David Parkin on an Endless opportunity

WHAT’S normal?

Do we permanently have to get used to a ‘new normal’ as we gradually recover from the pandemic?

I, like a lot of people, really hanker after a return to the old normal.

Remember that?

You know, when you could walk into a pub, bar or restaurant without having to take major precautions first.

The next stage in the easing of lockdown restrictions happens on Monday and that will allow the opening of cinemas and theatres as well as people being allowed inside pubs, bars and restaurants, although still under some social distancing restrictions.

It is another step on the road back to some kind of normality.

Beyond that, the next milestone date is June 21st, when all restrictions will be lifted.

Even if they are, I’m of the opinion that business events such as seminars, conferences and dinners are not going to return in live form for a little time longer.

I think that companies will want to bring their teams back for get-togethers of a limited size before they even think about hosting events for guests from outside their own business.

Indeed, I’m organising an event at the end of June for a firm that wants to bring its staff together in their office after over a year where many have been remote working.

I’ve lined up a series of speakers to energise, engage, inspire and entertain the audience.

I think it is a great idea by those who run the business.

I know employers who took on new staff a year ago and still haven’t met them face to face.

And while video calls have become an essential part of the ‘new normal’, you can’t always build camaraderie via Zoom or Teams.

In the meantime virtual events will continue, and the key is to make them as entertaining, engaging and smooth running as possible.


IF you are looking for Yorkshire business success stories then they don’t come much better than Endless.

Launched as a turnaround fund to buy struggling businesses, it has developed over the last 16 years into a major private equity investor with a portfolio of investments that now includes bakery business Hovis.

In my role as a business journalist I feel like I have a front row seat to watch the phenomenal development of Endless from its creation by former Ernst & Young colleagues Garry Wilson and Darren Forshaw to where it is today.

Which is currently investing its fifth fund worth £400m.

It is a regional success story that has rightly gained national and international recognition.

A key part of that success has been Enact, which provides transformational investment of up to £10m for small to medium-sized businesses.

Backed by some of the most successful entrepreneurs and investors in Yorkshire, Enact has grown swiftly since its launch in 2014.

Just like Endless, Enact has completed a series of successful exits and puts a great store by backing a diverse range of businesses which has not just saved jobs but created them as these businesses have grown.

Its first investment was in the West Cornwall Pasty Co and one of the investors included former Leeds, Manchester City and England footballer Danny Mills.

That deal saved 35 outlets and 200 jobs and Enact sold the business two years later in a deal which saw its investors receive a return of five-and-a-half times what they had put in.

The excellent returns from the first fund raised by Enact are also forecast to be delivered by its second fund which it is currently investing.

It is always nice to be connected to success, so I was delighted when Garry Wilson from Endless and Chris Cormack of Enact asked me if I would host an online event for their investors.

They would normally bring the investors together over dinner to update them on progress but haven’t been able to do that for over a year.

It was my job to introduce Garry and Chris and their colleagues as they made presentations and then host a panel discussion with chairs of some of the businesses that Enact has invested in.

A glance at the list of attendees at yesterday morning’s event showed it really was a who’s who of the most successful entrepreneurs and investors in the region.

I realised I was the only person on the list I’d never heard of.

Three of the businesses that Enact has invested in most recently illustrate how it is comfortable supporting a diverse range of companies as long as it sees value in them.

Realise is a Sheffield-based training provider that delivers apprenticeships, adult learning and development programmes to 7,000 people across the UK every year.

Evolutions is an award-winning TV post production house based in Soho in London which works on a range of programmes including SAS Who Dares Wins, First Dates, Four in a Bed and Geordie Shore.

And Beverley-based Bartoline is Europe’s leading manufacturer of decorating products to the UK’s largest DIY retailers, which prior to being bought by Enact had been run by the same family since 1876.

It was really interesting to get the views of the experienced chairs of these businesses – Sara Jones at Realise, Jim Campbell from Evolutions and Keith Chapman of Bartoline.

Like every other company in Britain, Covid has presented challenges but what was exciting was hearing about the opportunities that all three firms were now focusing on in their different sectors.

I couldn’t finish the question and answer session without asking Jim which of the TV shows that Evolutions works on is his favourite.

He said it was the BBC series Spy in the Wild where cameras are put in animatronic models  of animals and birds to record their reactions and emotions.

I said that sounded good but I do prefer Geordie Shore.

I can’t wait for the next series to find out what has happened to Bethan and Beau.

The last thing that happened was they both deleted all traces of their romance off Insta and unfollowed each other.

Can you believe it?

It’s totes crazy.

And quite upsetting for us fans.

The final guest I interviewed at yesterday’s event was Andy Finneran.

I’ve known Andy since he was named Yorkshire Finance Director of the Year when he was at R&R Ice Cream, Europe’s biggest ice cream maker.

I remember interviewing him on stage at the awards ceremony and he was the complete opposite of a dull, dry finance director.

So I knew he would be good value when I interviewed him at yesterday’s virtual event.

And his mood was even sunnier thanks to his horse, Wobwobwob, winning at York Races the previous day.

My mood was pretty cheery too given that Andy had messaged me saying it was worth an each way punt.

He was chair of Redhall Networks, a Chesterfield-based telecoms business which was the maiden acquisition from Enact’s second fund in June 2019.

Andy didn’t mess about at Redhall, it was sold 22 months later for an undisclosed sum which delivered a strong return for shareholders.

When I asked him about the role of a chairman, like the three previous chairs I’d spoken to, Andy was far too modest to claim credit for himself.

Enact clearly choose experienced, strong individuals who add incredible value.

I loved this typically self-deprecating line from Andy: “Redhall management didn’t want a chairman and I think I was described as ‘the best of a bad job’ which I have already added to my CV!”


FAREWELL then Candy Shaw.

If you worked in the property sector in Leeds or frequented the city’s most popular bars and restaurants over the last 20 years then there is a good chance you knew Candy.

I was shocked to learn that she has died of cancer.

A raven-haired former model, after pursuing a career in advertising sales with Insider and then Estates Gazette, Candy started her own marketing business in Leeds called C2.

Clients included major property developers and commercial property agents and Candy was clever enough to realise that you didn’t just have to do a good job for these (mainly male) clients but also charm and entertain them too.

Well, there’s some big egos in the property business.

She was a regular fixture at the annual commercial property shindig in Cannes called MIPIM.

My former colleague Ian Briggs reminded me of the time that he was attending MIPIM when the Yorkshire Post was media partner with Bradford at the event.

PR men Malcolm Cowing and Tim Downs, both then with Brahm, were working with the Bradford delegation and Ian encouraged them to join him at a party on a yacht.

Candy had organised the do on behalf of clients and ordered Malcolm and Tim off the boat while welcoming Ian with plenty of champagne.

It would be fair to say that Candy was something of a maverick when it came to marketing her clients’ projects.

When I was business editor of the Yorkshire Post I once received a pellet-firing pistol in the post.

Accompanying it was a flyer promoting a new property development called ‘Evolve’. Candy decided to add an ‘r’ to either end of the word to make ‘rEvolver’ and sent out a revolver to promote it.

Unfortunately the gun arrived at our newspaper office the day after a school shooting in America which had prompted calls for a crackdown on gun laws in this country.

I handed the toy gun and the flyer to the Yorkshire Post’s crime correspondent who called the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police and got a suitably critical comment about Candy’s promotional stunt.

Needless to say she wasn’t impressed and I had to steer clear of Restaurant Bar & Grill and Sous le Nez for a couple of weeks.

But the short-lived furore over the gun didn’t seem to deter Candy from coming up with eye-catching campaigns for her clients.

A few months later I was opening the daily post delivery on the Yorkshire Post business desk.

I tore open a large brown envelope and several condoms tumbled out onto my desk.

It coincided with the newspaper’s editor walking through the newsroom and past my desk.

“Planning a big night are you David?” he said with raised eyebrows.

I mumbled something as I scrabbled about trying to put the condoms back in the envelope.

Who the hell would send condoms out with a press release, other than Durex, I wondered.

As I delved back into the envelope I pulled out a brightly illustrated card flyer promoting a new office development next to the M1 near Wakefield.

The words on the flyer read: ‘So close to the motorway you can almost smell the rubber.’

Cheers Candy, you’ll be missed.

Have a great weekend.

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