From Bags to Blenders (Paperback)
The Journey of a Yorkshire Businessman
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This is a book about success and how to achieve it.
While there are many books about eminent retailers, From Bags to Blenders tells the story from a different angle – from the point of view of a supplier.
Gordon Black’s career at Peter Black spanned over 40 years. He led a team with his brother which built a substantial business with sales of approximately £300 million and 3,000 employees. His revealing book faces up to the difficulties of supplying retailers today, and contrasts that with the close and fruitful relationship the Blacks enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s with their main customer, Marks & Spencer.
This fascinating and amusing book explains why the biggest challenge in building a successful company is the development of a culture of teamwork and passion for the business while, at the same time, avoiding arrogance and taking advice from those with experience.
In Gordon’s opinion, exiting a business is as big a challenge as building a business. He pinpoints the different options and the pitfalls to be avoided, and emphasises the need for first-class products: ‘You can have the most modern factories and the best systems, but, without the right product, you’re dead!’
Gordon Black CBE DL was born in 1943 and educated at Bootham School, York and Clare College, Cambridge, where he took a degree in History.
He joined Peter Black in 1965 and became Chairman in 1977. Peter Black Holdings was a major supplier of footwear, toiletries, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and logistics to the UK’s leading retailers, with annual sales of £300 million and around 3,000 employees. It was a plc for 25 years and was then taken private in 2000. The remaining companies were sold to Li & Fung, a Hong Kong-based global trading company, in 2007.
Gordon Black now runs Black Family Investments with his brother Thomas, and was awarded a CBE in 2005 for services to business and charity. He is married to Louise, with three children and nine grandchildren, and lives in Ilkley, Yorkshire.
‘From Bags to Blenders is also littered with amusing anecdotes reflecting Gordon’s belief that business should be fun as well as profitable.’
‘Theirs is a classic rags-to-riches story’
‘An entertaining and amusing read that is peppered with plenty of serious points to provide helpful hints to anyone running a business.’
‘I do get books sent to me from time to time and rarely read them, but in your case I actually picked it up and didn’t put it down until I’d finished it!’
‘It is both a fascinating personal story and a gold-mine of practical advice on good business practice.’
‘A succinct exposition of the fundamentals of business success in fulfilling the ever-changing demands of the retail market. It is written by a man of huge experience, and one gifted with insight and warmth of personality.’
‘Besides the light hearted anecdotes it illustrates very well in practical terms the differences in management style needed for a public versus a private company. Perhaps it should be an essential text book case study for any business school?’
‘A jaunty little memoir in the bullet-point style of a memo from the chairman’s desk by Gordon Black, whose family business prospered as a footwear manufacturer for Marks & Spencer in the era when the high-street chain nurtured suppliers, took care of staff, pleased customers and made its founding dynasty rich without stirring resentment. That really was a benign model of capitalism: what a shame it has gone completely out of fashion.’