Lancashire Leaders

Leading from the front

The importance of inspirational leadership has never been more evident as Lancashire’s businesses continue to grapple with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With 2022 looking to be another challenging 12 months, the county’s business leaders will have to dig deep once again and use all their talent, experience and knowledge to help guide their organisations and their people safely through stormy waters.

With that in mind, in our first edition of the year we have put the spotlight on the county’s most influential, innovative and inspiring business leaders.

We’ve looked at the managing directors, the chief executives, the business founders: those at the very top of their organisations, and we’ve asked what makes them tick.

We have called on our readers to help us identify them, their special attributes and their success stories, not just during the pandemic but throughout their careers.

We have looked at their business records and their wider contribution to the success of Lancashire as an economy and the communities where they operate.

And with the aid of our specially invited panel, we’ve put together our list of 15 of the top Lancashire Leaders.

We publish them on these pages in no particular order and as a representative group to celebrate the efforts of Lancashire leaders and the contribution they are making.

We also hope this feature is the start of wider, informed debate about leadership, the type of leaders we need to drive Lancashire forward and how we can develop the leadership qualities of the future.

Lancashire Business View publisher Richard Slater says: “Every issue of our magazine contains stories of great leadership, the efforts of those who, through their determination and skill, are driving forward the businesses they head.

“Our aim is to get under the skin of our leaders, to find out what attributes they have, the qualities that help them make the decisions that make a real difference, how they motivate their workforce, their vision and values.

“This list is part of that process, as we continue to examine leadership, ask what makes a great leader and look at how we can all learn from their example for the benefit of the places where we work and live. It is a topic we will be returning to throughout 2022.”

Our panel

Stuart Thompson, director, Reorient Consulting

Stuart helps business leaders increase profitability. He helps them find their personal edge by maximising performance in themselves as well as others around them.

Nicola Mason, HR and operations director, Napthens

Nicola Mason is HR and operations director for regional law firm Napthens. As well as responsibility for the firm’s people agenda, as a member of Napthens Executive Board she is involved in the strategic direction of the firm.

Nikki Dixon, marketing director, Daniel Thwaites

Nikki moved from agency life to the client side and has spent much of her career working in retail for Asda and led on what we can now call the Lancashire business’s multi-billion-pound own brand strategy. Two years ago Nikki crossed to hospitality and joined this venerable institution. A national award winner for her work, Nikki also mentors small businesses and start-ups.

Hamish Hamilton, chair, Vistage

Hamish understands business leaders' experiences and the need to rise to the challenge every day. With 28 years board level experience within high growth companies, he acts as a trusted guide to leaders as Chair of CEO advisory boards.

Simon Read, chartered accountant and partner, Azets

Simon is a Chartered Accountant and Partner in Azets’ Rossendale office. He advises and supports businesses across different sectors to help them achieve their goals.

The leaders

Sarah Page
Managing, director, Plumbs

Sarah joined the family firm at 18 and worked in a variety of roles before being appointed managing director in 2009. While representing the third generation of the family to hold the role and celebrating the company’s recent 60th anniversary, Sarah has also been responsible for modernising the company, introducing online sales to complement the in-person consultations on which it earned its reputation, and launching Fable & Plumb, a new range of eco-friendly sofas.

Khalid Saifullah
Managing director, Star Tissue UK

Khalid has led the family-owned paper products manufacturer Star Tissue since 2011. During his time at the helm, the company has grown year on year, placing 13th in 2021’s Hot 100 list of the highest-performing SMEs in Lancashire, with significant investment in additional capacity set to fuel further growth in years to come. Alongside this role, Khalid is also involved in a number of local business support initiatives. He is former chair of Blackburn’s Hive network and is a director of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

Edwin Booth
Chairman, EH Booth & Co

Edwin joined the historied family grocery business on leaving school and currently serves as chair of the 170-year-old institution. He is involved in a number of Lancashire organisations, helping to found the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and serving as chair for its first seven years. He has worked with Lancashire universities in leadership and business change programmes, receiving an Honorary Doctorate from Lancaster University. He chaired the Business in the Community Advisory Board for the North West from 2007 to 2014 and was instrumental in developing a programme to engage schools with business. He is chairman of the Harris Charity (Preston) which was co-founded by Edwin Henry Booth and is a founding trustee of the Prince’s Countryside Fund. He earned a CBE for services to business and charity in 2018 and is the current High Sheriff of Lancashire.

Anna Blackburn
Managing director, Beaverbrooks

Anna joined jewellery retailer Beaverbrooks as a graduate trainee and progressed through the organisation to become its first female chief executive and the first non-family member to lead the business having been the first non-family member to join the board in 2018. Beaverbrooks recently celebrated its centenary, during which it marked six consecutive years of record profits, and 17 years on the Sunday Times Best Companies To Work For list.

Jeremy Hartley
Managing director, Eric Wright Group

For a quarter of a century, Jeremy has headed up the Eric Wright group of companies which today spans construction, civil engineering and property development, directly employing more than 650 people. The group’s learning foundation has sponsored the vocational training of 4,200 Preston College students since 2005 and, as it is wholly owned by the Eric Wright Charitable Trust, 100 per cent of profits made are reinvested in the company and donated to charities. Thanks to this, and the company’s rapid response during the Covid-19 pandemic, during which it quickly constructed intensive care wards and recovery facilities, Eric Wright Group won the special Lancashire Business View award at the most recent Red Rose Awards.

Tim Webber
Chairman, Barnfield Group

Tim is head of the family-run property firm Barnfield, which employs 170 and registered £90m in turnover last year. The company is involved in a number of local regeneration projects, including Burnley’s Weavers’ Triangle, Pendle Enterprise and Regeneration (PEARL) and Rossendale Together Barnfield. Tim has also held roles including chairman of Regenerate Pennine Lancashire, vice chairman of the Pendle Vision Board, and positions on the boards of Groundwork, Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Training 2000 and Canal & Rivers Trust. He was voted Lancastrian of the year 2010 and in 2015 earned an MBE for his contributions to business and the community.

Brennan Gourdie
Managing director, Leyland Trucks

Brennan worked for Leyland’s parent company PACCAR in various high-level positions in the USA and China before moving to the UK to take up the managing director role at Leyland Trucks in early 2019. During his tenure, Leyland has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in recognition of its strong export growth, celebrated its 125-year anniversary with an extensive programme of events, and begun a new era by launching the industry’s first ‘zero emissions’ electric truck.

Mo Isap
Founder, IN4.0 Group

Mo created the IN4.0 Group to help businesses in Lancashire and beyond to embrace Industry 4.0 technology. This includes IN4.0 Education, which brings together industry and education to develop the tools required to prepare the workforces of the future. Through HOST (Home of Skills and Technology) at Media City UK Salford, he is working to make the North West the most ‘cyber connected’ area in the UK. The Blackburn-based entrepreneur is also a founding director and vice chair of Star Academies, one of the country's best-performing multi-academy and free school trusts, operating in some of the most disadvantaged communities and regions.

Miranda Barker
Chief executive, East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce

Miranda was appointed chief executive of the East Lancashire branch of the chamber of commerce in 2017 on the strength of more than 20 years’ experience as a board member, president, council and assembly member, bidding partner and policy adviser with various chambers in the North West. She has also been the owner of an SME, a director within a plc and an environmental consultant. Today, she is an active member of a wide variety of business support organisations, as an SME champion within the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, a director of Hive and Growth Lancashire, a member of Burnley Bondholders, Pendle Vision, Amazing Accrington and chair of Ribble Valley Business Leaders and Rossendale Business Leaders. She is also chair of the North West’s Regional Manufacturing Forum and sits on the ESIF committee.

Amanda Thompson
Managing director, Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The great-granddaughter of Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s founder William George Bean, Amanda became managing director of the attraction in 2004, having previously served as deputy managing director since 2000 and as a director for more than 15 years prior. She is an active member of Blackpool’s tourism offering, serving on the board of the Grand Theatre Blackpool and working as a patron of the Blackpool Civic Trust. For the wider tourism sector, Amanda spent time as the leader of the European, Middle East and Africa advisory board for the attractions industry trade body, IAAPA, before stepping up to chair the worldwide board. She has been awarded the prestigious Michael Elliott Trust Awards Director of the Year for her contribution to live entertainment and in 2021 was awarded an OBE for her services to tourism.

David Haythornthwaite
Chairman, Tangerine Holdings

David chairs the Lytham-based Tangerine group which, with a workforce of 300, is one of the largest employers in the area. The company specialises in the manufacture and sale of animal healthcare and feed products and enjoyed a bumper year of sales thanks to the increase in pet ownership throughout lockdown. David is also chairman of ambitious non-league football club AFC Fylde, as well as its home, the Mill Farm Sports Village at Wesham - a growing, multi-million-pound project that has already brought more than 200 permanent and 400 temporary jobs to the area.

Mark Crabtree
Managing director, AMS Neve

Mark has long helped put Lancashire’s engineering expertise on the map, with his Burnley-based business designing and supplying professional audio equipment to the world’s top studios. During his time as chair of Burnley Bondholders, the town was named the Most Enterprising Area in 2013, the second most successful town for digital jobs growth in 2016 and a Top 16 UK Tech Town in 2018. He was also a driving force behind converting a derelict building into The Landmark business centre. In 2014, he received an OBE for services to advanced manufacturing and creative industries.

Tony Cann
Founder, Learning by Questions

Following his parents into the textile industry, Tony’s shop floor experiences showed him the need for access to real-time data, inspiring him to launch his own technology company. He then entered the education sector when he chaired the East Lancashire Training and Enterprise Council, which lead to him launching the electronic classroom whiteboard firm Promethean. In 2016 he established Learning by Questions, a classroom app that quizzes pupils on material that has been taught by their teacher. LBQ is funded by Bowland Charitable Trust, his family charity which also champions causes such as prison reform. He has been honoured with a CBE for services to training.

Ann Jordan
Chair, Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership

Ann’s business interests include her PR agency, Benetimo, and the family-owned builder’s merchant Gutterking. She is perhaps better known for her contributions to a wide variety of community projects around Lancashire, including the support of skills, education and women in business. She is a director of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneur), a mentoring and networking group for new businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. She is a founder member of Childline Business Committee, a member of the Womens International Network, chair of the Blackburn Cathedral board of trustees, a former governor of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Blackburn, a former chair of the Institute of Directors North West and previously served as the High Sheriff of Lancashire.

Kate Shane
Head of Blackpool cluster, Merlin Entertainment Group

Kate is one of the most influential figures in the Blackpool tourism sector. In 2016 she stepped up from her role as managing director of Blackpool Tower to regional director of parent company Merlin, which expanded her remit to include a string of attractions from Madame Tussauds to the Blackpool Dungeons and a proposed new Golden Mile entertainment venue set to open later this year. She also holds a number of community roles in the areas, serving as a non-executive director for Blackpool Transport, a board member of the Blackpool Pride of Place initiative and she is a former governor of Blackpool and the Fylde College.