Family Run South Yorkshire Firm Sees Turnover Up By 40%

A family-run South Yorkshire company that has seen its turnover increase by 40 per cent is preparing to hand over to the third generation.

The turnover of Lavender International, which trains people from all over the world in non-destructive testing, has gone up from £2.5m two years ago, to £3.5m. And the company, based next to Penistone station, has taken on four new employees in the last 12 months.

Co-managing director Steve Lavender, whose father Jack set up the firm in 1976, says he wants to hand over a healthy company to the next generation.

“We had been putting our head in the sand and not facing the issues. We had to look at the age of the directors and be realistic,” said 60-year-old Steve, whose son Paul also works for the firm.

“Now we are working on the strategies to get us to a place where we can go through that succession and hand over a thriving business to Paul and his peers.”

Lavender International has trained people from countries including Brazil, Spain, Nigeria, Mexico, South Africa, Russia, China and India.

Clients include major aerospace companies; nuclear, oil and gas suppliers, and firms involved in service inspection and the leisure industry.

They send trainees to Penistone to be put through a series of lectures, practical sessions and examinations, which lead to industry-recognised qualifications.

They are taught how to check metal objects for flaws without destroying them. Just like tests used in medicine on the human body, non-destructive testing uses dyes, X-rays, magnetism and ultrasound to find faults in anything from gas pipes to aeroplane wings; making it vital in all sorts of sectors from energy to aerospace and transport to leisure.

As well as trainees visiting them, Lavender International has associates in South Africa, Dubai, Canada, France and Greece. They have an office in Houston, Texas, and another in Perth, Australia.

Steve’s father Jack Lavender, who set up the firm with his brother Dave and their mother Joyce, was a highly respected metallurgist in the steel industry in Sheffield. The company initially also carried out the testing, but gradually moved into training people to do their own testing.

Lavender are being helped to develop by Enterprising Barnsley coach Martin Potter. They have also been given free marketing and IT support from the business support programme, which aims to help Barnsley-based businesses expand.

Steve said: “The support from Enterprising Barnsley has made an enormous difference and has given us so much confidence going forward.”

“With Martin for example the word helpful does not come anywhere near what we have got from his assistance. He has been brilliant at identifying what we want and putting in place new strategies for developing the business.”

Among the new strategies is the employment of a new executive manager, Jill Thompson, to oversee the business development, and the mentoring of younger members of staff.

Jill said: “The great thing about non-destructive testing is that it is recession-proof. It really does have a future for the next generation.”

“The materials involved in any new infrastructure that is built have to be tested. But all old infrastructure also has to be tested to ensure it is still safe.”

The Enterprising Barnsley programme is a partnership between Barnsley Development Agency (BDA) and Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC).

Enterprising Barnsley is supported financially by the European Union. The project has attracted £2,259,511 investment into Barnsley from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development, through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.

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