A people person
As Ian Burton celebrates his tenth anniversary at Taylor & Braithwaite, Ben Clark finds out what has driven his success and what has defined his career with the company
For Ian Burton, being in front of the customer and forging longstanding relationships is at the heart of the way he does business. Ten years as a successful salesman in the agriculture sector for Lloyd Ltd of Carlisle, in which time he became New Holland’s UK salesman of the year in 2004, has led to his passion for delivering a top-quality service. Ian’s time at Lloyds peaked when he became Sales Manager, but being stuck in an office after a decade on the road was not his calling. “The buzz of being a salesman comes from getting in front of the customer and making sales,” he reflects. “Being Sales Manager had me sitting at a desk supporting guys out on the road and I felt I had achieved all I could as a salesman, so decided it was time to move on.”
It was at this point, in 2005, that Taylor & Braithwaite (T&B), a local agricultural dealership, approached Ian with the chance to buy into the business and take on a directorship. “Trevor Braithwaite was retiring and they came to me with the opportunity to help lead the business alongside Paul Taylor and his father, Harold Taylor,” he continues. “It was a great chance to take on a new challenge.”
Despite growing up in an agricultural setting and spending much of his working life in the same industry, Ian’s real interest lay in construction. Upon leaving school at 16, he took a YTS apprenticeship with Wilson’s Plant and Haulage in Keswick where he learnt to operate a range of plant equipment, including their JCB 3CX. By the time he turned 21 he had also undertaken training within the construction industry achieving a CITB certification as a Building Technician. Ultimately, it is this passion for construction that has driven the bulk of T&B’s transformation throughout Ian’s time sharing the helm.
“When I joined, the company was nearly 100 per cent focused on agriculture, but now we’re closer to 95 per cent construction,” he explains. “Even though I wasn’t driving diggers anymore, I had always had a hankering to sell them, so once I had settled into the company I started looking at opportunities to diversify and expand the business. In essence, I was aware that agriculture could be a difficult growth market and wanted to reduce our total reliance on it.”
Several opportunities to franchise compact construction equipment came about, but it wasn’t until Ian made a call to Hyundai in 2009 – at the height of the economic recession – that this shift really started. Ian comments: “Not many people were jumping up and down at this point to sell excavators, but I saw it as a great chance to enter into the industry whilst it was quiet in order to steadily build ourselves up for when the market recovered. From this point on the business grew.”
Ian had his own forecasts to sell 12 machines in the first year, 24 in the next and so on. In reality T&B effectively doubled this rate and turnover began to increase considerably. Since then the business has continued to diversify, taking on more and more supporting franchises such as Wacker Neuson, ProDem, and, more recently, Maximus as the company looks to gain a share in the crushing and screening sector. “We’re trying to achieve a total package for our customers,” Ian says. “We know our customers already, so its about trying to grow our long-term relationships by offering a one-stop-shop and hopefully attracting new customers at the same time.”
It is perhaps testament to his commitment to T&B that it is difficult to distinguish Ian’s beliefs and ambitions from those of the company. His personal values of honesty, integrity and professionalism to achieve total customer satisfaction define the way the company does business and manifests itself in how it interacts with its customers. Ian is a firm believer of simple business and treating others as you wish to be treated yourself. “People do business with people,” he says emphatically. “Our customers are busy people. Sometimes all they want is to pick up the phone and tell us what they need, and we want them to trust that we can deliver on that. We’re honest, up-front and open, and we don’t hide behind anything. My aim is to build and maintain relationships with customers both old and new.”
It is for this reason that when you do pick up the phone to T&B you are likely to speak directly with Ian or his business partner Paul Taylor, Director of Aftersales, both of whom are able to provide a quick decision there and then. In fact, in taking his role at T&B Ian has been able to get back out on the road and is heavily involved in much of the face-toface interaction with customers. “I’ve been there,” he explains. “I’ve been out on site and faced the same challenges that many of our customers are facing and I understand their needs. So for me, it’s important that I can get out and speak with customers and help deliver that service. As well as this – and this is probably key – I enjoy it!”
However, despite the success that has followed him into T&B, Ian is quick to celebrate the support and professionalism afforded to him by Paul and the talented team underneath him. “I’ve been able to make a lot of decisions as to where we are taking the business but I’ve done so with the full backing of Paul and his father, Harold who was an original founding partner,” he expresses. “They have supported me in doing my job and we have a very strong company with a strong team around us. Together we’re able to achieve our vision.”
Passion, dedication and hard work have defined Ian’s career to this point and all have permeated through T&B as it has transformed over the last decade. It won’t be a surprise to see that this commitment to serving the wide reaching needs of its customers will be continuing well into the future with Ian announcing that T&B have recently secured a new franchise to distribute Pronar recycling equipment range throughout the North of England. These products compliment T&B’s existing franchises, and further demonstrate T&B’s ethos of being able to supply the customer with exactly what they need, and their commitment to the customer and their business.