Driffield News

The end of an ‘amazing journey’ as Simon retires from Mortimers after 41 years

After 41 years, the last seven of which he served as the company’s managing director, Simon Minns’ ‘amazing journey’ working for grain and seed merchants James Mortimer is reached its conclusion on Wednesday (1st June) when he starts a well-earned retirement.

Before signing off, Simon enjoyed a retirement party at Mortimers headquarters on Kelleythorpe Industrial Estate.

The event was attended by customers and trading partners along with his wife Jan, and family, Grace, Abi, Will, and son-in-law Harley.

It’s just been good to be part of such a successful local company that is now moving onto the next chapter with a strong plan for the future.

simon minns

A former Driffield School pupil, Simon was 19 years old when he joined Mortimers on 5th January 1981 after being interviewed by the late Sid Oxtoby, and Maurice Robson, for the role of trainee farm trader.

For the next 18 months, he worked in the office, warehouse, and grain sampling before developing his own customer base.

Simon credits his time in Driffield YFC as a great advantage, as it meant he was already known to the local farming community.

In 1995, Maurice Robson, Simon and Chris Atkin undertook a management buyout from Anne Pollard and Pru Butterworth.

Colleagues and friends turned out in force to say farewell to Simon Minns.

The company operated from Riverhead until December 2014.

Simon succeeded Maurice as managing director after the move to Kelleythorpe had been completed.

Since the move, Mortimers has grown considerably, with Simon at the heart of driving the company’s seed sales forward.

In October 2019, Simon made a decision to plan his retirement, fixing a date of 1st June 2022.

Reflecting on his time at Mortimers, Simon explained how he has seen a whole host of changes since he started in 1981.

One of those is how mobile phones revolutionised and helped massively in the everyday running of the company.

Prior to their widescale use, the only time to contact farmers was early in the morning, at lunchtime or in the evening.

In the years that have followed, the ability to contact customers at any time has helped keep them fully informed.

“Access to emails on your phone at any time of day means that you are never off duty, giving you the ability to carry out business wherever you are,” said Simon.

Simon addresses his colleagues and customers.

“When I started, we had a very small team down at Riverhead, throughout the 1980s we grew steadily under the leadership of Maurice Robson.

“After 18 months of office work, on farm grain sampling and delivering seed to local farms, the company bought me my first vehicle and I went about bringing new customers to the business.

“The financial security and reputation of Mortimers gave me a great start when going to see new potential customers.

“We were well supported at Riverhead, despite the constraints of the site. For a number of years customers encouraged us to find new premises in order to help the company reach its true potential.

“When the Kelleythorpe site came on the market, we knew it was a perfect fit, and the local farming community have given us fantastic support.

“The move has been the highlight of my time at Mortimers.”

Over the last 41 years, Simon has worked alongside a great team of colleagues, many of whom have displayed similar longevity and loyalty.

Simon’s commitment to ensuring Mortimers remains a successful, independent company was shown when he gave two-and-a-half years notice of his wish to retire.

Once Simon had announced his plans, Maurice’s daughter Lucy, already a director at Mortimers since 2014, and her husband Stuart, decided that Stuart should join the company to learn the ropes for two years alongside Simon, before taking the reins as MD on Wednesday 1st June.

With the peace of mind that he is leaving the company in more than capable hands, Simon is now looking forward to enjoying a quieter lifestyle.

“We’ve had a succession of good, loyal members of staff over the years, which has been very lucky for us,” he said.

Simon celebrating with his wife, Jan, three children, Grace, Abi and Will, and son-in-law Harley.

“We now have 14 full-time members of staff, and five part time. I have thoroughly enjoyed being managing director over the last seven-and-a-half years since we moved to Kelleythorpe.

“I’m leaving the company in safe hands and I’m a great believer that you need a succession plan.

“There’s a big desire to remain independent and I couldn’t be more pleased with how the transition has gone, as I’m sure Maurice is.

“It’s been an amazing journey. It’s the people – the farmers and the customers, many of which have become personal friends.

“It’s just been good to be part of such a successful local company that is now moving onto the next chapter with a strong plan for the future.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife and family. I am writing my bucket list which will include, travel, lowering my golf handicap, lots of cycling, walking and seeing our many friends.

“I’m just ready to have more time to myself at a steadier pace after living and breathing this job for 40 years.”

Simon has now passed the baton onto Stuart, who joined Mortimers in July 2020 after spending the first 20 years of his career in telecoms.

Although the industry is very different, Stuart said: “The leadership and business experience I have gained is just as relevant in an agricultural business and in some cases actually provides a healthy, different perspective and new ideas”.

Having learned all aspects of the Mortimers business alongside Simon over the last two years, Stuart is now ready to move the business into the next chapter of its long and successful history.

“When Simon decided he wanted to retire, coming home to take the business forward together was a very easy decision for Lucy and I to make, in order to build on Maurice and Simon’s legacy and keep our independent family business thriving for the next generation,” said Stuart.

“The handover with Simon has been really successful, so much so, that we have made changes and investment decisions for the future whilst working alongside each other, and this has paid dividends in the last 12 months.

“Having two years to work together means that we are all now ready for Wednesday, when Simon can start a well-earned retirement and the team can take the business into its next chapter.

“We’ve got a very strong team with huge experience, and all the skills we need to run the entire business under one roof and I feel we are well set to carry on for the next generation.

“Looking after a business such as Mortimers, that is held in such high regard by its customers, some of whom have worked with us for three generations or more, is really exciting and a great privilege.

“Our plan is to remain an independent, traditional grain trading and seed production business, based in Driffield, focused on the local farming community, whilst investing to keep us at the leading edge of plant breeding and seed technology”.

James Mortimer Ltd was founded in 1869 by corn merchant John Robert Mortimer from the family farm in Fimber.

The company’s offices were located at 16 Middle Street South from 1869 until the 1920s, when they purchased the house adjacent to their warehouse facilities at Riverhead.

Over the following years, J R Mortimer’s relatives became involved and took over the business.

In the 1930s, the company’s managing director, Percy Whiting bought the company and ran the business until his retirement, when his daughter Winifred assumed ownership of the company.

She died in 1982 and her daughters took over ownership with Maurice running the business as MD, which ultimately led to the management buyout in 1995 and then the move in 2014, to the site at Kelleythorpe with purpose-built offices, a warehousing/grain store and seed plant.

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