30 year’s history in commercial laundry equipment
Director Profile: By: Mark Dennis
“The Bad News Is Time Flies.
The Good News Is
You’re Still The Pilot”
1986 – The year the first mobile phone call was made.
1986 – 1990
In 1986, or as my children would say ‘in the olden days’, I started my first job with John Laithwaite Associates (JLA), which was my first introduction to the laundry world. Back then the company only employed around 15 engineers and two delivery drivers – there was no hiding in those days!
They say you never forget an inspiring teacher, but sadly that wasn’t the case in my school days. However, during my time at JLA, I was lucky enough to work with some of the best technical guys in the industry, who inspired me greatly.
Tony Thomas, who is now the technical director at JLA, and John Cook, who sadly passed away some years ago, were both great mentors who influenced my early life and career greatly.
After a few years of lid-locking Maytag washing machines and some time out servicing on the road, I became involved with research and development of commercial washing machines.
One major project I was involved in was to produce a new-to-the-market 10kg commercial washing machine which would challenge all others in its class. Out brief was for this new machine to be in same class as Miele with its Little Giant model.
Soon afterwards, work started on developing our prototype and after months of design and around-the-clock testing, we finally produced a unique contender. Completely bespoke to all our requirements, the JLA 10-11 commercial washing machine was soon launched and quickly became a rival to the Miele Little Giant.
JLA was an inspiring place to work and a great place to start for a young man. I left with the best industry grounding possible.
Working for anyone capable of taking a company from zero to £150 million I, without doubt, inspiring itself. If that doesn’t get you excited about business, then I guess you’ll be working for someone who does.
1990- 1992 Mistcroft Ltd
Set up by an ex-work colleague, Kyle Harris, previously the parts manager at JLA, I thought it was a great move working with a new company and being its first employee. This new role brought a completely new experience in supplying spare parts for commercial washing machines.
I was plunged straight in at the deep end and with a brief introduction to sales, my ability to deal with situations was quickly put to the test. The names and contact details of trade customers and launderette owners had arrived in a big pile on my desk.
Two great years soon passed by and I found the job sometimes stressful but equally rewarding. Working with Kyle was my first taste of running a business and confirmation that it wasn’t going to be easy. This business grew and eventually was acquired by JLA.
1991 – The Internet was announced to the world.
Now married with a baby on the way, and a mortgage to pay, my next career step was at Rantak Machinery Sales. At the time, this second-hand equipment suppliers was owned by Mike Hall and John Greenwood, both who had decades of industry experience. The business specialised in supplying re-conditioned machines to the launderette and dry-cleaning sector.
Some good times were had and there were events that never fail to bring a smile to my face, even now.
I have many memories of traveling up and down the country in a transit van, towing a trailer full of Loadstar 30/30 dryers and Wascator W74 washing machines.
1994 – 16 million Internet uses in the world.
1994 – 1995
I was now married with now two young children, and a chance arose to see the other side of the world. I was offered an amazing job opportunity move abroad and work in Australia, with a distributor based in Sydney covering New South Wales, called ALS GROUP.
This was a life-changing experience for all the family, and gave me the opportunity to work with another inspiring company and team of people with a great work ethic. The company truly believed in looking after both staff and customer alike; key things I’d remember in my own business.
Sadly, and faster than you could say living the dream, 10 months passed, and home sickness kicked in with the family, so we decided to return back to the UK. Remember, this was the days without cheap flights, social media or Skype.
1995 – launch of EBay.
1996 – 1998
During this time, I was a sub-contractor laundry engineer and installer for various companies. There were some interesting times and I learned a lot.
1998 – 2002 Northern Laundry Services
This was my first director’s role and business partnership, with a great guy and friend Mark Illingworth whom I’d met while working at a previous company. We supplied second-hand laundry equipment initially, while building a good reputation for both product and service.
During our time, we even set-up a launderette in our local town, using the shop as a showroom to potential new clients and new business start-ups. The launderette later developed into a commercial laundry that we sold on.
This was a great time in life and finally I was my own boss! The company grew year on year although we had many challenging periods. As the business developed, we started to employed staff, one of which was a young guy, Kieron Kendell.
At the time, he was fresh from school at 17 years old, and has now become an integral and key member of MAG today. After four years it was clear to see the partnership was starting to fail, and my decision to exit the company was amicably agreed, which was a big decision at the time.
I’ve always been an optimist and not scared to take a risk or two. However, it was now clear that I had to make my own way in the industry.
After leaving Northern Laundry, I took some time out to finally set out my stall, and begin my business plan, that would include my interest in the internet and the way it was shaping the world. After many late nights burning the midnight oil, we finally started to developed our own platform