If you’ve ever had the need to buy any building materials in the Lancashire area, then you’re pretty certain to have heard of C&W Berry Ltd. They’re one of the largest builders’ merchants in the area and have the largest individual builder’s merchant sites in the country. It’s safe to say that they’re something of an institution. In fact, for many people, a trip to their site is about as good as retail therapy gets; why on earth would anyone go to The Trafford centre when you can go to Berrys and buy something useful?
Based in Leyland, C&W Berry Ltd was founded in 1954 and has grown steadily and now supplies the whole spectrum of customers needing building supplies. This includes local and national house builders, contractors, the public sector, individual tradespeople and DIY homeowners. Whatever the customers’ background Berrys tries hard to provide them with the products and support they need. A substantial proportion of their customer base has been using Berrys for years, sometimes across several generations. You’ll be just as welcome as a DIY customer on a Saturday morning as a local builder ordering supplies for a major development.
As well as valuing long term relationships with their customers, Berrys also strives to culture similar relationships with their suppliers. A point in case is their relationship with their accountants, Whitehead & Aldrich.
Whitehead & Aldrich have worked with Berrys since 1983 when their relationship began following a recommendation from a tax specialist. It soon became clear that the two organisations shared a similar business ethos, especially in the way both organisations focussed heavily on the needs of their clients.
Gary Higham, Berry’s Finance Director, looks back through the mists of time and recalls the early days of working with Whitehead & Aldrich; he remembers them being large enough to cope with a customer the size of Berrys but small enough to care. He commented, “After over thirty years of working with Whitehead & Aldrich, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve got to know them pretty well and incredibly we’re still working with some of the same team as we were all those years ago. In fact, this is one of the best things about Whitehead & Aldrich; their staff retention. From an accounting and auditing point of view it’s wonderful when I’m working with someone who has so much knowledge of our financial history and truly understands how our business has grown – through good times and difficult periods. Add to that the fact that we’ve built up some strong friendships over the years and you really do have a recipe for a cracking business relationship. If the staff who do our annual audit were continually changing, we’d have to explain how we work and go through our systems every year but as it’s the same team we’re working with year on year, this is never needed.”
A business the size of C&W Berry obviously has a sizable in-house finance department with a fair amount of professional expertise. Whilst this means that they might not need as much day to day support as a smaller enterprise, it does mean that when they do need help they’ll probably need it for some fairly complex issues. Again, Gary sees the long term relationship with Whitehead & Aldrich staff as a benefit here too, “Having got to know the Whitehead & Aldrich team so well, at all levels of the company, over so many years, it doesn’t feel like ringing a remote or distant, stuffy accountant. It’s more akin to chatting through a problem or asking for advice from a friend. They’re always there when we need them and they never seem to mind us ringing them on their personal mobiles when we need help. That really is worth its weight in gold. If I need a second opinion on something, I really do appreciate the ability to pick up the phone at any time and know that I can speak to someone who has a long standing and in-depth knowledge of our business.”
Gary continued, “It’s impossible to quantify the value Whitehead & Aldrich have added to our business, all I can say is that they have played an important role in helping the business get to where it is today. Speaking from a personal point of view, I can categorically state that having undertaken my accountancy training with Whitehead & Aldrich they have given me many of the tools and technical knowledge that enable me to fulfil my role as Finance Director at Berrys, and help me to perform my role with the utmost integrity and professionalism.”
Talking about specific areas of Berry’s business that Whitehead & Aldrich are involved with, Gary concluded, “Obviously, Whitehead & Aldrich are very involved with our year end reporting, but we also involve them when making strategic business decisions such as major acquisitions of stand-alone assets, new business divisions and decisions involving the structure of the existing business. Whitehead & Aldrich have helped the business develop by always being there, through good times and bad and have always been ready to offer a guiding hand. We need an accountant with good technical knowledge and experience but also someone who understands the practical day to day issues and problems that our business faces and someone who is able to listen, and communicate back, with sensible pragmatic advice. I can honestly say that we get this all, if you’ll excuse the building metaphor, in spadefulls from Whitehead & Aldrich!”