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Interview with Steve Ashworth MD Wyevale

The new managing director at Wyevale Nurseries takes the group's reins this month at a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty.

A host of threats encircles the wider economy, from Government cuts to a strengthening pound, house price uncertainty and creeping inflation. But the former Wyevale Transplants director is not without experience - his 23 years with the company have brought consistent growth - and he takes on the task with quiet enthusiasm.

"I like the people here and I like the plants," he explains. "I think between the various sections they grow a wonderful range of crops and have a wide range of production - there are not many nurseries that match that and given the need for someone to pull it together I would love the challenge." He equates the role to that of a conductor, waving a "lightweight baton to create an orderly tune in the hope of producing some harmony". Ashworth says he will become more outwardly focused, looking at customers, suppliers and competitors to help "conduct Wyevale in a fashion that is profitable and valuable to the outside world".

He recently began a series of stints at each of the company outposts, meeting employees and finding out the issues. While owner Peter Williamson recently confirmed the company was looking for new partnerships to increase its offering, Ashworth said he will not focus on that, at least initially. "I think I will be looking to make the things we have work as sweetly as possible first," he says. "We are doing a customer survey at the moment, which will hopefully yield the results to tell us where we should be tweaking our range of products. Results will be back and analysed in September and that is a very important marker for us. We really need to make a methodical analysis of what it is telling us."

As chair of the HTA tree and hedging committee - a position he holds until 2013 - Ashworth is a willing participant in industry debate. He is not afraid to air his views about various issues and says that part of the new role will be to represent the company in the wider industry conversations.

"I'm looking forward to being out there, to listening and looking, to representing our needs and our products," he explains. "We need to talk up the importance of our industry and that is starting from the uniqueness of Britishness.

"But it's a crowded little country with a lot of pressures on people in general and the landscaping of Britain is of premium importance. You could say crowded Britain needs the inspiration and space supplied by a high-quality landscape. We ought to keep shouting about our place in the country.

"It's not just about plants for consumption. There is a need to keep Britain green and everyone has the urge to do their bit. People have a real desire to see a blackbird in the hedgerow."

Source : Jack Sidders - Horticulture Week

20 August 2010
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