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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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People-Person: Q&A with Bryce Smith, Director (Part 2)


This is the second part of our interview with our Lanark Director Bryce Smith, who retired 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.

  • Can you tell us about a funny anecdote?

Famously, I remember, it wasn’t a big feat of engineering or anything like that, but once we got broken into at Ladyacre Road petrol station and somebody tried to access our floor safe, which of course was a waste of time, but they succeeded in breaking the handles of the safe and jamming up the lock. So the only solution was to dig it out while the forecourt was shut. Again, ten o’clock at night, I got hold of two colleagues to do the work, but beforehand, I phoned the police to let them know about it.

We dug away and we jackhammered, and then at about half past one in the morning, we finally got the floor safe out. We took it through to the back and prized it open and we got our money out, which was significant, because it was weekend takings.

I was saying to the guys: “Let’s tidy up and get out of here, it’s getting late”, when a police car passed. We saw it pass and then suddenly, there was a screech of brakes, and the blue lights came on and the sirens even came on. They swept into the forecourt and jumped out and said: “What’s going on here?”, to which I replied: “You’re too late, we’ve got the money!”. They hadn’t even put a note in the file to say that somebody was digging out a floor safe. That amused us greatly.

“You will get a genuine company to work with that’s going to tell you the truth, you’ll get fairly treated and you will get good training.”

  • Was there someone who inspired you?

My partner in crime in the company here is Bryan (Rolfe). He just takes everything on board, he’s absolutely a company guy. He’s one of the most helpful guys you could come across in your working career. And the proof in the pudding is his presentation and production of Students of the Year, I don’t know how many he’s had, maybe five or six or seven…

I’ve been to a couple of meetings where people were trying to congratulate me because I was Ross of Lanark, and I said: “Look, it’s absolutely nothing to do with me”. I said there’s one guy, who’s second to none as far as I’m concerned, in Scotland. And that’s my Service Manager.

He works longer hours than anybody, longer than me by a long chalk, always did. His son (Michael) is in the business now, and he was also Student of the Year. But he didn’t treat his son any better or worse or different than the rest of his students.

Bryan Rolfe & Bryce Smith

  • What would you say to someone who was applying to work for us?

One thing I used to say when I was interviewing people, is that the company was not going to go bust on them. When you want to start with a new employer, it’s important to know whether they’re still going to be here in ten years’ time if you still wanted to work with them. They’re a successful company, and they are properly managed. The difficulty when you’re in a people business is the need to have succession, but Eric’s got Jamie. You will get a genuine company to work with that’s going to tell you the truth, you’ll get fairly treated and you will get good training.

  • What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My father had a phrase that said, “cut a stick when you see it”. Literally, what it means is, if you were walking through the forest and you saw a sampling growing straight, and you were someone, as there used to be, who made walking sticks, you’d think: “Oh, there’s the very thing for me, I’ll just take that home with me.” It generally means seize the opportunity when it arises.

  • What are your hobbies?

Golf, curling, snooker, photography. Photography has kind of waned in the past wee while but still, there’s got to be people in my photographs, I don’t take photographs of sunsets, or hills, landscapes.

I play golf with friends. There used to be ten of us, five couples, and we would go on holiday together. We were up in Perth just for a long weekend, earlier this year.

My wife never really curled, she didn’t have very good balance, so she wasn’t safe on the ice. My daughter never curled, and my granddaughters, despite my encouragements, they are not keen at all! I sponsor a family competition each year between Christmas and New Year, and I demand that they’re part of my rink, so they kind of get dragged into that once a year.

St Leonard St (1995)

  • What would be your last supper?

I’m a very plain eater. Last week, I was dining in the Glasgow City Chambers at George Square. I was invited there because a friend of mine had purchased a charity ball meal for twelve, but the food was too fancy for my taste. This cordon bleu stuff, smoked salmon with nine different names type of thing isn’t for me. Sounds boring to say macaroni and cheese and chips… There must also be a pudding – and it’s got to be a bread-and-butter pudding with custard.

  • If you could relive a memory, what would it be?

I haven’t thought about this, but it’s quite important because my wife Linda would be in it. We’ve been on trade events, having won prizes mostly on sales for people at Massey Ferguson, and we were in South Africa, we were at Lake Victoria, Cape Town, etc. Linda and I were about the only couple who canoed down the Zambezi, and the rest of the lily-livered dealers went on a boat, but she and I canoed cause we’d both done it at school. There was a guard at front with a revolver, ready to shoot the hippos that were poking their noses out of the water, they were the danger, the hippos… A wonderful memory for me.

Galloway Tractors (1982)

  • If you were to win the lottery, what would you do?

My wife won the lottery once, twenty years ago, and it’s quite a funny story. She’d put a lucky dip on, and we were watching the telly in the house on a Saturday, feeling like lost souls, when the lottery results came on. It turns out she’d got five numbers and the bonus ball! We phoned Camelot, and they told us we’d won £52,963.

Immediately we gate crashed our friends’ dinner party and told them about the good news, and we celebrated in good style. The next morning when Camelot called us back, my wife was so delicate she had to hang up on them!

We went in to pick up the cheque on the Monday or the Tuesday. You were ushered into these offices and there were people there wanting to give you advice on how to manage your money. I said: “Look, I’m an accountant, it’s not going to change our lives”. My wife arranged to go to New York for a long weekend, and she went shopping into Glasgow with our daughter. Then I think she bought a flat.

The funny thing was, about that time Eric had been running the New York marathon, and he’d sent me through a fax of his award for running the marathon. He was pretty proud of it and rightly so, but I just sent him a fax of the letter from Camelot in return, as if to say, you know, I’ll raise you ten. The reply that came back from Eric was really quite brief…

What would I do if I won the lottery? It depends how much you’re talking about, but it would give me a lot of pleasure to give it away to be perfectly honest. There’s loads of people in this world whom a thousand pounds would make a huge difference to.

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.

Read Part 1 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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