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Our Masterclass this week was in Leeds on the subject of collaborating as part of your business strategy and increasing your sales and profit as a result.

The panel consisted of Alan Halsall the former owner and CEO of Silver Cross and John Sutcliffe the ceo of Henry Boot plc. Alan came all the way from Lytham St Annes that morning!!

I will give you a little bit of the history of the 2 panel members and then summarise the main points discussed

Alan Halsall

Having trained as a lawyer, he went into his family toy business Halsall Toys in Lancashire which was sold about 4 years after he joined. They had had dealings with Silver Cross, the famous pram maker from Guiseley and when it went into administration, he bought it. He broadened the range of products hugely and shifted much of the manufacturing overseas so collaborated with the Chinese, Vietnamese etc manufacturers. The turnover hit £20m before he sold it in 2016

John Sutcliffe

Trained as an accountant and joined Abbeycrest plc, a jewellry manufacturer based in Leeds, as Finance Director just before it floated on AIM. After Abbeycrest he had a spell at Town Centre Securities plc before joining Henry Boot where he became ceo in 2016.

A few examples of collaborations that worked-and why they worked

The theme is that both parties must bring something to the joint venture and both must benefit preferably equally.

John explained that part of the Henry Boot business was taking land through the planning process, so this brought collaboration between the landowner, often a farmer who frequently did not understand the planning process and Henry Boot.

For services businesses it can be quite difficult. Making introductions/passing possible leads to each other can work to a limited extent, especially if your are in a similar service field but each have gaps in the services you provide.

Another point discussed was whether different sizes of business could collaborate successfully. Alan said that the manufacturer of the prams that they used in China was much bigger than them and even had their own pram business so he didn’t think size mattered. On the other hand, agreeing with a bigger company that they can sell your product or service as one of the products/services they offer can be a real problem. How do you motivate their staff to sell your products as much as theirs.


Above all build a good and deep relationship with whoever you are collaborating with so the departure of one individual will not harm the relationship.