The motivation and self-discipline Richard Harkness learned in his decade with the Royal Engineers has helped him build a secure bridge to the future with Snap-on Tools.
Richard, who has a fast-growing Snap-on franchise in Lanark, Scotland, was in the Army for 10 years but does not regret making the move into self-employment.
He says: “I enjoyed most of my time in the Army until the final two or three years when the cuts started to bite I had two tours in the Falklands in 1984 to help with the post-conflict clear-up. I also spent time in Kenya working on small projects where we built a cottage hospital and a village school.”
“But then regiments were closing down but we were still committed the same amount of work throughout the world and that meant we were travelling nearly all the time. I was just married and that was not good for us so I made decision to leave at the end of my nine-year contract.”
At that time, there were reasonable redundancy packages on offer so Richard took the deal, left the married quarters in Ripon North Yorkshire and bought a house in Harrogate.
He explains: “I went home and told Amanda, my wife, that the redundancy had come through and the next day I was offered a job as a warehouse manager by my wife’s boss, who was running a national distribution depot for a baby safety products company. I stayed with them four years as warehouse and then transport manager. I also managed an associated factory in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales.”
After a personal tragedy, Richard and his wife wanted to move away from baby-related industries and Richard worked as warehouse and transport manager for a shop-fitting manufacturer in Leeds.
“I ended up doing too many hours on the road and decided to take a step back, working with a bakery company in the warehouse. I didn’t want the management role but within six months was promoted to manager.”
“It’s not in my nature to keep quiet about something that I think is wrong and should be made better. So if I see something that needs doing, I’ll say so – that’s what happened at the bakery!”
But after a year there, Richard and Amanda decided to spend time travelling Europe.
“We both knew that if we didn’t do it then, we’d never go. So we both quite our jobs and headed off for six months. We’d probably have gone on longer but my Dad fell ill and we wanted to be with him. So we came back and moved into a rented house just outside Carlisle, where I come from and where my Dad was.”
Thankfully, Richard’s father made full recovery and by that time the couple had decided to stay in the UK. He found work delivering furniture and his experience with the company convinced him that self-employment would be a better route for his skills.
“While it was a good company and I progressed quickly there again, I realised that my suggestions were making other people money. I wanted to find a way to earn the right reward for the time and effort I was putting in.”
“I wanted to be my own boss but did not know at the time exactly what to do. If I jumped in at the deep end I knew I would be learning the hard way so I looked at getting a franchise because these guys had made all the mistakes and would know the right direction to point me in – and would keep me on the right track after that.”
“I decided on Snap-on because I had a fascination with tools – I’m mad keen on motorbikes. Had good friend in Leeds who was services manager for main vehicle dealership and he taught me how to service my bikes. He used Snap-on tools and I thought they were just the best.”
“I did my research, checked out the Snap-on competition and it showed me that Snap-on were by far the best. I then went back onto the website and applied online.”
“My wife has family in Scotland and we wanted to move back up there so I looked for franchises there. Alasdair Baxter was field manager based in Hamilton and he came down and interviewed me. The Lanark area was his old patch and so he knew it would be good.”
There was a period of waiting while the company reorganised the areas and in April 2006 Richard took his van out into the Lanark area for the first time.
“Overall, it has not been a difficult was I first expected. I was very well prepared by Snap-on and the company never lied to us about the challenges we would face. It was quite hard at first because I had to rebuild relationships with customers and took a bit of stick from them in the early months.”
“For the first 6 to 8 months it was quite hard but then things picked up rapidly. My sales really took off and I have reached my targets a year earlier than planned. Sales are growing every month and I’ve nearly doubled my monthly average from around a year ago.”
“I’m selling products from across the whole range – right now toolboxes are just flying out the van door – I can’t get enough of them! But diagnostics tools sell steadily and when customers realise the need, they invest in them.”
“The support from Snap-on is brilliant. They run excellent promotions that help us shift lines well regularly. Their help-line support is also second-to-none. They can answer anything!”
Richard plans to continue building his business, earning top money and in the longer term move into field management when the opportunity comes.
“I always want to progress and find new challenges. I like Snap-on and the way they do things so this will be a way to stretch myself. Snap-on has a very good career path for that want to take the challenge of management.”
Richard works hard to ensure that he keeps the weekends free for himself and Amanda but doesn’t worry about working the occasional Saturday morning. He and Amanda both have motorbikes, which they use for leisure rides. He has a 1000c Honda Fireblade and wife has Honda CG250.