Providing a consistent service at a competitive price with a committed workforce is the key to running a successful business.
This is the view of former Bourne Textile Services chairman Hedley Stroud, who was last night crowned the winner of the Mercury Business Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hedley joined the firm in 1981, after it was founded by his grandfather Ernest in 1932 as local laundry business, Bourne Hygienic Laundry.
The firm continued to grow over its 82 years of service, and in March, Hedley sold the company to Johnson Service Group in a deal worth £22m.
Before the sale, the firm was supplying 350 businesses and delivering more than a million items of clean laundry each week, making it one of the country’s leading hotel laundry companies.
Speaking about his victory, Hedley, 59, said: “I’m very honoured and delighted to have won the award.
“I must say it’s very surprising but very nice. I think it’s a reflection of not only my work but the business as a whole and what the family has achieved over the past 80 years.”
After qualifying as an accountant with Ernst and Young, Hedley joined the business 33 years ago. The company gradually expanded during the 1980s and 90s by trading further afield from its base in Manning Road in Bourne to East Anglia and the East Midlands with bigger vehicles for transportation.
During his earlier years with Bourne Textile Services, the company began developing long-term relationships with hotel groups.
Hedley then took on the role of chairman when his father Stuart died in 2003.
He said: “All we ever aimed to do was provide a good, consistent service at competitive prices.
“We firmly believed that if we gave customers what they wanted at the price they wanted then it would all pan out, and the business would be able to grow and survive.”
Hedley said a turning point came when the business began moving into its new home in Cherry Holt Road over a six year period between 2000 and 2006. Not only was it a bigger premises, allowing the firm to take on more work, it was in an industrial park and the business could therefore operate through the night.
A joint venture with Brooks in Bristol, which achieved a turnover of £3m before it was sold in 2007, was also seen as a key period in company’s history as it brought in clients from all over the country.
Hedley, who lives in Northorpe, said: “When I started we didn’t go more than 40 miles from Bourne.
“We were restricted at our old site in Manning Road and couldn’t work overnight.
“To help us grow, we decided to relocate over a six year period to Cherry Holt Road. Operating from a 60,000 sq ft site allowed us to go further and further afield.
“And our relationship with Brooks was one of those opportunities we had to take. It opened up new boundaries and we expanded our services to hotels in Leeds and London.
“They say you make your own luck and we certainly grasped our opportunities.”
By the time Hedley decided to call it a day, Bourne Textile Services serviced more than 340 hotels across London, Birmingham, Hull, Sheffield and Stratford-upon-Avon, and employed a workforce of 380 staff, which processed in excess of 1.3m pieces of laundry a week.
Hedley said that when the £22m deal was put on the table it just felt like the right time move on.
He said: “We had a great team that worked so well together. The commitment shown from the directors, who had been there over 20 years, was so consistent.
“There was a real team effort from the whole workforce and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work.
“It was a very difficult decision to sell.
“I thought we had got to that stage where the next phase of growth was to move further afield and have more of a presence in London.
“The board met with the chief executive of Johnson Service Group, who said the company was looking to grow business in our sector.
“We started talking and it really focused my mind. I was coming up to 60, my sons Ben and Archie were going their own ways and Johnson had a really good history of buying family businesses and making it work.
“If it had been an overseas company looking to buy us I wouldn’t have felt so comfortable.
“But the opportunity was there and the deal felt right. It’s in safe hands with Johnson.
“It was definitely emotional because it gave me and my family a life and a career for 80 years. I really enjoyed my time working with the business.”
Outside of work, Hedley is a keen sportsman and has enjoyed his role as chairman of Bourne Cricket Club for many years.
Three years ago, he bought Rutland Sports, which has shops in Oakham and Bourne, which he runs with his son Ben, 26, wife Karen, and 15 members of staff.
He said he was looking forward to taking a step back and wanted to enjoy his retirement.
Hedley said: “My aim for the summer and my retirement is to take a step back and enjoy my cricket. I am an MCC member so I hope to watch some cricket at Lord’s and Nottingham. I also want to work on my golf.
“I have got lots to keep me busy and the shops are a bit of a new challenge for me.
“I’m not a serial entrepreneur and I am happy with what I’m doing but you never know what’s around the corner.”