Seventy years; it’s not nothing
70 years of Bamford is worth reflecting on. The Bamford family aren’t the type to talk about themselves, but 70 years ain’t nothing. In fact, it’s a chunk of history worth chatting about.
We talked to Alaister Bamford, the middle of three generations, who bridges founder William Bamford with today’s Alex Bamford. Why did Bill start Bamford? How have things changed over 70 years? And what inside knowledge can you spill on your son Alex? Or, as you call him, Alexander.
Let’s start at the start. How did your dad begin Bamford?
My Dad William, or Bill, was born in 1919. Dad’s father died when Dad was seven years old. At age 24 Dad went off to war with the Navy. When he came back, he bought a business called Greenhalgh which was up for sale. It was bringing in cotton for swabs and gauze used by surgeons in hospitals. That was 1952.
How was the medical scene different back then?
When he bought Greenhalgh, surgical dressings were bought on indent, which meant hospital boards would place an order through Bill, but pay the overseas supplier and get products shipped directly to them. So, it was a commission-based business.
When I joined Dad, the industry changed. Instead of us putting the order on the hospital’s behalf, we ordered the stock on our behalf. We could order more, have stocks available, and the hospitals would order from us for delivery the next day.
What about the relationship side of things? Has that changed?
Well, right now with Covid you don’t have the opportunity to sit beside people and chat. In my day, you’d go to England, they’d pick you up in the morning and you’d have a whole day and night out. Now, they say come in at ten with sandwiches in the boardroom.
But the core of it’s the same. You’ve still got to get to know people. I think you’ve got to be honest and frank. If there’s a product you haven’t got, I’d say where to go, even if it’s another business.
What are some lessons from Bill that have stuck with you?
“The dripping tap wears away at the hardest stone”. Meaning if you believe in something, just keep going at it and you’ll come right, don’t give up.
My dad was brought up in a very strong Catholic family. So, he was quite moralistic. That generation went through the depression, the war, and then building up New Zealand. It was a different era. They were far more conservative; the thought of debt or not doing a good day’s work was far more important than it is today.
How are you three Bamford men similar or different?
Bill would never have built the business to the size it is now because of his cautiousness. Just the way his generation was. I on the other hand am more of a risk taker. And Alex sits somewhere in the middle.
We’ve all played golf. We all like the sea and the water. Before the war, Dad was in the Royal Navy Reserves, so that encouraged the family to get involved with water sports, like boating.
Can you tell us something people don’t know about you all?
What they don’t know about us? I don’t know either really. We’re not exhibitionists in any way. We don’t go to a party dressed up to be noticed. It’s the way we are I’m afraid. Well, not afraid - that’s the way we are, full stop.
“We like to see and not be seen, to hear and not be heard, to know and not be known.”
Tell us something about Alex?
We have two other kids who are 12 years older than Alexander. It was interesting having two teenagers and then a rugrat running around. A mate of ours once called him The Chosen One; we all just think he’s marvellous.
What do you hope to pass on to your grandchildren?
Paddle your own canoe. I encourage them to do their own thing. Do it properly, do it ethically and honestly; don’t do it half pie.