Dec. 3, 2007 – A steady presence

HINCKLEY, England — There is no designated parking spot that bears the nameplate “John Bloor.”
In fact, at the larger of Triumph’s two Hinckley manufacturing plants, there is no “John Bloor” nameplate period since the sole owner of the iconic British brand has no designated office.
On the three or more days he spends each week at the facility and away from his homebuilding company, Bloor often can be found inside “Room 1,” one of a number of nondescript offices located on the ground floor of the sprawling Hinckley facility.
Although any physical sign of Bloor might be hard to find, company officials say his influence and work ethic is in fact very discernible.
For himself, Bloor, in a rare interview with trade or consumer media, said his role in the organization that he started nearly 25 years ago has changed somewhat.
“When we started, I was more a jack of all trades,” he said. “But now I tend to focus on basically people. Triumph people.”
Bloor, in his understated manner, noted he also deals with “downstream activities” and “R&D to some extent.” But in tackling Powersports Business questions, he constantly returned the conversation to the company’s personnel.
What is Triumph’s biggest challenge? “A business is about people really,” Bloor said. “Money is a commodity. But people are your principal asset, and I don’t think that has ever changed.”
What made the early years of Triumph, when it struggled to reach 10,000 sales annually, more difficult than the current time when it’s trying to grow its annual unit sales past the 50,000 mark? “Getting good quality supplies and good people internally, but now we have people who have been with us a long time, who have made the grade. That’s where we concentrate, on our people.”
Has he made plans for Triumph after John Bloor? “No I haven’t made plans for it, but we have people that are capable.”
The latter question was the only time Bloor brought himself into the conversation.
“Well I hope to be around for a few years …,” he said, laughing, before adding. “We’ll try to make sure whatever happens to it, it’s always in good hands.”
The brand came into Bloor’s hands in the early 1980s when Triumph was failing, even after receiving financial assistance from the English government. In a 2004 interview with CNN, Bloor said he decided to buy the Triumph motorcycle brand and its intellectual property rights because “it was an opportunity to make money.” In the late October interview with Powersports Business, Bloor said there was more to it than that, noting his interest in engineering as another reason for purchasing Triumph.
Bloor says he has no interest in seeking outside investors to grow the business. “No, we’ve been approached on several occasions,” he said, noting those occasions have come both recently and previously in his ownership.
Bloor also said he has no interest in diversifying Triumph’s vehicle portfolio, choosing to stick solely with motorcycles and not jumping into other segment categories.
“We’ll stick with motorcycling; it’s challenging enough,” he said. “I know the U.S. economy is having a bit of a dip at the moment, but other economies are coming up a little bit, and that’s how it goes. It’s the same as any other business: It has a good run, and it goes off the edge a little. No, we’ll just try to keep polishing our own business.”
It’s a business that Bloor, in a strictly financial-sense, has yet to profit from. The one-time independent plasterer turned homebuilder turned motorcycle manufacturer has yet to take a salary from Triumph, nor received any kind of financial compensation.
“Not a penny,” Bloor said in the Powersports Business interview. “Every penny that Triumph makes, it goes back inside” the business.
Why has the owner of a business chosen not to profit from it?
“Because a business like this takes a long time to grow,” he said. “Its not a vertical product business. R&D is extremely expensive, and we’ve always run a very strong R&D program.”
— Neil Pascale

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