Fellows robes

Ian Meadows

Oration

Presented by: Dame Lorna Muirhead

Honourable Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Ian Meadows OBE DL for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

This is a truly civic university, firmly rooted in this extraordinary city, and its defining ethos comprises three deceptively simple yet very powerful words: Dream. Plan. Achieve. 

Each year at Graduation, the University's highest honour - an Honorary Fellowship - is bestowed on a select band of individuals outside the University, in recognition of their outstanding achievement in a given field or profession, and who personify and inspire others to 'dream, plan, and achieve.' 

The family firm of RS Clare and Company Limited was founded in 1748, at the very birth of the Industrial Revolution. For the last 266 years it has been steered by just two families - the Clares and the Meadows. As Chairman of the city's longest-established manufacturing company Ian has overseen a company established in the eighteenth century navigate its way very successfully into the twenty first century.  

His tenure as head of the family firm can be characterised by a frank and honest appraisal of business realities combined with good sense, long-term thinking and a strong belief in the Darwinian principle that those who survive are the ones who most accurately perceive their environment and successfully adapt to it.

We propose Ian today, in recognition of his significant contribution to the business and civic life of this city.

Despite its longevity, RS Clare remains something of a secret Liverpool success story. It started life as a druggist and manufacturing chemist, quickly evolving into a specialist turpentine distiller. Today it is a niche manufacturer of high-performance specialist lubricants and greases for the global oil, gas and rail industries, and anti-skid coatings and road markings for roads and bridges as well as shipyards, and  marine transport carriers. and the construction sector. It employs 175 people and enjoyed record sales and profits last year, with more than half of its manufactured business exported to over 40 countries. 

This exporting success led to a Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2011 for its international trade achievements. 

It wasn't always like this. His great-grandfather and a friend acquired the business in 1889 and Ian is now the fourth generation of Meadows to run it. However, he came into the business circuitously and somewhat reluctantly. After leaving school at 18, he joined Regent Oil as a laboratory assistant and by 23 was running Texaco's Scottish retail division, the youngest sales manager in the company's history. 

He joined RS Clare in 1972, aged 26, when his father became ill, taking over as Managing Director in 1979 and taking on the Chairman's role in 1996. For the first 10 years, Ian ran the company in the same way as his father, but experienced something of an epiphany after seeing a television programme featuring the business troubleshooter Sir John Harvey-Jones. He realised that the company he ran had become too hierarchical and autocratic, and that he had been responsible for stifling initiative and innovation.

Within two years the company won a National Training Award and subsequently RS Clare became the first Merseyside manufacturer to be awarded the Investor in People marque, but 6 years later Ian took down the plaques, feeling the company wasn't deserving of the award at that time. 

The business successes and numerous awards that have followed can be traced back to the changes he introduced 25 years ago. Sales have grown more than 20-fold since Ian took on the role of Managing Director and although he did - briefly - consider his future as he approached  sixty, he has been since been reinvigorated by the opportunities that have arisen in recent years. 

Despite the global recession, sales have grown by 50% and profits have trebled since 2009. The company has undergone ten fundamental changes in its long history. Some evolutionary, some revolutionary, but adapt it has. 

Its focus now is on the long-term, and the next 266 years. It has succeeded in developing long-lasting employee relationships that go way beyond a purely financial transaction, and have resulted in a strong familial attachment to the business. Based on consistent innovation and a focus on partnership, its business relationships are thriving and growing; and it has generated a deep and enduring link between the company and its city, to the mutual advantage of all concerned. 

The company is firmly rooted in its Toxteth home in Stanhope Street. Situated close to the centre of the 1981 riots, for a while during the 1980s, Ian feared that the district and its businesses would fall victim to the political and economic troubles of the time. Unemployment had soared, thefts from  and wilful damage to business premises were endemic and there was a deep community malaise. 

In response, Ian took a lead in calling local business owners together and created the Parliament Street Industrialists' Association - Britain's first inner city industrial crime-watch area. Supported by the influential Merseyside Development Corporation, over the next three years reported crime fell by 70% and new companies set up business in the area. 

He was awarded an OBE in the 1993 Queen's Birthday Honours for his contribution to the regeneration of Merseyside. 

Today the Stanhope Street site is undergoing a significant, environmentally-sound, multi-million pound investment in facilities, built to meet the continued and growing demand for its products.   

Ian served as a highly effective Chairman of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce & Industry from 2003 until 2005, successfully encouraging the city's public and private sectors to work together. He used the company's 250th anniversary to raise funds to support the launch of Liverpool's first  Sirolli project 'Dream High' to help would-be entrepreneurs to start sustainable businesses. He also served as a trustee of the PSS charity for over 30 years, the last seven of them as Chairman until 2009.

He served as High Sheriff of Merseyside in 2013-14, committing to the role so fully he composed a specialist brochure on the subject, and continues in his role as Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Merseyside. He has also served  in the footsteps of former Vice Chancellor Peter Toyne as Honorary Colonel of the region's Territorial Army 33 Signals Regiment. 

Completely committed to this splendid city, he predicted that the city's 2002 bid to become the 2008 European Capital of Culture would be successful, because as he says "this is a fantastic city with people who are unstoppable when they are motivated". Much like yourself Ian. 

Thus, it is with great pleasure that I present Ian Meadows, this most distinguished son of our city, for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.