at R T Haley was starting to dry up, I looked elsewhere. I had been offered a job in Iran, but my wife was pregnant at the time and I thought I should look for a job closer to home.
“I rang Readymix on the off-chance and there was a position as a sales rep. With my background in the building industry, my knowledge of the Readymix business and the fact that I knew a lot of people in the industry I took the job.
“A lot of builders enjoy rugby – and being the son of Dave Valentine was a good ice breaker when I came to call.”
Ian spent six years as a rep before taking a bigger role with the business in the run-up to the retirement of then general manager Gerald Hawthornthwaite – when his technical background and sales experience paid dividends.
“There was a transitional period when I was out on the road and then had to get behind a desk,” he says. “It presented challenges, but it was interesting – and it still is. I still enjoy dealing with customers. I will go to the counter to talk to customers.
“That has always been the way since the business was founded. Everyone is willing to do whatever is necessary to see the day through.”
The Myers Group owes its origins to Jack Myers who in the late 1950s expanded the family business – founded in 1929 in the name of Isaac Timmins Ltd – from its building and civil engineering roots into a manufacturer and supplier of construction materials.
Readymix Huddersfield, which also includes Mini Mix, Conveyormix and Mobile Concrete Pump Hire, supplies concrete from premises at Red Doles Lane in Huddersfield and from depots in Penistone, Brighouse and Skipton, to various locations around Yorkshire. The business celebrated its 50th anniversary two years ago.
Builder merchant arm Naylor Myers was founded in 1973 and is now a leading independent builder’s merchants with 12 branches throughout Yorkshire. The group also includes Johnsons Wellfield Quarries at Crosland Hill, HSH Skip Hire, timber merchanting business Boards Huddersfield and newly-formed Myers Build & DIY.
Readymix and Naylor Myers are perhaps the most visible – with their vehicles a familiar site on local roads. However, the recession has not left the companies unscathed.
“We have seen a major step change in the amount of construction work,” says Ian. “It was quite dramatic. We had seen recessions before, three-day weeks and strikes – but nothing like the recent recession. Work on building sites just stopped overnight.”
Ian says Readymix and its associated operations had to “re-design our business model” to meet the needs of a much-changed market. While the company is busy, Ian recognises that the boom years for construction have gone – while the market may take years to recover to those dizzy heights.
But he says: “We have turned the corner. Builders still have to build and there is always work to be done. You just have to look closely at everything you do. Firms could afford to be a little lax about what they were paying for materials when things were going well. Now they have to keep a close eye on costs and operations, which is not a bad discipline.”
Ian reserves special mention for the firm’s team of drivers of the eight-wheel, 32-ton wagons which roll out of the depot to deliver their loads to building sites across the region. “Our drivers are on the frontline every day,” he says. “If they do a good job on site, they provide the best publicity we could ever hope to get.”