He’s travelled the globe with the merchant navy.
Now Bryan Bradley is charting a course in business as owner of Just Love Coffee, a Holmfirth-based company supplying coffee and coffee-making machines to hotels, restaurants and cafes across Yorkshire and the north west.
Bryan was just 16 when he joined the merchant navy as a deckhand and in a six-year career at sea rose to the rank of Able Seaman. “It was a fantastic life,” he says.
His first ship plied its trade between Europe and Canada, carrying paper for the newsprint industry.
Bryan went on to serve aboard passenger ships, tankers, cargo ships and coasters which took him to ports worldwide, including North America, South America, Australia and Japan.
Back on dry land, Bryan had a number of jobs, including working as a plasterer’s labourer and operating a JCB digging foundations for steelwork on construction sites – with minimal training.
“I don’t know what ‘health and safety’ would make of it now,” he adds.
He went on to run his own cleaning business for some time before selling up and changing tack to set up his firm supplying vending machines to factories and offices.
Bryan, who hails from Oldham but has lived in Yorkshire for 28 years, owns Venda Valet (Machines) Ltd – supplying and maintaining hundreds of machines dispensing cold drinks and snacks – and has 38 years experience in the industry.
He set up Just Love Coffee as a sister company and is joined in the venture by wife Carol, who is company secretary, and son Kevin. His other son, Sean, runs Venda Valet Ltd, based in Oldham.
Said Bryan: “I had been offered a job selling tabletop vending machines. At first I said ‘no’ because I imagined everybody would already have one.
“But I asked if I would get a car Bryan Bradleywith the job and the answer was ‘yes’ – so I took it on.
“I worked there for two-and-a-half years before setting up my own business.”
Bryan says his success with Venda Valet (Machines) Ltd was based on “good old-fashioned” personal service and after-sales support. It’s a formula he’s now employing at Just Love Coffee.
He says: “There’s a lot of nonsense talked about ‘sales’ If you tell the truth and you are confident in what you are selling there’s no such thing as a ‘great salesman’
“It’s the infrastructure you set up that matters – your engineers, your office staff.
“They have first contact with the customer and when they go to the customer their attitude reflects on me. They are your best salesmen and women.”
Just Love Coffee specialises in supplying “bean to cup” machines and coffee to restaurants, hotels and other retail outlets such as garden centres as far afield as Doncaster, Rotherham, Northallerton and Carlisle. Customers can lease, rent or buy.
The firm supplies everything from small “bean to cup” machines to automatic hot and cold drinks machines, snack machines and water coolers. It also offers service contracts for vending machines in Yorkshire and the North West.
The coffee is blended by a locally-based roaster “and everyone says it’s superb”.
Says Bryan: “This particular blend is what I wanted and everywhere I have been with it I haven’t been turned away. When we’ve left a sample for them to try, they’ve always ordered more.”
And in a market dominated by the likes of Costa, Bryan adds: “We’re growing as a company.”
Bryan enjoys dealing with customers. “We talk to people by email, but this business is about building relationships and trust,” he says.
“People have forgotten how to talk to each other. They can’t do anything without putting it in an email.
You have to keep in contact with customers. I like to keep in close contact with my customers and call on them at least once a month even if only by phone.”
Bryan keep fit by swimming every day in the pool at his Holme Valley farm.
He is also kept busy maintaining fences on the farm, where the family keep several horses. Bryan’s often called on to mend fences or carry out general maintenance on the farm
“I play golf occasionally, but every time I am going to play, something turns up that needs my attention!
“In truth, work is my hobby.
“You have to have a reason to get up in the mornings and you need to do something to occupy your mind.
“Work brings a little bit of stress – but it’s stress of the ‘good’ kind.”
Family: Married to Carol with sons Sean and Kevin and daughters Joanne and Michelle
First job: Paper delivery
Best thing about the job? Dealing with the customers
Worst thing about the job? If I didn’t like the job, I wouldn’t be doing it!
Business tip: If you have managed to stay in business five years, you have got a chance. Don’t take too much out of the business and put as much back as you can. And don’t tell lies, because they’ll come back to bite you
Work: Coffee vending machines
Site: Thick Hollins Road, Holmfirth
Phone: W01484 854138