Family business

Family Fortunes: Family Businesses Make Great Investments

15.09.2016 • The Economy

From Merryn Somerset Webb – MoneyWeek Magazine (Great Britain) –

As a model of a successful British family business, component maker Dewhurst (LSE: DWHT) takes some beating. Walking through its factory in Feltham in west London with its chairman, Richard Dewhurst, is like being shown around a home by the proud owner. Richard, a trained engineer, shows a familiarity with electronics, metal bashing, and the processes and people that bring them all together that only comes from decades of decisions shaping the factory, its products, and its relationships with staff, suppliers and customers. The factory is nearly brand new – Dewhurst came to Feltham four years ago, when it outgrew its ancestral home in Hounslow. But a few of the machines hark back to an earlier era. They moved with the company, as did the expertise built up since it was founded in 1919 by Richard’s grandfather, Melbourne Dewhurst.

Melbourne, the son of a warp setter in a cotton mill, graduated from university and worked on electric motors and generators for Marconi and Crompton during World War I. The workshop produced countless switches, brakes, and motors for cranes, docks, and paper-rolling mills, as well as lifts. But in the 1960s and 1970s, Dewhurst struggled as hydraulic controls replaced electric ones and the UK economy declined. The development of a vandal-resistant lift push button in the 1970s sparked Dewhurst’s renaissance. Its push buttons became commonplace on trains and on ATM keypads. Richard and his brother, David Dewhurst, the managing director, took over in the mid-1980s, and have globalized the business. In 1994 it made 28% of its £11m revenues overseas. By 2015, it made 72% of its £46m revenues from across Asia, Australia, the Americas and Europe.

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