Ant Marketing celebrates 30 years with 80 new jobs in Sheffield

A Sheffield entrepreneur is celebrating 30 years in business by creating 80 jobs in the city.

Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 16:17 pm
Anthony Hinchliffe celebrates 30 years in business. Picture: Chris Etchells

Anthony Hinchliffe is opening a call centre in the former Mike Brewer Motors garage on Bramall Lane, handling calls for a major retailer.

It will be Ant Marketing’s third base in Sheffield and push staff numbers to 430.

Ant with the rare Sheffield Simplex car he saved for the city

It is as good a time as any to reflect on three decades which have included charity work – first through Help a Hallam Child and then his own Ant Kids – philanthropy – including saving the Sheffield-Simplex for the city – family life and collecting cars.

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The recent contract win shows that at 58 he still has the drive.

He said: “I had 30 years in mind when I set off. Now I suppose I’m looking for 50 years in business.

“Time has flown so fast. It doesn’t seem so long since I was being invited to apply for young business person awards. Now I’m asked to cut the ribbon on a new enterprise area at the college.”

An Ant Kids Christmas show

Ant Marketing is a “careful” operation that complies with regulations and is very aware it is fronting for firms which have built a brand, sometimes over 100 years, like Heinz, The Economist and RBS.

Cold calling, and bell ringing and standing on chairs to celebrate a sale, are out.

He added: “The culture comes from me. I like to think I lead from the front. I’m often the last car in the car park and I’ll think a lot about the business. My partner Jude is quite relaxed about me working on emails late at night.

“I also feel a great responsibility to the staff. I have to keep finding good quality work. There are a lot of mouths to feed.

Anthony Hinchliffe with the team. Picture: Chris Etchells

“But I’m very much enjoying it, when success comes it makes it all worthwhile.”

Born and raised in Gleadless, Mr Hinchliffe worked in sales jobs for the Financial Times and Stock Exchange before redundancy led him to set up in business. He started at home but soon moved to 13 Fargate after striking a deal with Liberty Life to occupy unused space in return for recruiting salespeople. Two years rent free in a plush office with a prestigious address was the result.

“It gave me a great start. If someone asks me for a definition of an entrepreneur I say it’s having the confidence to approach people with a deal.”

Call centre work will always come in for criticism and he admits it’s not for everyone.

The old Mike Brewer motor sales showroom which is being converted into a call centre, creating 80 jobs.

“For some, after a few days, reality dawns that they are sat with productivity targets. It’s a demanding role.

“But I’m quite comfortable that 95 per cent have enjoyed it. They’ve earned some money and it’s been a stepping stone to a great career.”

Early recruit Zoe Fearnley is MD of Ashton Seals in Barnsley and the current MD of Ant Marketing started out on the phones.

Lord Kerslake’s son worked there for a year, Anthony says.

“He said his son gained great confidence and found it very useful.”

Charity work includes five years on the board of Help a Hallam Child and Ant Kids which has run Christmas pantos and grottoes for disadvantaged children. He’s also a 30-year Sheffield United season ticket holder, sitting in the stands with his two daughters. And that’s how it will be for a while yet.

“You get used to the pressure of running a business and I’ve had great fun with the expansion. I’ve got a young management team. As soon as I don’t understand what I’m doing as well as I do now, or I’m in any way a liability, I’ll step back.”

Indulging in cars but driven by maternal influence

Anthony Hinchliffe owns 12 cars including a Ferrari and a limited edition Aston Martin.

He sold it once when was business tough - and bought it back when it picked up. “I wasn’t in a good negotiating position,” he admits.

Ant Marketing also has all the number plates from ANT 1 to ANT 32.

He recalls his mother was the only one who was interested in his motors.

“She was so proud, whereas my mates would take the mickey.”

She fled Vienna at 16 after the Nazis took her parents to Auschwitz.

“She drove me to be as successful as I can and still have some fun competing.”