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‘Vital to think about young workers in the post-lockdown world’ - Q&A with Suffolk businessman Richard Bridgman

PUBLISHED: 11:04 23 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:04 23 May 2020

Richard Bridgman, centre

Richard Bridgman, centre

Archant

Richard Bridgman OBE is a philanthropist, entrepreneur, business leader, an engineer by trade and proud apprenticeship ambassador. He is passionate about the SME sector, youth employment and national skills. As an ex-apprentice himself, he has invested time and effort to develop and publicise the opportunities offered through apprenticeship schemes, whilst engaging with government at ministerial level too. Before the lockdown he was involved in mentoring work at West Suffolk College and on the LEP Skills Board. Here he talks to Gina Long MBE

Richard Bridgman receving his OBE in 2018Richard Bridgman receving his OBE in 2018

What’s the impact of COVID-19 on your business and how are you adapting?

From the very beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, we were determined to try to keep Warren Services running. We had a full order book which our customers confirmed they wanted fulfilling. The next problem was how we could protect our employees, those that could work from home were equipped and that has been fairly successful. The rest of the employees were split into two equal shifts at both factories and these do not cross over. We follow all the government guidelines and more. We have managed to hold a reasonable monthly turnover throughout this difficult time. In the lead up to Easter we secured an order indirectly for the Home Office for very urgent medical parts which meant working 24/7. We are now back to normal hours but have just completed an order for urgent ventilator parts.

What advice would you like to give our readers during the COVID-19 lockdown times?

I believe that the government was far too generous setting furloughing at 80%, far too many businesses took the easy option rather than trying to find a way through the challenge. These businesses now need to start up again which is going to be quite challenging. Yes, even my business Warren has some difficult decisions to make by looking at our overheads and possibly headcount, never an easy decision. We continue to always challenge ourselves to be more efficient and look for new opportunities that the future might bring.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

My first connection was when in 1977 we moved with my old company up to Brandon in Suffolk, as part of the London Over spill Programme. My wife and I started Warren Services an engineering company in an old school in Feltwell, Norfolk 30 years ago.

What is your East Anglian Heaven i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?

I love the open countryside especially the Norfolk and Suffolk unspoiled coastline

What is your East Anglian Hell i.e. what you hate most about living here?

I don’t have anything that I dislike, so no Hell

What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

We are really spoilt in Bury St Edmunds for all types of eating establishments, but two stand out for special occasions Maison Bleue and Pea Porridge.

What’s your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

I am afraid it’s always finding somewhere new to eat.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

The area around Wells in Norfolk, the town and the coastline.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

I wouldn’t like to choose, as there are so many.

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?

Training young people especially apprentices.

What is always in your fridge?

Nothing special.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

What’s your favourite film?

One Flew Over The Cuckoo`s Nest always comes to mind with Jack Nicholson.

What was your first job?

Paper round, where I had to cycle two miles just to pick them up and back another mile before I even started delivering.

What is your most treasured possession?

My dad’s Machinery Handbook dated 1943 and my OBE medal.

Who do you admire most?

You may also want to watch:

My dad, Sharon my wife, Julia Nix and Yvonne Mason all who have been an inspiration and help to me.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Our 50-year-old house in Spain which always needs something spending on it.

What do you like about yourself most?

What you see you get.

What’s your worst character trait?

Saying things before my brain engages.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Has to be our house in Moraira on the Costa Blanca Spain which we have had for 12 years.

Best day of your life?

I have had so many, but getting married 50 years ago in 1970 (Managed to celebrate this on March 7 before lockdown). Along with the marathons I’ve run in London and New York, both were very special days too.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

A good English fry up.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Glass of red or rose wine, or a long Pernod with water and ice.

What’s your hidden talent?

Determination.

When were you most embarrassed?

Too many to mention.

What’s your earliest memory?

Starting at small infants school in Lyne near Chertsey Surrey, open coal fires in the class room and outside toilets. Every day we walked whatever the weather in pairs over a mile back and forth to have our dinner at the local village hall.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Jerusalem....and did those feet in ancient times, a family favourite at all services.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

When I turned 60 I decided to start trying to cook in Spain, really got into it so my wife said you should be doing it at home as well, which I now do.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

Warren Services never pay their bills on time which is far from the truth.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

We have lived in Bury St Edmunds for the past 16 years and thoroughly enjoy everything about the town and the local countryside. Previous to Bury we lived in Brookville a hamlet of Methwold for 26 years. Whilst there we immersed ourselves in village life and made many friends from all walks of life.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

I have had a fantastic life, wonderful family and thoroughly enjoyed building up a business with my wife, son and daughter. Yes, manufacturing is very challenging but so rewarding, especially training young people which ultimately rewarded me with an OBE which I never expected in my wildest dream.

I would like to finish by pleading to all readers with businesses especially coming into post-virus to think about how they can support young people who will be looking to further their career either with work experience, support, guidance, opportunities and apprenticeships. This is going to be a very difficult time for those post-16 finding work or making a decision about their further education.

Are you or your business doing something special during Covid-19 times? If you are living in Suffolk or Norfolk and are adapting your business to give support during Covid-19, please do email me at gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: ginalongmbe


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