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30 Oct 2016: Alan celebrates 30 years at Harbeth!

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  • 30 Oct 2016: Alan celebrates 30 years at Harbeth!

    In two days it is thirty years since Alan took over Harbeth from its founder, Dudley Harwood.

    As Alan said:

    My initial chance meeting with BBC retiree Dudley Harwood must have been destiny at work. As I walked back to my NEC Corp. company car from Harwoods tiny garage workshop, I was utterly certain that not only had this great brand to be preserved and nurtured but that I was the one to do it. I was 29 years old. As my wife said, 'I've never been able to stop you doing what you are passionate about, so if this is really what you want to do, remember that you have two children, and give it you're all'. It's not been a linear path, but I have given it everything I've got.
    From the archive, 1989, and off to Buckingham Palace. As Alan says, 'how on earth did a twit like that find such a nice girl?' How indeed!

    Harbeth's 40th anniversary in next year, 2017. The first ten years under Dudley Harwood, the next thirty under Alan's management. A forty year story.

    .
    Attached Files
    Harbeth PR,
    Harbeth UK

  • #2
    Originally posted by harbethpr View Post
    In two days it is thirty years since Alan took over Harbeth from its founder, Dudley Harwood.

    As Alan said:

    From the archive, 1989, and off to Buckingham Palace. As Alan says, 'how on earth did a twit like that find such a nice girl?' How indeed!

    Harbeth's 40th anniversary in next year, 2017. The first ten years under Dudley Harwood, the next thirty under Alan's management. A forty year story.

    .
    Dear Alan, let me participate to this celebration wishing a durable and succesful prosperity to You and Your honourable Company

    Comment


    • #3
      Congratulations

      Dear Alan,

      Congratulations on achieving this great milestone. I wish you a lot of success for the coming years and l'm looking forward to the celebrations of 40 years Harbeth. What a great picture.
      I hope you have a wonderful day.

      Kind regards,
      Ruben

      Comment


      • #4
        Sincere congratulations to you Alan, your staff at Harbeth and first of all the family that for sure is a great support and actually the best reason to try to achieve anything worthwhile in life.

        Congratulations once again and best wishes for even more success in the future!

        Loving the pic by the way in Dr. Watson and Mary Morstan style

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        • #5
          Congratulations! No doubt in my mind Alan made Harbeth the blossoming firm it is today. And my favorite brand for speakers. I do not mourn that the moustache didn't make it though ;-)
          Listen to the P3ESRs with ears, not eyes

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          • #6
            Sincere congratulations and let me wish you a great deal of success in introducing the next iterations of BBC knowledge based loudspeakers!

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            • #7
              Well done Alan and thank the Lord you took on the job.

              Comment


              • #8
                Alan, I well remember 23rd March 1989 when I rang Harbeth's number to enquire about purchasing a pair of ls3/5a's in teak and was surprised and delighted to find I was speaking directly to the new owner. The brief conversation was one of openness and clarity to every one of my questions and it was obvious that I was speaking to a gentleman.

                That first encounter has resulted in my perpetual conversion to following your logical thought on all matters concerning audio. It has also led to my being the proud owner of Compact 7 es3's and P3esr's in addition to my old but perfect ls3/5a's. Congratulations Alan on your first 30 years at the helm and best wishes for the future of the Harbeth brand and all your highly competent staff.
                Ron Whitehouse

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                • #9
                  Speakers not computers are the future!

                  And to think - just as the lucrative market potential of the 'Personal Computer' was beginning to be realised - electronic component sales manager, Mr Shaw, made the bold (and admittedly risky) decision to switch industry and embark on pursuing a life-long passion; Hi-Fi. The stakes were high and the potential gain by no means guaranteed - but a calculated, shrewd and informed decision it most certainly was.

                  Here's to the next 30 years, Dad!
                  Attached Files

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Cyclic fashions

                    Never knew Ned Flanders worked at Harbeth. The business was always going to be a success with Alan taking Mrs Shaw to the warehouse to arrange a few deliveries on the way to the Palace.

                    The good news is that shoulder pads didn't survive the 1980s but Harbeth did. Here's to Harbeth continuing until shoulder pads come back into fashion.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thank you for the best wishes. It's thirty years ago that Dudley Harwood retired for the second time and I became the owner of his Harbeth one-man enterprise. It was only a few days ago that I stumbled across the ring binder containing the paperwork leading up to and through Dudley's sale of his Harbeth brand to me. I've brought the file home and well have a rummage later.

                      One thing I do recall was when Dudley finally said, after some months of my visits to him that "the business is up for sale you know." I asked him to grant me first refusal and started the ball rolling concerning valuing it. What I found, years later, was that he had written his valuation expectation against an A to Z list of UK speaker brands culled from the 1986 HiFi Choice Loudspeaker yearbook, declining in value as he proceeded down the list with no takers. So my arrival on the scene was mutually beneficial.

                      As you know, at the time I was managing NECs growing business in the nascent PC arena, in particular at Amstrad (Alan, now Lord Sugar - very interesting days) and my first step was to ask for sight of Harbeth's trading accounts so that I could run some ratio analysis. "Oh, I haven't had accounts made-up for a number of years" said Harwood. When the bundle of P&L sheets arrived with a blank period in the middle unrecorded years, the picture was not attractive to the usual investor: he was losing GBP 50 per pair (on the HL Mk4 speaker) and had been for some time. That's roughly equivalent to USD 150/pr. in today's money: an unsustainable loss that he was unaware of.

                      Working for a Japanese corporation and absorbed in Japanese culture and their highly professional, logical way of business, it was the revelation that Hardwood's primary markets were Japan, Korea and Hong Kong that convinced me (in about three seconds) that whatever mess the business was in, if the product had ready customers in those impenetrable far off lands, there was hope. I asked Harwood permission to write a mini-survey to those importers, and to make a decision to proceed with the acquisition based on their feedback. Textbook, maybe, but risky in alerting intentions. Their responses are in the file.

                      I'll scan a few sheets from the file later today. I've not recorded this story here before for posterity. Is it of interest?
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Congratulations

                        And, on my birthdate, albeit 1969. Maybe I'll buy a pair every year to celebrate! Congratulations to Alan to building a wonderful product line the like of which I have not heard/seen ever.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The old ways are the best ways...

                          Your dustman must love you. Every week he turns up and the bins are empty. Have you ever thrown anything away? The Charles Foster Kane of West Sussex.

                          Reminds me of my dad's old warehouse office in the City. In about 1980 they decided to redecorate. I recall he had samples on the shelves above his desk that had been there unmoved since before the war. The redecoration was almost a disaster as all his customer phone numbers were written on the wall in front of him and disappeared under two coats of Dulux.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Two coats? Honestly?!

                            Am a bit confused as to what the actual time is this morning (end of BST) so thought I'd pull up the duvet, have a mug of tea brought by my domestic slave {Mod: you mean goddess with patience of a saint} and skim the folder.

                            There is some great correspondence. What comes across loud and clear is that Harwood, one of the world's top audio engineers, was wholly ill equipped or prepared for the task of running a manufacturing business. It's a tribute to his engineering ability that working alone in his seventies with primitive facilities, passing the time between orders arriving unannounced, that customers would order, and wait.

                            But the financial situation then, even viewed from this point thirty years on, was serious, and was unpalatable to my bank, as you'll read. There was no simple solution, although I worked through my concerns in a letter to Harwood (to follow). I had to remortgage my home to raise the capital to buy Dudley out. This was a venture surely only a young man would consider!

                            More later.
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The good ol' days

                              It may have been more coats of paint, but given how stingy they were I suspect they kept it down to the absolute minimum.

                              We live in a disposable and wasteful world. I remember at the beginning of the book "Barbarians at the Gate" executives from KKR visited Nabisco and company policy was that clerks had to hand in the old pencil stub to be issued with a new one. I worked with a lawyer whose first job was the post book. He was given a cash box and he had to write in this book the letters sent out and the postage applied. At the end of the week the total postage and cash balance were reconciled and any shortage was deducted from his wages.

                              Those were the days, heh? As it was your money, I suspect every last component was accounted for and probably still is. I took a mortgage in 1985 and the rate was 14.5%, so a second mortgage in 1986 must have been a far greater risk than many readers today would appreciate.

                              You draw attention to the business epithet that timing is everything. I understand that the HL Mk4 was a landmark product that received an excellent review from John Borwick. (I have retrieved it, cannot attach). Interesting to hear that such a product was made by a one-man-band in a garage.

                              As far as the time of day, its about 4:30 pm in Bangladesh. That's all that really matters.

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