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Export is Fun
Mr. D.R.E. Ibbs’ personal memories of his 41 years with Chubb
The Midlands - again!
On arrival in Bannochie's office he advised it had been decided to appoint a sales/engineering coordinator, as large contracts were becoming so complex and the sales force had so little engineering training, that problems were arising. This had been fully discussed at the highest level, including the Regional Managers, Export Director and Banking Director, who all agreed with such an appointment. The only question was "who to appoint"? At that stage, I fell into Bannochie's lap and he decided the solution was at hand. After agreeing terms which included status equivalent to Regional Manager, including car and a reasonable salary, I was sent to see Hansell who called in the various Directors and Managers to meet me. The first was Ted Hewitt, now the Banks Director. He was genuinely pleased and said that although he had no idea I was returning to UK, he felt that had I been available I would be the obvious person for the job. He promised the fullest cooperation but commented that he did not feel Banks offered much scope for my new responsibilities.
Next in was Dempsey, now the Export Director. He made all the right noises but in his eyes I could see that he was appalled that I was back with the Lock and Safe Company. In fact, I later learned he immediately went back to Export to report my appointment and tell his staff that if any of them referred a job to me, they would have to answer to him.
Hansell then sent me to see the London Home Sales Managers who merely advised that they mainly dealt in stock items and didn’t see how I could help.The only exception was Hugh Myers, who for some reason, was very hostile and stated that he could supply all the information his reps needed. I could only think back to some of the farces that I knew Myers had been responsible for and how his office manager would often refer clients to me when I was Export Manager, if they had difficult queries.
Initially, I was based in Ray Sands’ Research Department whilst we waited for the new Customer Relations Centre to be built at Wolverhampton. This new block had been agreed by the Board as we now had so many clients visiting Wolverhampton for demonstrations and instruction, it was vital we had a dedicated centre and staff to deal with them. Bannochie then revealed that one of the reasons he wanted me at Wolverhampton was to help look after these clients, particularly when they were making tours of the factory. Under the existing arrangements, Charles Barton insisted that his foremen and supervisors conducted these tours. Bannochie felt that having arranged most of the Home Office Crime Prevention tours when I was Regional manager for The Midlands, and having a factory training, I was better qualified to carry out these tours as part of my function.
So it was that I settled in at Wolverhampton and apart from helping out with some factory tours, no jobs or queries were referred to me. I saw Bannochie who passed me to Hansell and was told that obviously it was a quiet time! I kicked my heels and took to giving security talks to a number of local organisations who wrote in, including the local Housewives Guild. I was so desperate to keep my selling skills intact that I took a part time job in my spare time, selling Linguaphone Lessons - made some money at it too!
One aspect of my job was to attend the quarterly Regional Managers Conferences, the format of which had been changed under Hansell. They were now held in the various regions by turn instead of in London and Wolverhampton as had first been the case. The business content was still about the same as before but due to the venues, they tended to become longer, requiring at least one overnight stay with the necessity for a group dinner which had become rather a bean feast. It was at one of these that I incurred Hansell's displeasure and received what, some time later, Trevor Geen, the Personnel Manager, said was the most severe public dressing down he had ever seen anyone in Chubb receive. The meeting was discussing training and trainees with Trevor putting the case for and Hansell (who I believe always felt vulnerable to having a sales force who might know more than he did), presenting the opposing view. To back up his point of view, he asked each Regional Manager their opinion. In turn they all opposed the idea, mainly because they felt they were "too busy" to supervise trainees in the their regions. I felt this was a bit rich as one manager in particular, Ian Radcliffe, had stated publicly the night before, that he made sure he was never in his office in the afternoons but spent his time scouring antique shops for treasures! Apart from making the point that I felt the Regional Trainee Scheme had worked well in previous years when Reg Pilgrim controlled the sales force, I made little comment.
Later that afternoon, Dempsey was holding forth on how well Export was performing under his guidance, but that he could not meet the full potential without having at least two more trained salesmen immediately. The two he asked for were Gerry Lewis and David Cotterell, then working in Midland and Northern Regions. Their Regional Managers immediately protested stating that if these highly skilled salesmen were withdrawn from their regions, they could not meet their budgets as replacements were impossible to find. The arguments raged too and fro when, at length, I requested the Chairman’s (Hansell) permission to pose a question.
I asked Radcliffe (Midlands) and David Jones (Northern) where these sales paragons had come from. Both looked blank but Hansell immediately saw the trap, he and they had worked themselves into and said very quietly and dangerously, that I’d better tell the meeting. Unaware of Hansell's wrath, I said quite truthfully, that they were both Regional Trainees of three years previously and surely that proved the point that such trainees were necessary. Hansell erupted and tore into me stating that I’d always had a bee in my bonnet about training and just because I had an engineering background, did not mean that everyone else needed one or aught to have one. Everyone sat very quietly - including Geen, and the matter was dropped, never to be resurrected. Indeed it was the last time Hansell allowed me to attend a Regional Meeting and over the ensuing months set about demoting me, although for a long time he denied what he had done.
I sat at Wolverhampton quietly and underemployed, when Bill Bannochie suddenly had one of those brilliant ideas that Managing Directors are paid for. For many years Chubb had been the sole supplier of prison locks to the Home Office Prison Department - Peter Gunn, an old colleague being employed full time to service this very large chunk of business. Bannochie decided that if he trained me up in prison security, he could go after overseas business. A very small amount had been serviced through Crown Agents but what he wanted was to actively go out and seek such business. He told me what he required and arranged for me to be trained by a retired Home Office Engineer, who had been retained as a consultant to design prison security equipment. The first two items he designed were so over engineered, the resulting costs were too great to interest the Prison Department. I was given a thorough grounding by both George McClean the consultant, and Peter Gunn who took me to visit a number of English and Scottish prisons and I also attended the lectures he gave to overseas prison managers at Wakefield. Soon my first opportunity arose. In Dempsey's absence overseas, Cotterell, who looked after South America and the West Indies, asked me to look at an enquiry he had received from the Public Works Department in the Cayman Islands, who were building a new prison. I asked David if I could speak to them which he readily agreed and by telephone advised the Chief Engineer how we could assist and advise him. He was delighted and within three days, with Bannochie's blessing, both Cotterell and I were out-bound for Grand Cayman. The visit was a tremendous success and within weeks Chubb had secured a good order, not only for prison locks, doors and grilles but also quite a lot of standard equipment from CSI Ltd. for use in the gatehouse area. Bannochie was thrilled at this quick vindication of his idea, as was Cotterell, who received the credit for a good order from a fairly low key market.
Quite quickly, I became very busy, which was a very welcome change from the inactivity of the previous year. Chubb Singapore was involved in the locking of a large Malaysian prison and required help. Unfortunately, they had not considered all the other equipment that might have been supplied but even so it was a good contract and gave me an entree to the local PWD for future jobs. Cotterell asked me to accompany him to the West Indies to check on the completed Cayman prison and there I met the Prison Superintendent whom I had met previously at Wakefield with Peter Gunn. He was pleased to see me, delighted with his new prison and gave me introductions to many of the other prison superintendents in the West Indies. From there on we were on a roll. Business came in and Cotterell was absolutely delighted with the results. I accompanied him on a great number of his overseas trips to S. America and the West Indies with prison business as our main theme and relock and enquiries for new prisons poured in.
The other export salesmen soon noticed and I was invited to look at a number of Middle East and African Prison Departments including, at my request, Egypt. My interest was the result of an enquiry for what had been interpreted as a sliding door lock. At the time we did not have a suitable lock and at Dempsey's promise of vast contracts to be placed, Lockworks had developed a mechanism based on the grille gate dead lock. The product was expensive and the enquiry died and had never been followed up as far as I could see. A new Export Lock Manager had been appointed and he in turn had appointed a new Egyptian lock agent, who I found to be totally useless. Working through him and the main Egyptian agent I managed to get an appointment with the prison engineer, a policeman, as Egyptian prisons were run by the police. He agreed to let me have a look at the prison for which the enquiry had been made. It turned out that all the doors were conventional hinged doors for which the standard cell locks were best suited. How the sliding enquiry had come about I never did find out although I suspect that it was the lock agent's fanciful idea. We received an order for the prison locks and the engineer was very pleased. It was the start of a very fruitfull relationship which although entailing much very hard work and extremely late hours, resulted in Stewart Holliday clinching many outstanding orders for re-locks, a large new prison with doors, window grilles and much else and thousands of pairs of our two types of handcuff. Thirty years after my first efforts, spares are still being supplied. One side issue had to be settled early related to the new lock agent. The Chubb Lock Manager had given him a letter which stated that he would receive commission on all locks (including prison locks) at a very high rate. We had to nip that in the bud at an early stage and from then on all prison equipment was excluded from our agency agreements and commission was paid, depending on the help that the agent gave us. The Lock Manager departed not too long after this but it certainly gave us a great deal of trouble.
Small new detention centres and prisons were dealt with in the Trucial States which later led to two very much larger prisons and so it went on. East Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, all finally specified Chubb equipment. Naturally it took a great deal of effort on my part but with Bannochie's backing, visits were authorised. The prison governors and superintendents were most receptive because I do not think they had ever before received visits from prison specialists and were very pleased at the help they suddenly found was available.
Our greatest triumph occurred on David Cotterell's South American area. He received call from a South American prison officer who asked that he might meet one of Chubb specialists during a flying visit he was making to England. I was asked to travel up to the East coast where this man had an appointment with a company who were not in the security business. I travelled up and announced myself to the receptionist and stated my business with Major Martin. Quite what happened I cannot say but in spite of waiting some hours, I was continually told that he was not yet available. Whether they thought I was a competitor and deliberately kept me waiting without telling him I don’t know but I eventually left without seeing him. Fortunately, he telephoned David Cotterell as he was on his way to Heathrow and David advised the major that he was scheduled to visit Uruguay in a couple of weeks and I would also be there and we would meet and discuss his requirements.
On arrival in Montevideo I was astounded to discover that Cotterell had no local agent. As the British press had reported that Uruguay had a "bad human rights record", I felt that it was unwise to plunge too deeply into the local prison system without some local organisation knowing what we were doing. We decided to ring the British Embassy and being a fairly quiet backwater, the Commercial Attaché granted us an immediate interview. When we told him our business in Uruguay, he looked very troubled and stated he would need to refer the matter to the Ambassador. Within minutes we were in the presence of a large lady, lounging back in her office chair and puffing on a cigarette which she did not remove when speaking to us! I stated our business and her immediate reply was "You cannot expect Her Majesty's Government to be involved in this sort of thing"! I told her we would conduct any negotiations ourselves and I only wanted the Embassy to be aware of the fact that we were there and what we were doing. She replied very negatively and as the length of cigarette ash fell down her cardigan she brushed it away whilst continuing to speak to us. I was very disappointed with her attitude but couldn’t resist a parting shot - "Never the less Ambassador, the money is very good". And so began the legend of "Fag-ash Lil".
After quite a number of visits and contact with the factory re a new lighter cell door, for which I received no cooperation from Fisher whatsoever, we eventually landed the huge contract. All praise and credit must be given to Brian Nuttall, the senior design engineer who produced a design for the light door very quickly, the estimators who costed it and also the Home Office for arranging visits to several High Security Prisons in the UK, for various Uruguayan officials. We were successful in the face of tremendous competition from the Americans and Canadians, who felt we were trespassing in their backyard. I was delighted to receive a call from the Canadian negotiator only a day after we had the contract confirmed, assuring me that they had been successful by offering to use “a few Chubb locks"! I also learned later from Major Martin that our Embassy had been most obstructive in the matter of visas for the visitors from Uruguay.
The contract came at a very good time because the factory were extremely short of work and Bannochie instructed that I was to ensure that the job went through without a hitch. The first thing that Cotterell and I did was to call a meeting of the factory managers to lay down and agree a program for the job. Neither David Danbury nor Fisher deigned to attend, sending their second in commands. After a very productive meeting, a program and timescale was approved by all present for drawings, machine capacity, materials and manufacture and I immediately issued this to all the Heads of Department. Imagine my great annoyance when the following day Danbury phoned me in a towering rage to state that he had not been present and would not agree to meet the program. I pointed out that he had been invited but chose to send his deputy who had agreed the program. I said that if he wished to alter the program he’d better phone Bannochie with an explanation, as I knew that Bill Bannochie was over the moon at this huge contract. His bluff called and he hung up on me but I realised that I had made another dangerous enemy.
The contract went through quite smoothly except for minor problems. One related to the welding of the door skins to the frames with a series of plug welds. The planning specifically called for sufficient weld to be applied so that they would linish-off flush with the skin, leaving no blemish on the door face before painting. One day the paint foreman sent for me to inspect a batch of about thirty doors, all with weld imperfections. The only remedy was to have each door ‘stopped and flatted’ to allow a perfect paint finish. I insisted this extra cost be charged to works. Shortly afterwards, I received a visit from the angry line inspector who had obviously been reprimanded for the imperfections and was told very forcibly to mind my own effing business. I pointed out quite mildly that it was his job and not mine, to check the welds but I was responsible for the contract and could not tolerate shoddy work. The chief welder in the safe works, Brian Moore, who had been an apprentice on the shop floor at the same time as me, quietly approached me to apologise for the problem. He said he had spoken with the welder responsible and there would not be a repeat of the the fault..
The next problem to arise concerned the door frames, which were made from a steel angle. A batch of frames showed up which had very severe scale on the steel making them quite unsuitable for painting. I sent for the Bill Camm who had written the specification which was for "scale-free steel" and asked if the steel frames met specification. He stated emphatically that they did not and agreed the frames would need grinding and linishing to remove the scale and this would need to be charged to works rectification. The instruction was given but shortly afterwards I was copied in on a memo from Fisher stating that as sales had asked for the extra work, they must pay for it. I was furious and taking Bill Camm with me, went to see Fisher to tell him that the steel was not to spec. He looked hard at Bill Camm and stated that it was. I turned to Camm and asked him to explain what had happened but he merely looked shame faced and told me that he was wrong and the steel was acceptable. I realised what had happened; Camm worked for Fisher and had been got at. Thereafter the steel returned to the scale free spec but I was not happy that sales were charged for the extra work based on Fishers lie.
Eventually the contract was completed and installed on time and I was advised it had made all the difference to the works economy that year. Bannochie sent for me and congratulated me, handing me a very nice bonus cheque but at the same time showing me a curious memo received from Fisher which stated that he was sorry he had not made any input into the contract but that he did not "believe" in prisons and therefore it was against his conscience to participate. I tartly suggested that as Fisher felt that way, he should refuse his bonus that year which was undoubtedly based on the profits contributed by the prison contract. I suppose that Fisher, worried that I might advise Bannochie how little help and more seriously, how much hindrance Fisher had been, decided to make his excuses first. He need not have worried - I felt he was just too petty to bother with. There was no doubt in my mind that the the behaviour of Danbury and Fisher was based on the attitude of the Works Director, Charles Barton. He loathed having someone based at the Works who did not answer to him and made my life as difficult as possible. Messrs. Danbury and Fisher, having been brought in to Chubb by Barton, were total sycophants.
During my last visit to Uruguay after the completion of the contract, I had cause to phone the Embassy and was greeted as a ‘long lost friend’ by the Commercial Attaché. He congratulated me and said he’d always felt we would be successful. I suppose the Embassy gained some "brownie points" because a UK company won the contract but in view of their negative attitude, I felt they weren’t deserved.
Two points arose from the Uruguay contract - the first amusing and the second giving me great satisfaction.
One day whilst I was visiting Export in London, Bannochie suddenly breezed into the department and addressing everyone, told us that he was lunching at the Foreign Office. Apparently they had invited a group of business men to tell them what they thought of the FO’s Commercial Attaches and had asked for comments on how their service could be improved. Bannochie wanted our input. There was a total silence as it was widely accepted that the Commercial Attaches were about the last people to go to for business help. Growing impatient, he asked for some comment to help him out and I whispered as a loud aside to Cotterell "what about fag ash Lil"? Bannochie was on it like a flash and pulled the story out of us.
Later, Bannochie told us the group he was standing with was approached by a junior minister who chatted with them but never asked about commercial work. When walking away however he turned and told them that he had forgotten to ask for their comments. No one had much to say and the minister asked for someone’s opinion. Bannochie claims that he then said -"My people do not think too much of some of them" and told the fag ash Lil story in full. No further comment was made although shortly afterwards the ambassador in Uruguay was moved to what seemed to us to be a very junior position in Spain. She had been on the TV news frequently during the Falklands war and I secretly hoped that she had finally got her just deserts - though I doubt it!
The second point concerned Danbury and Fisher. One day I was lunching on my own in the staff dining room when in they walked and began discussing an inquiry for 100,000 ballot boxes, required for Uganda in the post Idi Amin elections. They were simple things and could have been quickly drawn out and costed by an apprentice. Inevitably, Fisher and Danbury had insisted the job went through the full design process, which took so long that time ran out for the quotes and we lost the job. Trying to make me rise, Danbury turned to Fisher and said, "I really do not think we should waste valuable executive time in future on these wild arsed sales inquiries". I made no comment and kept my head down. Finally Danbury could stand it no longer and turning to me, asked for my opinion. Somewhat heatedly, I said they obviously had no concept of the hard work the sales staff made to get these inquiries and it was very bad that the works couldn’t show the same dedication by producing quotes in good time. This time it might only be for 100,000 boxes but the next time it could well be for several million. They sniggered and the subject was dropped. Less than twelve months later the huge Nigerian inquiry and order was obtained for "several million ballot boxes". That Bilston Sheet Metal had to act as our sub-contractor to make the first several thousand boxes, whilst Danbury and Fisher set the very slow factory wheels in motion, is another story but I felt that I really had the last laugh.
For a number of years, there had been rumours that Chubb were to be taken over by a large engineering conglomerate - GEC being the favourite as their chief executive, Arnold Weinstock, was known to have a "war chest" of millions of pounds. Finally these rumours reached a crescendo although subsequently, Bill Randall told me they had no basis what so ever, and surprise, surprise, a bid was made by Racal. I still believe the reason for this was that Harrison, the Chief Executive of Racal, loathed Weinstock with whom he had engaged in a number of contested take over deals. Finally, in 1984, the deal went through as a number of the large pension company funds felt that Racal would do better with Chubb than the existing Chubb management.
The Chubb Board had made a number of horrendous and costly mistakes, the worst being the Gross Cash Register deal which had used money that could have been better spent in developing Chubb’s resources instead of trying to underpin a dying organisation whose mechanical systems simply could not compete with computer technology. As a result of the takeover, Randall, Bannochie and George Chubb were all given early retirement and in their places the new owners appointed a number of existing but very second rate Chubb personnel, namely, Philip Crossland, Basil Evans and finally Simon Slater who took over export from Roger Cloke. One very surprising factor of the take over was that Racal simply did not seem to know what to do with Chubb’s Lock and Safe divisions and we were left to get on with our lives but now under the control of a group of directors who were very much less able than those so recently dismissed.
A possible explanation for this was revealed to me some time later when I was on a private holiday in Barbados. Knowing I was on the island, the Managing Director of our local agent, visited me at my hotel one Sunday morning, for a drink and a chat. Whilst we were talking he mentioned they also represented Racal and that two very senior Racal Directors were at present, on the Island. On hearing there was a Chubb man in Barbados, they asked Carl to invite me to lunch with them as they felt it would be useful to have a conversation with a long time Chubb man. In due course I enjoyed a very good lunch with them at a high class restaurant and they closely quizzed me regarding the feelings of the Chubb personnel to the take over.
I answered as honestly as I could and finally the more senior of the two thanked me and asked whether I had any questions for them. I replied that I was baffled regarding the take over as they seemed to have no idea what to do with us. I received the very strange answer that Racal understood Chubb had a nucleus of very fine electronic engineers. I was even more baffled and replied that essentially, the main companies were blacksmiths, making a specialised range of hardware, locks and safes and although we had an Alarm Company, this consisted of not very good electricians, stringing together burglar and fire alarms just as thousands of other small electricians were doing. I was then told that their "research" had shown that we had the biggest network of central alarm stations in the country. I expressed surprise and said that we had stations in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle - which did not seem very large to me! Yes, I was told, we know that now but we were advised that you had stations in every town and city. I pressed them on this and was told their research had suggested that Chubb Super Centres were in fact central alarm stations. I laughed and pointed out that these were merely the larger lock stockists. Yes they replied, we know that now!. I was left gasping in amazement; surely the whole basis of the takeover was not the result of faulty intelligence. To this day, I do not know for certain but subsequent events made me believe that Harrison often acted on hunches rather than facts. Sometimes they came off as evidenced by the Vodaphone success but I really do not think the Chubb deal ever came off for Harrison in spite of all his protestations to the City - and of course eventually, he sold Chubb on.
Shortly before the takeover however, life was looking very rosy for me. Bannochie, so thrilled by the Uruguay contract, advised me he was thinking of setting up a specialist 'Prison Department' and when it came to fruition he stated that I was to be the first manager. With this incentive, I was working harder than ever and gradually rumours began to spread through the company that the 'Prison Department' was about to come into being. I waited for the announcement which strangely was delayed and more rumours began to circulate about who was to manage the new department. I lobbied some of the directors who professed to have no knowledge of who was to be promoted and it was suggested I should speak to Bannochie. I tried on many occasions but his secretary, who really did give herself airs and graces, always deflected my calls with excuses that the was "busy but would call me back" etc. Eventually, someone in the factory told me that a new manager had been appointed which I simply denied, relying on Bannochie’s promise to me and the the fact that he had always treated me very fairly. Eventually, the bitter truth came out and John Glazzard, another ex apprentice and by then manager of the Light Product Works, showed me a memo informing all Chubb managers of the setting up of the department with Colin Lovett as manager.
Again I tried to contact Bannochie by phone and by seeking a personal appointment but still his secretary stone-walled me - I was furious at such treatment. My humour was not improved a couple of days later when unceremoniously, my office door was flung open to reveal Lovett who walked in uninvited, took a seat and without further ado calmly told me that he had been appointed manager of the "International Prison Department" and that I was to work for him. In short order I told him he could f***k off and that I would sooner resign than do such a thing. I also told him that he could not do the job (having trained him partly in Export Department, I knew his strengths and weaknesses and was certain that he would fall down on it). He left and in anger, I again phoned Bannochie’s office. On being stone-walled once again, I told the woman that unless she gave me an appointment to see Bannochie, I would come down to London and seek a meeting with Randall on the Group Board - she immediately gave me an appointment for the next day.
At the appointed time I went in to see Bannochie, who looked extremely worried. Having told him about Lovett’s visit I asked why he hadn’t at least had the courtesy to let me know what was going to happen. He apologised and stated it was not his decision; Lovett had been selected from the list of ‘accelerated promotion candidates’, whose main claim to fame was that they had university degrees. I replied that Lovett had come to us from the RAF, where he had been a trainee pilot, invalided out because of the onset of diabetes and to the best of my knowledge, no mention had been made of a 'degree' when he joined Export as a trainee. Bannochie replied that he understood Lovett had an "Open University" degree. Whether this was true I do not know but I do know many employees and prospective employees claimed mythical certificates and degrees, the validity of which was never checked. He went on to say that once Lovett moved on to higher things, undoubtedly I would be appointed to run the department. Heatedly, I told him that under no circumstances would I work for Lovett and would rather take redundancy since his appointment implied this was the case. I told Bannochie that the department would fail to get off the ground with Lovett in command. I left without resolution of my situation although Bannochie said that he would consider my request for redundancy.
[Within four years, Rod Bunyan fired Lovett for failing to produce the results he so often forecast and having spent large sums of money on smart literature and international seminars.]
Some days later Bannochie sent for me and said that my request for redundancy was rejected but as a compromise, was I prepared to go on dealing with prison business in the areas where I was already entrenched. He added that I would be working directly for him and not under Lovett’s control. After some thought I agreed to this, knowing I would continue bringing in good business, thereby showing Bannochie and whoever else were responsible for the Lovett promotion, they had made a grievous error. Business continued to flow in although Lovett made things as difficult as he could by insisting on "vetting" all my orders (via Export), before the factory could accept them. It was a total farce as I do not think he ever saw one and the young man who was given the job of vetting knew as much about prison business as I did about nuclear science.
The ‘accelerated promotion list for employees with degrees’, had originated some years earlier when Reg Pilgrim had told me the Company had decided that in future, only people with degrees would be employed as Management Trainees. I’d disagreed with this saying I thought the Company would be stupid to turn their backs on good people without degrees and pointed out only one or two of the then Senior Managers held degrees (Lord Hayter and Alfred Markham). The matter seemed to be dropped but was resurrected when all employees were asked to update their personnel records by listing their academic qualifications.
I pointed out to Trevor Geen, the Personnel Manager, that my Cambridge School Certificate at matriculation level (six credits and two distinctions), National and Higher National Certificates in Mechanical Engineering and the Institute’s Section 3 Management Certificate, were at least as good if not better than some of the very poor non technical degrees being granted by one or two of the "red brick" universities. He told me he was well aware of that but unfortunately the directors and the government of the day, had set their hearts on having more than 50% of the workforce with degrees of any sort. In the end the accelerated promotion list was a disaster as all the candidates were either sacked or resigned. This occurred shortly after my retirement and Rod Bunyan told me he was the only person with an Engineering Degree, in the Chubb Lock or Safe Company!
After the takeover, Randall, Bannochie and later Cloak, were all dismissed so I never discovered the truth behind the reason for Bannochie’s broken promise - was he to blame or someone else. All in all I believe that a golden opportunity was missed. From what I had already achieved and went on to achieve, I’m confident that Peter Gunn and I could have created a wonderfully successful department and given Chubb a stranglehold on international prison business as we already had in the United Kingdom.
The company limped on under the management of Basil Evans as Managing Director and Simon Slater as Export Manager. Evans was a totally innocuous man who liked to deal in the minutia of business and Slater, who had been a "marketing manager", was totally useless as the Export Manager. One of the major developments which Evans oversaw was the moving of export from central London to the old Pyrene house in Sunbury. As a direct result of this move all the export sales team were provided with company cars (always a no-no in the past) so as to keep them and ensure that they could get to the new location. Slater appointed two very strange second-in-commands which I believe was resented by the old hands. On one memorable occasion, I was instructed to accompany Slater to Bangladesh, one of the poorer countries in the world, where someone had got wind of an order for a large quantity of Bankers Treasury Safes. Such an order was of immense importance to the factory who were extremely short of high quality work. I was instructed to accompany Slater, who advised Evans that he simply did not have the technical expertise to negotiate such an order! It quickly became obvious to both of us that there was no such order in the offing as the Government Bank with the requirement, had no access to the large amount of ‘hard' currency necessary to pay for the equipment. Sharing a room with Slater at the hotel (an arrangement made by Slater to 'save' money), he told me that he was very nervous about what would be said when he returned without an order. He said he intended to visit the British High Commission to consult and take advice from the Commercial Secretary the following day. I asked if he would let me cold call around the city to see if there was any potential and this he happily agreed (There was and later we received an order from a private bank for vault doors and safe deposit lockers - total value approximately ten thousand pounds). The following day we flew home on Biman Bangladesh Airways.
On the way, Slater became more and more worried and finally announced that he had decided to terminate his flight early in Europe so that he could take some holiday and would I advise Evans accordingly. I did - he was not pleased! Evans telephoned me and asked my opinion in respect of the supposed contract for heavy safes. I was absolutely frank and told him that in my view, the contract was ‘pie in the sky’ as they had no money with which to purchase the equipment. He was obviously disappointed and rather displeased that Slater had chosen not to return with me to break the news. I don’t know and never discovered just who ‘got wind’ that this huge contract was there for the asking but the result for the Works was some short time working and the threat of redundancies.
One day whilst walking through the factory, I was stopped by the union negotiator who enquired whether the situation on Export was as grim as they had been advised. I stated that in my opinion there was always business to be had but it would not just fall into ones lap. Much effort and calling was required to secure the business. At the time there was almost a complete block on the Export Area Managers actually making regular overseas visits. He asked me point blank what I was doing about obtaining business and when I told him I was not allowed to make regular overseas trips to promote safe works business but only as an aid to export in the prison business field, he looked very thoughtful. In fact he used this information at a later works council meeting. Apparently, he said it was outrageous that men, trained in the factory specifically for the export business, were only allowed to act as a back up for "useless export managers", rather than as a front line salesman. When I heard what had transpired I was very worried that this would do me no good whatsoever but it did in fact have an unexpected effect.
Shortly afterwards, Derek Langley (originally a Director with J. Parkes & Sons, makers of ‘UNION’ Locks), who’d been given overall responsibility for the Chubb Physical Security Companies, burst into my office and asked me to tell him how we could achieve more export business which, he stated, was vital to our survival. I pointed out that I was the wrong person to ask as I was not part of Export Dept., just the prison specialist working as an aid to the department. He brushed this aside and asked again what I would do to promote export business. Given a free hand I detailed my long held beliefs that only regular visits overseas to get first hand knowledge of the local markets and stimulate the Agent’s salesmen into cold calling on prospects would achieve this in the long term. I added that in my opinion, the Export Dept. should be based at Wolverhampton where communication with the factory would be so much simpler and technical problems could be solved quickly, thereby improving the manufacturing process. After some probing questions, he thanked me profusely and departed.
Next day, Basil Evans appeared in my office and enquired what Langley had asked me and what I had said. I told him and the following day, who should appear but Simon Slater, asking the same questions. Quite obviously, my discussion with Langley had stirred things up.
For a few days I sat and pondered these strange events then eventually, one morning before start of business, I telephoned Trevor Geen's office and asked if I might see him privately. He immediately agreed to see me and on arrival in his office I explained what had happened a few days previously. As I scarcely knew Langley, I asked if, in Geen's opinion, Langley would mind me approaching him and suggesting that if he’d give me the Export Department in Wolverhampton, I believed I could improve the overall export performance. Geen smiled and told me that Langley was very approachable and under normal circumstances would be very happy for me to make such an approach but his current advice was to do nothing for a few days. He said his reasons for saying this would eventually become clear to me. They did, that very afternoon. Like a thunderbolt from the blue an official notice was given out that with immediate effect, Basil Evans and Simon Slater would be leaving the company, Export would be relocated to Wolverhampton under a new manager and Rod Bunyan would become Managing Director of the Safe company.
Bankers Treasury Safe - MK2
|Early Sales/Offices/ChubbGroup/1980s & on|
|The Detector Mechanism|
|Chubb Money Boxes|
|The Aubin Trophy|
|Lock Number 696|
|Lock Register 1819 - 1828|
|Lock Register 1829 - 1840|
|Lock Register 1841 - 1850|
|Lock Register 1851 - 1860|
|Lock Register 1861 - 1870|
|Lock Register 1871 - 1880|
|Lock Register 1881 - 1890|
|Lock Register 1891 - 1900|
|Lock Register 1901 - 1910|
|Lock Register 1911 - 1920|
|Lock Register 1921- 1936|
|Post 1936 Locks|
|Ibbs - Export is Fun|
|Back to Work|
|My Export Career begins|
|The Happy Years|
|Back to The Midlands|
|Back to The Midlands - part 2|
|The Midlands - again!|
|The Final Years|
|Slingsby Dart T51 Sailplane|