The Datesand Story – Part 2
The growing team
From the late eighties to the early nineties, Barry, Jonathon, Janet and a few new important faces helped to further develop and grow the business. One of those faces was Simon Thorp. Simon was first introduced to Datesand in 2002. He became a vital asset to the team helping the company to expand into wider markets. The company was now gaining traction in international markets thanks to the language skills (and charm of course) of Simon and another linguist colleague Brian Hooley. In 1990, Datesand had their first bulk orders from large, prestigious clients in Europe, exporting initially to France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
The company continued, completely self-financed and by 1994, things were looking great. There were even more products being added to the catalogue and the team had grown to around 13. The late Mike Slater came on board to expand the new horticultural range, RainGel granules, Rainmats and Holiday Watering Mats which used some of the same basic absorbency materials as the absorbent products sold into the research sector. Rapid progress in this and the core research markets continued until there came the very sad and unexpected news in 1995 when Barry was diagnosed with multiple melanoma, a form of leukaemia, at just 48 years old.
Dark and difficult days
The family and of course the business to which Barry was so central were now plunged into very difficult and dangerous times. As the face of the business that clients had got to know and trust, Barry’s illness and subsequent need to withdraw himself from the business took a heavy toll. Nick left his job at the Manchester Evening News to come back and help and Jonathon took the reins of the business. Jonathon put a strong focus on continuing to drive sales, Nick managed production, ensuring quality and quantity were still as they needed to be while Janet managed company accounts and looked after a lot of the customer support and day to day communications.
Barry very sadly passed away in 1998. Datesand had not long since been close to making its first million-pound turnover before his death but the loss of the company’s founder and main driving force proved to be Datesand’s biggest challenge to date. Understandably, business and of course profits took a huge knock. The family fought hard in the face of this struggle. The very day that Barry passed away, a huge order had come in for Super Absorbent Tray Liners that had to be shipped in 24 hours. Jonathon and Nick went straight from the hospital and, with the help of a few friends, worked 12 hours straight, overnight in the tiny production room. The team managed to produce and pack the order just in the nick of time (a large pizza order delivered also in the nick of time almost certainly ensured this triumph). The significant order, worth around £100,000, went out on time. The next chapter in Datesand’s history had begun with a terrible tragedy and then an amazing triumph over adversity.
The family continued to work together as a tight unit for another six or seven years. Still navigating pretty difficult times, they were faced with continuing challenges, some in particular being terribly hard to handle for the young and fairly inexperienced team. A number of genuine, good people had to be let go to keep the company’s head above water. As hard as this was, the decision had to be made to ensure the survival of the family business. While Jonathon continued to lead the company as Managing Director and Sales Director, Janet managed the accounts and customer relationships and meanwhile Nick left to pursue his dream of a career in sailing. From this point onwards, Jonathon began to master the business, controlling costs, redefining business goals, increasing sales and expanding markets.
The project gains pace
The Datesand team moved to new, larger premises in 1999 on Crabtree Lane in Openshaw, Manchester, where the Company took on its first mortgage. Here, a strong team of 5 were working to grow the business even further, taking risks, utilising low business rates and other financial support to help purchase essentials like company cars to improve sales and a van to cut out the costs of hiring vehicles. It was great to finally have office and warehouse space that not only improved logistics but offered a stable home for the business – somewhere the team could be proud to invite customers and begin personalising the Datesand brand. Crabtree Lane was a proper headquarters and the friendly, helpful team were delighted to have their base at last.
At this point, Datesand were only about 5th in the market, still relatively small and still definitely struggling to get to the next level of success. Throughout this time, the constant driving factor for Jonathon was that he could not let all Barry’s hard work be for nothing. He could not let his father’s death be in vain. He would often work up to 80 hours a week during these years, other members of the team also going the extra mile on many occasions. The next 10 years were full of challenges and hard work, ups and downs of every kind, but all the endeavour and determination would turn out to be well worth it in the end.