Executive Director, Export Sales extraordinaire, well-practiced traveller, father, grandfather, musician, member of many boards, and an all-around inspiration is celebrating 50 years of service at Tex Holdings PLC.
David Redhead has been an integral part of the Tex Holdings family for 50 years after starting at BSP International Foundations on 17th January 1971. Working his way up the ladder, he currently holds the position of Executive Director on the Tex Holdings PLC board. He has seen the engineering industry go through a world of change in his time and was part of the engineering revolution which consumed the majority of Ipswich and the surrounding area in the ’60s and ’70s.
The start of David’s career began in the late ’60s as an Engineering Apprentice at Reavells, a Compressor Manufacturer based in Ipswich. During his apprenticeship, he attended college, also in Ipswich, which at the time, produced thousands of engineering employees for the local area. During his first major exam, he achieved a reasonably high pass mark, which meant that his training was then tailored towards design and development rather than the craft side of the industry. After gaining experience in machining, fitting, assembly foundry work, laboratory, and time spent within design offices during the remainder of his apprenticeship he then moved on to looking for a different job to kick-start his promising potential career.
At the time, Ipswich was an epicenter for engineering, comprising of many different companies, but the one role which stood out to David was as a Technical Sales Engineer at an air-powered pile driving hammer manufacturer based in Claydon, just outside of Ipswich. This company just so happened to be British Steel Piling (better known as BSP). David secured the role at BSP in 1971.
Be yourself, realise where you come from, and be grateful for where you are.
In 1973, after two years as a Technical Sales Engineer within the BSP offices, management asked David if there were any other areas in the business which he wished to venture into. David inquired about the possibility of moving into the Export Sales Department. This suggestion was not taken lightly by the team as they then placed him on a seven and a half week business trip around the majority of the Middle East for his first ‘hurrah’. Starting in Lebanon, David was met by BSP’s Middle East Sales Agent who guided him around many of the countries which make up the Middle East. David described the moment that he landed in Lebanon as “arriving on a different planet” but on return to Beirut after nearly two months of being emersed in Middle Eastern culture it was like returning to Europe. He describes traveling as the best aspect of his career and has great respect for the opportunity to experience and immerse himself in a wide range of cultures.
Developing business relationships within a variety of countries was a task which David loved to conquer. Business meetings in the early ’70s were worlds apart from how we conduct business these days. The technology, or their lack of it, was in hindsight the challenge of his role, but something that he sees as a blessing as it has given him the drive to always pre-plan and to not rely on technology. So, what has changed since 1971? According to David, a lot has, technology is the main component. He asked our marketing team if they knew how telegrams or telex worked and was met by a few blank faces. To him, telegrams were a core communication source in his early career, as was booking in a phone call, whilst in Iraq, to the UK with the local post office with at least 48 hours’ notice. The operational side of the engineering world has also seen many technological advances, with a lot of mechanical equipment being replaced with electronic alternatives. David explained that ‘understanding how things worked in other countries could be difficult, we didn’t have the ability to look things up online before traveling’, but luckily, the engineering industry within the local area was always on hand to offer any advice needed, such as need-to-know information about business etiquette and traveling tips.
The world of export sales was and still is, a tough industry to master. The quote ‘like making love to a hedgehog, one prick against one hundred’ published in a biography by the late actor and Second Lieutenant David Niven, though not the most eloquent, has stuck in David’s mind. This was because it reminded him a lot of being within the export sales industry. David still receives around 20-25 ‘Happy New Year’ greetings from all different countries from various contacts. His love for building rapport is echoed in his ability to still maintain meaningful business relationships with contacts, some from when he first started in the industry.
In 1974, he was promoted to the Area Sales Manager for the Middle East, fundamentally looking after Iraq for BSP. Following success in this role, in 1978, he was promoted again to Export Sales Manager looking after the Middle East and parts of Africa. He was promoted in 1983 to Sales Director, and again in 1996 to Managing Director of BSP. During his time within these many roles, David visited over 90 countries in total. Iraq remained as a prominent territory and he knocked up over 30 years and at one time filling up a 96-page passport in three years with Iraqi visas.
After 17 years as Managing Director, David opted for an ‘early retirement’ in 2013 (we use this term loosely because as you can tell his early retirement didn’t go as planned, the evidence being us still writing about him in 2021). He then moved into a part-time role as Chairman for BSP. After a short while within this role, David was invited to join the Tex Holdings PLC board as a Non-Executive Director to which he gladly accepted. In 2017, he was then promoted to the position which he currently holds, as Executive Director of Tex Holdings PLC.
David described his promotion to the Tex Holdings Board of Directors as his most stand-out career memory, saying ‘my father was in the forces, and then became a chauffeur, that was the background I was from. So, to be asked to be a Director of a PLC was a real stand out moment and a major personal achievement. I was really chuffed to be given that opportunity after working my way up the ladder.’
David’s career achievements did not stop at Tex Holdings as he was also the President of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce for 2 years, President of the Engineering Employment Federation for 3 years, President of the Construction Equipment Association for 2 years, and also a Member of Lord Chancellors for Magistrates for 9 years where he was involved with around 40-50 interviews per annum and spent 10 years as a governor at Eastern Otley College.
His dedication to the company did come with sacrifices, one of which was time with his family. On his 30th Wedding Anniversary, he surprised his wife with a trip to Switzerland. It was during this trip that they realised that for 5 years of their marriage in total, David had been away from the family home traveling with work.
Outside of work, (and we are slightly surprised that he had any spare time at all), David is a keen Ipswich Town supporter, and has held a season ticket since the age of 20. This was after falling in love with the game when he attended his first match at Ipswich Football Club when he was 9 years old. He is also a keen musician and has played in bands since 1962 and even has two guitars and an electric organ in his home office. David a family man, he is married and has 3 children who have collectively given him 5 grandchildren. David’s wife offered a stream of stability at home and for that, he has always been grateful. He explained that traveling so much would have been ‘impossible without the consistent support of his wife’ who took charge of all of the tasks at home.
Gardening is a great love of David’s due to his love of fresh air. He has found that the manual labour needed to maintain a garden helped to ground and humble him as it is a stark contrast from the services available when traveling for business. He was always aware of the false impression of life that can come with the amount of travel that he undertook and never wanted the perks of the role to cloud his reality.
So, what would the advice of this apprentice-turned-Chairman to the younger generation be? ‘Be yourself, realise where you come from, and be grateful for where you are. Ask questions of the older generations, you don’t need to take their advice word for word, but listen to them, a second opinion is always a good idea. Always work hard, there is no substitute for it. Nothing comes easy, and if it does, it may come back and bite you later on.’ The main piece of advice, stay down to earth.
We would like to personally thank David for his 50 years of dedicated service to BSP and Tex Holdings.