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Hamilton Ross Group are leading suppliers of Agricultural, Construction, Garden Power, Groundcare and Forestry & Arb machinery and Animal Health products across Central Scotland.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane: Q&A with Bryce Smith, Director (Part 1)


Our Lanark depot bade farewell to its Director Bryce Smith at the end of November. In forty-six years of dedicated service, he paved the way for the new generation of leaders to take the business forward, leaving a great legacy behind him. Before he left, we offered him the chance to share with us some of his favourite memories.

Bryce Smith & Eric Gardiner

  • When did you join our company and why?

I joined as an Accountant in October 1976, forty-six years ago. I’m a farmer’s son, first and foremost, and I had an older brother, who was at home on the family farm, but my academic interests were such that I did accountancy. I proceeded to stay within the agricultural business, albeit by coming through the back door! Bill Mould (the Managing Director at the time) was a family friend, and he’d asked me to join on several occasions, but I didn’t think I had enough experience until then.

You were dealing with people that you knew, people that you’d heard of, people who were our relations, and it was good. I suppose maybe it was just something a bit different, a bit new, I wasn’t to know I was going to stay here for forty-six years, but that’s how these things happen in life.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky in my working career because of the support I’ve had from my staff.”

  • What were you doing before?

Well, I am a qualified Chartered Accountant. The day I got the results of having passed my finals, I was working doing audits at Reid Furniture, and I got offered a job as the Accountant Company Secretary. I worked there for a couple of years, and then I moved to Philips in Hamilton, in about 1974, where I was a Product Accountant for a couple of years, before I joined Ross of Lanark.

  • What changes have you witnessed in the business?

At the very beginning, we were involved in three different activities – we had the agricultural business, the car business, and the building and engineering business. We employed a lot of people back then, we were talking probably about eighty. A lot of them being in our building and engineering side, and when we gave that up, that cut the workforce quite a bit.

When I joined Ross’, they had just stopped manufacturing equipment like balers, but there was still quite a number in use around the country, and particularly in Glasgow, so we used to service those. They quickly disappeared, because they were static balers, and they gave way to the trailed balers. That’s when we refocused our business towards being distributors of the Massey Ferguson franchise.

Daniel Ross (1950)

We had the Vauxhall car franchise, as well as the petrol station, and then we expanded the business and took on another car franchise in Peugeot. We operated the Peugeot franchise out of our Ladyacre Road premises, and the Vauxhall franchise out of St Leonard Street premises. But as the car trade developed over the years, it became obvious that it was a business for big players, not small rural dealerships.

We decided to close down the Peugeot franchise when they wanted us to spend money and build a new showroom, which wasn’t justified, and instead used the premises at Ladyacre Road for a petrol forecourt business, with a forecourt shop and everything that that entailed. We finally succumbed and gave up Vauxhall as well a number of years later, and I think that’s when we had our first redundancy within the workforce.

Hamilton Brothers acquired Ross of Lanark in 1978, so there was a coming together of the two companies. They were also Massey Ferguson dealers, as were we, and that association set up then.

We used to have a forecourt here at St Leonard Street as well, but it was closed when we redeveloped our self-service petrol station at Ladyacre Road, in about 1985.

We built the building that we are currently occupying on St Leonard Street, ourselves, in 1988 or there abouts. It was a fairly big operation, we never closed at all. We built over the top of the old building, and then knocked down what we had to knock down. The only part we kept was the load bearing old showroom, where our offices sit above right now.

St Leonard St (1988)

Shortly thereafter, we made the decision that the building and engineering business wasn’t really for us, we didn’t have the expertise, we didn’t have the proper premises and it didn’t fit in with our line of business.

In 2016, we saw an opportunity of getting involved with another company, a bit north of us in Perth and Fife, and we bought the assets of the old Reekie Group. We founded Reekie Limited, and that company operated four or five years, until Perth came under the wing of Hamilton Brothers, with the Massey Ferguson franchise, and Cupar came under the wing of Daniel Ross with the Valtra and Fendt franchise, involving a bit of restructuring with the Sales Personnel in particular.

  • How has your role evolved?

When I came into Ross’, I came as the Accountant, but me being kind of a nosey beggar, I got quickly involved with other things, naturally getting towards the Sales side. I took over the Sales Manager role – through the day I was a Sales Manager, and then when everyone went home I was the Accountant, doing the accounts and the paperwork at night, and that went on for quite a while, until I appointed an Accountant to do the accounting work and I had the job of overseeing it.

Later in life, I had the job of overseeing the Group Accounting facility. It’s important to produce management accounts. Earlier on when I started, we were lucky to get three sets of accounts out per year, but we needed more than that when the business grew, with the range of activities that we had, and the different depots. The sort of business that we’re in involves tremendous investment of course in whole goods and parts, and you need to keep your eyes on that.

We changed our systems a couple of times over those years, which isn’t a lot of fun, but the trick is to get people to buy into the system and convince them it’s going to help with what they’re trying to do, so they can operate it properly.

I was appointed a Director in 1982. Five years later, the previous owner Bill Mould, who’d sold out to Hamilton Brothers, died very suddenly and left me in charge at Lanark, so that was my baby from there on end. I didn’t get around the depots as much as I ought to have done, in fairness.

From an early age, I knew that accounting was just a means to an end for me – I’d no intention of being a professional Accountant and sitting in an office and signing off people’s books and records. So from that point of view, I’ve no regrets whatsoever.

  • What’s your favourite memory?

You remember a lot of things over the years, but some of the things that are my favourite memories are things that I shouldn’t have been involved in in the first place! Like one day, I decided we were developing our forecourt shop at Ladyacre Road. I got a couple of quotes to move all the equipment, and I thought they were extortionate, so I decided we would do it ourselves.

We had a young electrician apprentice at the time, who helped us. We started of course at 10pm, because that’s when the petrol station closed. We had to work right through the night, to be open for 7:30am the next morning. And with great delight, we did exactly that, and that gave me a lot of pleasure.

Ladyacre Road (1983)

  • What are you most proud of?

I can well remember how proud my wife Linda was when she announced at a family gathering that I had been appointed a Director. It affected my wife emotionally more so than me, because directorship didn’t mean much to me. It was just a title, I always thought I was the boss anyway!

Another one that I’m reminded of, is when I created a modified tractor for one of our customers. He’d spoken to me about his brother who’d had polio at a young age, and he had an old tractor that he’d been driving for a long time, but this tractor was knackered and needing changing, but it was important to him. I told him to come around one night, to have a look at what we could do. I could see an opportunity to make a tractor suitable for him – we added a few modifications to it, and he got many years of service out of his tractor. It even hit the papers and I got a phone call from America to see if I would patent this thing, but I said no, that was a one-off.

“Working as a team is really the only way forward in terms of the business that we’re in.”

  • What will you miss the most?

The people. I’ve been incredibly lucky in my working career because of the support I’ve had from my staff. We are a people business, and I certainly am a people person. People are important to me, both our customers and internally, our colleagues. I’ve had some great people – not rocket scientists by any manner or means, they don’t have skills that no one else has got, but they’ve given me tremendous support over the years with genuine hard work and endeavour.

Working as a team is really the only way forward in terms of the business that we’re in. The development of our various staff over the years has always been important and of genuine interest to me. Obviously, each of these individual staff members has their own little flaws and you’ve just got to go with it. There is no perfect employee, and I think we know it. I’ll miss the people, and the camaraderie. And whether they want it or not, I’ll be popping in to see them.

The current staff and Directors at the Hamilton Ross Group thank Bryce for all his achievements and his dedication which never faltered over the years. He will be well-remembered without a doubt and greatly missed by every one who had the chance to get to know him.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Q&A with Bryce.

If you or someone you know has an interest in a career with the Hamilton Ross Group, please send your CV to [email protected] or visit our Indeed page.

Posted by Hamilton Ross Group

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