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By shaun lowthorpe Business editor
Saturday, September 22, 2012
When Mike Palmer quit his job to go into business for himself at the start of the 1980s, he had just £3 in his pocket and an empty workshop on Music House Lane, in Norwich to set up his new auto electrical business.
But 35 years later, he has watched his company P&P Auto Electrical grow into one of the region’s leading auto-electrical firms with a turnover of £750,000.
Now based at Roundtree Way, the business, which has employs eight staff, including three engineers who have each worked for the firm for more than 27 years, has evolved from a company specialising in auto electricals into one whose focus is on supplying tracking equipment for fleet vehicles, as well as vans, trucks and coaches. And in a new move, it has just clinched a deal to supply and fit vehicle-racking systems for German-owned manufacturer Bott.
Mr Palmer, who turned 60 on September 2, said it was an ability to adapt the business which had helped it thrive over the year years.
“We still do auto-electrical work, that’s still a big part of our business,” he said. “We got into that at the right time and it was a natural progression for us. There is a huge market there.
“In the future I think it’s going to be 90pc tracking devices and fleet management, and 10pc auto electrical, whereas traditionally it used to be the other way around.
“More fleet operators have got to get the cost of fuel down somehow and it’s not going to be at the pump. That’s the crux of it. We can put a device in which can give the driver an indication if he is over revving or harsh accelerating, or harsh breaking. It can send a signal back to the operators who can put it into a league table to see who the best performing driver is. We can also give the operators live fuel readings via a PC.
“We have kept up with technology and that’s why we survived,” he added. “We have not become a dinosaur. We are the leaders in our field in Norfolk and I can see things getting better. I was an apprentice electrician years ago and after then ran a workshop for Lucas in Norwich. During that time I was offered a site in Music House Lane, just off Rouen Road. I only had one customer and about £3 but I quickly built the business up.
“The economy is flat, there’s no doubt about it, but we had the worst of it in the recession in 1989 when we were three weeks from shutting. The bank said we had two choices, we could go, or if we stayed we would have to halve our salaries and get rid of our company cars., which we did.
“We’re never going to make a fortune, but I’m here from seven in the morning until six at night.” he said. “Our customers trust us, and there is nothing better than word of mouth.”
The principal of one of Norfolk’s largest colleges is urging all employers to open their doors to young people in an ambitious vision for improving work experience across the region.