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Aspray teamwork is route to success.

Byline: By John Revill Business Staff

A family-run distribution company with ambitious plans to double in size in the next five years has been named this year's Birmingham Post Business of the Year.

Aspray Transport, which is based in Willenhall, near Wolverhampton, turns over pounds 20 million a year and employs 460 people, was the winner of the awards, now in their 20th year.

But chairman Patrick Laight is not standing still, and wants to increase that to pounds 40 million by 2010.

Mr Laight, who was once a trainee footballer at Wolverhampton Wanderers, said he was glad in the end his soccer career never took off.

Speaking at the ceremony at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham yesterday, he said: "I was told I wasn't good enough, so I had to use my brain rather than my brawn, and it has paid off.

"I am delighted we have won these awards, it is absolutely fabulous. This is different to other awards because the judges are genuinely interested in the business and are asking questions.

"They sit and listen to your answers, about what you are going to do with the company and how you are going to achieve it.

"They are looking to help you rather what they can get out of it."

Mr Laight's two sons - Stuart and Ian - both work in the firm, and it was this family feel which was vital to its success.

He said: "Everyone is on first name terms, and everyone is important.

"From the young girls on the customer service desk to the directors, the drivers, chargehands and warehousemen.

"Everyone is in it together. "We go through the hard times together and enjoy the good times together.

"For example, Stuart Bone, our human resources director, is not related to me but is part of our business family."

Aspray, which specialises in warehousing and distributing locally-produced fasteners and hardware products, has recently invested pounds 8 million on a new headquarters at its base in Noose Lane Willenhall.

It is a far cry from the rented garage half a mile away which Mr Laight set up with two business partners in 1982.

He said: "The garage was too small for trucks, so we used vans.

"We used to do everything' sales and ordering, driving, everything from the garage.

"I always thought there would be a future in a specialist career, and we targeted it.

"The business has changed over the years and we have developed more.

"People will always use locks and nuts and bolts.

"While some of the production has moved to the Far East, there is always a need for a distributor to bring it over, de-stuff it and transport it."

Mr Laight added: "We are really pleased to win this award, it will really help and raise our profile.

"We will put it on our website straight away and tell all our customers."

Alan Jackson, of Intercity Mobile and one of the judges, said: "I am particularly impressed by the delight and surprise of the awards winners.

"I feel sure that they will share this marvellous day with their staff who they all pay tribute to as, in many cases, their success is the result of excellent teamwork."

The winners of the Birmingham Post Business Awards receives a private two-day visit to Champagne Taittinger's headquarters at Epernay in France, with flights from British Airways.

They also receive two air tickets from BA to anywhere in Europe from Birmingham as well as the mobile phone technology system from Intercity Mobile Communications, and a magnum of Champagne.

Sponsors of the awards are: Churchill Vintners, Intercity Mobile Communications, with support provided by Biz TV, British Airways, Aston Business School, and Aston Science Park who co-sponsored the annual winners launch, and Champagne Taittinger.

Visit icbirmingham.co .uk/postbizawards to find out more about The Post Business Awards and read our special 20th anniversary supplement.

CAPTION(S):

Sir Adrian Cadbury, left, presents the Aston Business School Award to Richard Shaw MD of Advanced Crusher Spares' Philip Lines from Aston Business School (left) presents the Excellence in Technology Award to David Keene from Richmond Design and Marketing' Pictures, ALAN WILLIAMS
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 26, 2006
Words:692
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