profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 8 in a continuing series
Director of LTM
John Jones, joint founder of motor and rigging suppliers Lift-Turn-Move (LTM) - AKA The Lodestar People - is one of the most outspoken voices in the production industry. And in charismatical Scouse fashion, he's proud of it!
His achievements have included establishing the CM Lodestar electric chain hoist as an industry standard motor for the UK and European concert touring and entertainment markets in the 1990s. He's also passionate about the promotion of industry-led training and safe working practices.
John was born in Birkenhead and after an "uninspiring experience" at school he left, aged 16, and went to work as a lab technician in a local plastics factory. This proved almost as moribund as school, so yearning for adventure and excitement, he debunked to Germany three years later and landed a job as a bar bum in Lengries in the German Alps.
Although this was a very enjoyable period of his formative years involving plenty of beer and partying, it ended abruptly after a row with his somewhat volatile boss, who was complaining about foreigners working in Germany, only to be reminded one day by John that she was actually Austrian! He was subsequently and unceremoniously fired.
Back on Merseyside, his father found him a "proper job" at the famous Cammell Laird shipyard. At that time, the company, the site, the image and the reputation of Cammell Laird was that of a huge heavy engineering and manufacturing powerhouse, a massively proud and integral element of the Wirral's rich industrial and maritime heritage.
For John, Cammell Laird provided many invaluable lessons in life - such as finding out just how bitingly cold an unheated ship can be in winter! After several months as a labourer he applied for a job with lifting equipment manufacturer Verlinde who were expanding on the Wirral and advertising for admin staff (he thought).
This was in 1973, and it was his introduction into the world of industrial lifting equipment and sales, a job he had never envisioned himself doing!
He stayed with Verlinde until 1983, when he decided the time was right for some competition in the field of lifting gear, and left to set up the UK division of the German company, Pfaff Silberblau. This would later incorporate PCM.
The market was an expanding one, and John wanted to take full advantage of the situation as he realised there was massive potential for the right products in the right places.
His love of music further fuelled his determination to offer the entertainment industry some top notch lifting and rigging products. During the late eighties he was impressed with how the genres of heavy metal and rock music were continually pushing the boundaries of what it was possible to fly in terms of lighting and PA rigs (and also interested in selling some of the motors being used by the production companies).
A seminal year for John was 1992 when he first introduced the US-manufactured Lodestar electric chain hoist to the UK. At that time, you couldn't get a Lodestar for "love nor money"!
In the following years he concentrated feverishly on establishing the Lodestar as the motor of choice and right up there at the forefront of the burgeoning entertainment and leisure industry. Fifteen years on, the Lodestar motor is without doubt the industry standard, and this has, in some way, been due to the efforts of John Jones and his colleagues.
It is axiomatic that John is dedicated to his work and to the creative elements of the production industry. He enjoys finding solutions to technical problems, and has always been committed to not ‘letting people down'.
There have been numerous opportunities to travel in his work, and he also relishes meeting and working with people from different countries and cultures, and sharing their experiences and skills. One memorable trip was in 1999. John and his then-colleague Tony Dickson went to Johannesburg to train 16 black members of SARA - the South African Roadies Association, which included a trip to the famous township, Soweto.
Training is an area where John's invested huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm. He's determined to establish and encourage a culture of learning, the possession of practical knowledge and real awareness for all those buying Lodestars and lifting equipment in general.
John has ensured that ‘The Lodestar Motor School' is an industry-defining rite of passage for anyone who's serious about rigging - be they a freelance rigger, a venue owner or manager of a hire company.
The next seminal chapter in John's career was in 2004, when he set up LTM with David King, leaving Pfaff-Silberblau after 22 years.
It was a big jump to make but the time was absolutely right. "I needed to work independently again," he says. "We wanted to make our own decisions, work with people we chose to, and feel alive and at the sharp end of the industry again. The only way we could do this was to set up our own company."
One of the fundamental principals of LTM is its pro-active customer service. "Working with an agile and streamlined operation allows us to offer the most efficient service," maintains John. "We have a great team here, and can stay really focused on our clients, the business and the things that really matter rather then getting distracted by politics and the trivia that don't."
Several of his previous staff joined John at LTM, which is still based on the Wirral, specialising in Lodestar hoists and a whole variety of other lifting gear, control and rigging accessories. Ninety percent of John's clients and contacts also followed him in taking their business to LTM, which has exceeded all expectations in terms of growth and financial forecasts. "I was surprised and grateful that so many people stuck with us," he says. "It was a real endorsement of the work and effort that everyone on the team puts in."
LTM now employs 14 full time staff and has already moved since its inception to keep pace with the demand for space. They have also started running motor schools - having built a special training and demo area. "I managed for 12 years to be the face of the motor schools while other people did the work in presenting the courses," admits John. "And I realised that I now had to present them as no one else would do it for me." He adds: "Fortunately Dave Ward has now advanced to a level where he does the technical stuff - and I once again recite all the jokes, anecdotes and stories!"
Having run Motor Schools all over the world in the past, John intends to start doing this again in 2007. "We've had plenty of requests," he says.
John's not looked back since launching LTM, and is relishing life and business as never before. He's pleased that he's finally "got a proper job" again!
Look out for the next subject in our Profile series...
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