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Office furniture entrepreneur learns about survival the hard way

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Born in Sheffield, 48 year old Mark Norcliffe, describes himself as “a Yorkshireman exiled to Lancashire”. Although he runs his office furniture business in the heart of the county, Mark freely admits that he will never be a Lancastrian.

“Our family heritage is steeped in the steel and coal industry and this has always had a significant part to play in the lives of the people of South Yorkshire.”

“Dad was a steelworker. He saw the writing on the wall and recognised the value of diversification, not just for businesses but for the many individual workers facing the prospect of life on the scrapheap when the industry began to go into meltdown. He picked himself up by the scruff of the neck, enrolled at university, came out with two degrees and ended up with a satisfying and rewarding career as a school Headmaster.”

“My father’s ability to respond to changing circumstances in such a radical fashion has always inspired me and I’ve always subscribed to the philosophy that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Mark explains how the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak which affected many local businesses, including his own, led the company to diversify:

“Foot and Mouth impacted our business, because we had restricted travel access and at the same time our Cumbrian clients in particular were suffering from reduced business. Because of our revenue reduction, we received deferred VAT relief and a small sum for marketing.”

“The grants we received allowed us to re-align the business become a one-stop shop office solutions provider – in that way we were able to convert a negative situation into a positive one.”

“We quickly established business in new areas. We won a new contract with maintenance firm Enterprise Plc. Their first order was a leather manager’s chair – needed in 24 hours. Norcliffe came up with the goods in record time and this new contract has subsequently developed into an ongoing relationship worth in excess of £250,000 per annum.”

To recession-proof his business, Norcliffe also added “Xerox concessionaire” to his list of services. His firm provides a full range of state-of-the art photocopiers and multi-function machines with a 24-hour on-call response unit.

From a turnover of £425,000 the year of the foot and mouth epidemic, these new revenue streams now combine to give Future Office Equipment forecasted revenues of £1m this year.

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