“I’m very sorry to have stopped you, sir, please enter your own building!”
I love working on exports. Always have done. I love working with figures.
How did you come about working at Rotosound?
I started actually as a four-week temp to cover the young lady that was in the reception area. I’d been to an interview elsewhere and then came back to the job centre and said that’s no good. And they said, oh we’ve got a four weeks temp job come up. Would you like to try that?, I said, certainly, so that’s when I popped round to JHI in Bexleyheath and met the then-general manager, Charles Higgs. And he interviewed me for about 5 minutes. He said, “Yeah, great, you’ve got the job”, and put me in reception.
That was answering the phones and so on?
All that kind of thing, yes. The interview was on the Friday and they said, oh, you might as well start then and there. So, from lunchtime on Friday, I was there. That was the 22nd of November 1979.
The first people to walk through the reception doors, I found out later, were James, Jason and Martin How. I’ve got up, I’ve opened the door to this little reception area, and said, “good afternoon, gentlemen, may I help you?” And the look on James’s face said it all. I went. “I’m ever so sorry. You ARE Mr. James How, aren’t you?” He said. “Oh, yes!”. Because by that time, I’d actually seen a pamphlet and his picture was on it. And I said, “I’m very sorry to have stopped you, sir, please enter your own building!” And he said, “At least you’re doing your job!”
That was a test and you passed!
I didn’t realise it was a test, sort of thing, you know?
So when Charles Higgs, the general manager, came back from lunch and talking about what he did (he ordered the materials and as well as being the general manager), he said, you can help us out by sorting out the export, and I said, yeah, sure, no problem.
So while the normal receptionist was off I just carried on and when she came back … I took over the reception area, learning from her what she was doing at the same time with the export side of things.
So at that point what were you doing?
Export. Export from day one, mate.
And that’s continually what you’ve done?
Yes, yeah, I’ve helped out on UK and I would take UK orders – and certainly groups and bands orders and things like that – but I’ve never been UK-orientated because I loved working on exports to start off with.
So that was Bexleyheath.
Bexleyheath, yeah, I lived one end of Bexleyheath and the factory was the other end. And I walked to work.
And then what year was it we moved to this building?
1986. Yeah, I was in Bexleyheath for seven years I think it was before we moved down because we had to then. [Ed- Rotosound had outgrown the Bexleyheath factory and needed bigger premises.]
One was Superwound. Is that right?
Yeah, Unit 3B was the factory to make the Superwound and Bexleyheath was the factory that was making the Rotosound and I think he then took Unit 1 when it came up, so we had that and that was the stockroom, dispatch and offices. So we were spread over the two buildings. But things became hard after a number of years and we all squished into 3B.
And then you went to the American office for a little bit…
The longest time there was for three months and that was over the Christmas period so I was not happy not to be coming home. It was a bank building that we were in in North Hollywood.
Was that the ’90s? Was it the ’80s or 2000s?
Yeah, ’95 to ’98 or something like that. I went over there because our Midlands rep here, Hamid Bouri, had gone over with Martin How and they opened up this office and we started shipping goods to them. We were just shipping from the USA office all around the USA.
And then Hamid wanted to come home. So my first trip out there was when he was leaving and I had to learn the ropes so I could run the office until they could find somebody. So that’s why it was like three months. And then the first guy didn’t turn out so clever, so back I went and somebody else was found and interviewed and started and then they took it off down to Temecula. And that’s when they decided enough is enough.
And you’ve done trade shows and helped out with those?
Yes, yes, I’ve done loads of public shows, yeah. Four-day stints up at Birmingham and things like that and love it all. It is noisy and it’s hard work. I got to the Anaheim [NAMM] Show once whilst I was out there.
How has your job changed since you joined? How was it moving from a typewriter and a manual calculator to a computer?
Well, it hadn’t changed much until Brexit. It was still pretty much the same, obviously made a lot easier with new technologies and what have you.
But I’ve got an aptitude for figures, so they did not worry me at all, you know, and I can type figures as fast as most people type letters, sort of thing, you know? So yeah, and. I’ve always loved working with numbers. So anything to do with numbers I’m quite happy to get on with, sort of, you know, and yeah.
It’s been export all the way since day one sort of thing. Um, Charles concentrated on the importing of the material; I then concentrated on the export.
I loved nothing more when I come back from Frankfurt [Musicmesse] with these dirty great big mounds of orders, take them home with me for the weekend and sit there all weekend just getting them written up for each month. Our German guy, who was Mario Pellarin at the time, he would send us five or six months’ worth, all handwritten. Then I’d come back in on Monday, and photocopy them all and put them in for that month. To get them out in time to work on that month. It’s great because it was all figure work.
What will you miss about the job most?
Obviously, the people that I’ve worked with; not only in this building but overseas. The customers; not that I have much to do with our export customers but they’ve been getting used to sending me their shipping documents. And yeah, so it’s a whole kit and caboodle.
I love working on exports. Always have done. I love working with figures. It’s working with Excel and things like that that’s really getting on my nerves!