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The TekPro Interview


Do you read self-help books? Despite having written two myself, I have something of a love-hate relationship with the genre. The best self-help books encourage the reader to set goals and take lots of little steps in the right direction. Others, often American, encourage you to be bold and conquer the world in one go. Some find that too daunting, but others, like this month’s interviewee, have boundless determination to succeed and do so in spectacular fashion. But then Ian Leach does work for a man for whom Achievement could be a middle name.


Ian Leach, Alltech UK Ltd


Ian Leach is a Lancashire lad, born into a family where a success was defined as: ‘get a good job, keep your nose clean and head down and climb the ladder.’ I guess many of us also had fathers who worked for one corporate giant their whole life; I certainly did and perhaps so did you. However following his father up the management ladder at BT held


no appeal for the young Ian. He had developed a passion for farming, spending much of his spare time helping out on a family friend’s farm. Here was his induction to the feed trade, albeit years before he even thought about a career in this field. This traditional Fylde mixed farm had dairy cows, breeding sows, ewes and a laying flock all in number small enough to mean he had plenty of opportunity to get closely involved with feeding, mucking out and every aspect of small scale livestock farming. As his teens progressed, sports and girls replaced farming as his


principal past-times. He swam and played water polo competitively for Preston over a number of years, as senior captain for both in his late teens. His courting prowess is less well documented (no Facebook etc in those days) but no doubt fondly remembered! At 16 Ian left school and joined a local bank. He stayed here for six


years, rising from the tills and machine room on to business account management. This earning alternative to university prepared him well for the future. I guess we’ll see more youngsters taking this course themselves as university fees rise and graduate jobs remain scarce. Then Ian decided that mundane office life was not for him. He


resigned from the bank and enrolled as a mature HND student at agricultural college. His dream of an agricultural career had returned and, being a little older, he decided that this was his future. He might have become a farm manager had a wise college


tutor called Allan Nickson not counselled him to apply for a sandwich placement in the trade, rather than on a farm. AF Plc (formerly Preston Farmers et al) took him on for a year and in many ways, the rest became history. Selling feed enabled him to combine his love of the outdoor life with the commercial skills he’d acquired at the bank. AF liked him too, offered to sponsor him through college and hired him when he graduated. Also an older, more experienced colleague Tim Fawcett became his mentor; Ian holds Tim in very high regard and has never forgotten the level of guidance received. Mentors are, if you’ve ever had one, amazing assets. To have


PAGE 22 MARCH 2011 FEED COMPOUNDER


Industry forward thinkers put under the spotlight by Robert Ashton


someone older and wiser take you under their wing, for no reason other than that they can see your potential, is a unique gift. The management guru Charles Handy describes this as the ‘golden seed’ that can help someone achieve far more than perhaps even they thought possible. It’s like having a self-help book written just for you, and your eyes directed to the right page at the right time. The 2000/2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic then intervened and in


the uncertainty Alltech arrived over Ian’s horizon. He’d been introduced to the company when researching his final year thesis. They liked him and he liked them. AF reluctantly agreed to let him go and off he went, to learn from Pearse Lyons, a man I’d describe as a living ‘self-help book’. Pearse Lyons lives his dream and encourages those he employs to do the same. Paradoxically, Ian’s career with Alltech was exactly what his father


must have hoped to see. He joined as a Field Sales Rep, then became a Technical Sales Manager and eventually the UK General Manager in addition to being one of the European Regional Directors – the difference perhaps to his father’s career being the speed with which Ian climbed the ladder. Alltech is a company that truly believes that anything is possible. After all, the company’s own growth from minnow in the 1980’s to global leader today has been little short of meteoric. In fact Ian Leach’s appointment as UK General Manager was never


a given. In true Alltech fashion he phoned Pearse Lyons and ‘threw his hat into the ring’ within minutes of learning that the then incumbent, Jem Clay, had decided to move on. The opportunity was unusual, as promotion here is more a result of market growth than people leaving. ‘Many would have considered me a brash young upstart for even considering the job,’ Ian explained, ‘but in the Alltech culture it really is a case of anything is possible.’ Those of you who know Pearse Lyons will know that he maintains


a punishing work schedule. He expects the same of his team, believing that success only comes to those who both work hard and play hard. I wondered about work life balance and tactfully asked Ian about his family life. Did he even have one, I wondered? I was quickly reassured that although each working week involved on average three nights away from home, most Friday’s were spent working at his home office and weekends (where possible) were largely sacrosanct. Ian Leach is happily married with a young family. He can’t see his


children following in his footsteps and often wonders who will. Born in 1974 he is still a young man by feed industry terms. Perhaps self-help for the feed industry needs to involve bringing in more youngsters to follow in Ian’s footsteps. I wonder if a book would help?


This June, Ian will cycling the length of the UK to raise funds for Royal Manchester Childrens Hospital - if you would like to read more and perhaps donate to this very worthy cause, please visit www.justgiving.com/Ian-Leach


‘The TekPro Interview’ is a series sponsored by TekPro who develop, make and market technology. Their products include the Samplex range of bulk samplers, the Holmen pellet durability tester and the Insectomat insect detector.


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