There aren’t many women who will tell you, after 30 years in a relationship that it was “hate at first sight.”
Fortunately, things took a turn for the better, but Pam Edwards – as she was at the time – was not impressed when she first met Doug Liversidge.
Faced with being ignored and unwanted at Woodhead Components, Pam had asked a friend who worked for one of the agencies to circulate her CV – but not to previous employers.
A copy got circulated to Thornton’s by mistake and the works manager immediately offered her the vacant position of production control manager.
Then, on April Fool’s Day 1978, Doug arrived, unannounced, to take over as managing director and immediately called a meeting of managers.
“We knew we were going to get a new MD, but he arrived early and I had one of the big presses stood. It had broken down and one of our big customers was screaming,” Pam recalls.
The machine fixed, Pam went in to the meeting, late and with grubby hands, telling her future husband: “I’m Pam Edwards and I’ve been working.”
She must have made an impression. When the works manager fell ill, she took over his job, but it didn’t improve her view of the new MD.
“He seemed to think I was on a piece of elastic and if he pulled it, I would come running up,” she recalls.
Irritation soon turned to admiration, however.
“Doug saw we were a small business with an enormous amount of skill and opportunities in the market place. He really brought the company into the modern era and we started making money,” says Pam.
One initiative involved Pam setting up the precision forge that is now at the heart of Symmetry Medical’s operations.
“I put in the process, trained the workforce and got the orders in. It was five years hard work because we had no reputation for precision forging and you had to get it right with one blow – if you didn’t, it was scrap,” Pam recalls.
Thornton’s floated on the Alternative Investment Market and that proved to be a pivotal moment for Pam, by then sales director of the business,
It soon became clear that the company’s new chairman was uncomfortable about two senior executives in a relationship and, as a result, Pam got paid off – only to get a job at twice the salary as the new strategic planning manager helping East Midlands Electricity ahead of privatisation.
“It was an enormous cultural change,” she says. Their idea of a business plan was to say how many kilometres of cable they were going to repair and how many they were going to install. There was no strategy because they were a monopoly.”
Pam added the job of divisional director within the electricity company’s unregulated businesses which led to her becoming involved in a number of ground-breaking projects, including the development of one of the first privately owned gas fired power stations in UK.
But, she had said right from the start that she would only stay at East Midlands for a limited period because what she could do for them would only be of value for a few years.
While she was at East Midlands, Doug had parted company with Thornton’s, acquiring the business’s mining components operation, Tool & Steel Products and persuaded Pam, by now his wife, to join him and launch a new business, producing metal powders from hi-tech metal scrap – later sold to one of its customers. Today, both Pam and Doug are still involved in a non-executive role at Tool & Steel products, which today specialises in railway maintenance equipment, tunnelling and mining equipment and machine fabrications.