Blakedale | Blakedale founder shares secrets to success
Fred Smith, founder of Fred Smith Street Lighting and Blakedale Limited, has fulfilled an ambition to write and publish his autobiography. Milk to Motorways tells the story of Fred’s life and achievements, from growing up in the 1940s and ‘50s, to milkman and motorway entrepreneur.
Fred writes about the “accidental conception” of multi-million pound business Blakedale, which under the guardianship of the next generation, is now the country’s biggest supplier of road marker posts as well as a major supplier of specialist self-drive hire Impact Protection, or Crash Cushion, Vehicles.
Before his retirement Fred was a well-known character within the highways industry. Fred says that chance and following his instincts have played a major role in his success as is amply demonstrated in the honest and often humorous accounts of his business ventures.
Growing up on his family’s dairy farm led to a brief career as a milkman. In 1966, Fred branched out into landscape gardening. Five years later, Fred purchased a trenching machine that took him away from gardening and into cable laying and street lighting.
“Looking back, it’s amazing that it was machines that channelled my life and my business in a completely different direction to that in which they were seemingly heading,” says Fred.
By the late 1980s Fred’s company had grown, diversified and prospered, and was responsible for the lighting on many of the road and motorway networks in the North of England. A small but important part of the business was the manufacture and supply of distance marker posts for those networks.
In 1999 Fred Smith Lighting was sold to the McAlpine Group, but the marker posts business, now known as Blakedale, was retained and passed on in equal shares to Fred’s four children, three of whom manage the business today: Carmen Bowley, Joint Managing Director, Richard Smith, Joint MD and Operations Director and Jonathan Smith, Finance Director.
In 2002 Blakedale purchased its first hire vehicle, a Crash Cushion costing almost £50,000. This was a bit of a gamble at the time, but one that has certainly paid off as the company’s hire fleet is now approaching 300.
As well as being successful in business Fred, 75, is also a champion powerlifter and has participated in six marathons. Fred’s passion for boxing also led him to be present at the historical Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier fight at Madison Square Gardens on March 8, 1971, an experience he also writes about in the book.
They say a strong body starts with a strong mind. Fred’s book is crammed full of challenges met and disappointments overcome, all indicative of his overwhelming strength of character and drive.
So what inspired Fred to document his memoirs? “I enjoy reading other people’s life stories and it was whilst reading Steve Coogan’s biography on holiday that I had the idea to write my own book. It took me two years to complete and I enjoyed every moment of the journey.”
Available on Amazon, Milk to Motorways will be of interest to those who have ever met Fred, worked within the highways sector or know the areas of Chorley and Lancashire in which he has spent his life. It will also appeal to anyone who has ever travelled on a motorway and wondered what goes on behind the scenes.