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Keeping it in the family: how one Cheshire business is ensuring success after succession


2020 sees Repclif Chemical Services, Crewe, pass from one generation to the next. Here, FSB member and MD Ivan Anketell-Clifford explains how, after 50 years in business, the firm embraced change while staying true to its core family values.

Ivan and wife Rachael succeeded Robert and Sue Frazer, Rachael's parents, who founded the company in 1971. Since then, Repclif has worked with many prestigious clients – including Mercedes-Benz, Portakabin, Rowenta and Lakeland.

In the past three years Ivan has taken the business through a programme of change, moving away from a private-labelled operation via a two-pronged approach.

Ivan said: “Firstly, we have developed own label product lines under our new parent brand, Qualkem, and secondly, in partnership with market leading customers in targeted growth sectors – our Customkem Partners – we have collaboratively designed and produced dual branded products. We are now closing in on 100 product lines under 6 Qualkem brands.”

With a background in promoting recycling, composting and other waste management initiatives, Ivan has steered the business towards more concentrated (less water based) products, reducing the reliance on highly flammable and hazardous based solvents and biocides (for example, formaldehyde). He believes the overriding benefit of this is that it has improved the working environment for staff, as well as helping end-users.

The business has fostered a culture of empathy and emotional intelligence – one big Repclif family - nurturing and improving its employee’s self-worth, with a core philosophy of ‘we never lose - we win, or we learn!’

Ivan accepts that a learning curve is essential to growth, and that this must be assessed at every level of the business.  

“We tap into individuals’ natural skills and dreams and develop their strengths in the right business areas that suit both the company and employee. This allows staff to enjoy their work, improve their self-worth; and the business benefits all round,” he said.

In recent years, several employees who previously have struggled to hold down full-time work have developed within the business into highly valued team members.

With over 100 years of combined business and life experience within the senior management team, the company is well placed and keen to pass on this knowledge to the next generation.  Repclif is mapping out staff succession and encouraging promotion within.  One staff member has already started an Apprenticeships in Digital Planning and there are plans afoot for another to sign up for a Business Administration Apprenticeship, working towards taking on an Office, ISO 9001 & SHE Administrator role.

Managing the change, and delivering business growth, has been made easier by the company attaining ISO 9001 certification, which Ivan sees as more than just a sales tool.

“For us its foremost benefit has been implementation of robust unequivocal management processes that deliver clear direction to all staff and afford 100% product traceability, a must for our customers. This has allowed me to start working on the business and not in the business,” he said.

In fact, Ivan sees himself as more of a ‘CIO’ - a Chief Inspiration Officer.  

“Motivation is key to what I like to do, I like to be around all our colleagues, I like to congratulate them when they’re doing well, and give them advice and to train them,” he added.