Joyce’s column: Part 2 Music Maestro Please – Alan Black and Sound Leisure
Both Chris and Michael, Alan’s sons, now play a pivotal role in the company, but it was not easy for them to join it. Chris left school at 16 and wanted to set up his own painting and decorating business, however following a lively conversation on a family car journey, it was agreed that Chris would work at Sound Leisure during school holidays. At first he wasn’t too keen on this idea, but he did enjoy the wood working and the hands on side of the business that was in 1986 and 26 years later he’s still there and holds the position of MD now.
Michael went through college and achieved a 1st class degree in industrial design, and never in his wildest dreams did he envisage himself working at Sound Leisure. Spending the 1st year out of college working on contract for an animation company in London and once he got paid at the end of the contract travelling beckoned. He spent the next 2 years travelling around Asia, Australasia, South Pacific and North America and on his return to the UK in 2000 having amassed a somewhat lengthy credit card bill. Based on this he was persuaded to join Sound Leisure to help with some animation for the launch of the Video Surfer Digital Jukebox, and just like brother Chris he got addicted to the company. He’s been a director of the company since 2011 but his main role is that of head of the development team producing digital products and concepts.Chris, Alan and Michael feel they still have a great deal to contribute to the company and the industry. Despite the fact it can be blood, sweat and tears running a family company, the fact that Sound Leisure is something they truly believe in and want to succeed is a massive motivator. They are lucky to share a common goal and one they believe in passionately.
Maureen, Alan’s wife, is no stranger to Sound Leisure having worked there for 20 years her role was in the accounts department, an ideal role for her she could keep an eye on her investment this way, only joking of course! In 2001 she retired when her mother was ill and Chris and his wife Cath had Alex their first son, despite the fact that she has retired from the day to day running of the company she is still very much a part of it behind the scenes, and like all the family she shares the good days with the bad ones.
Alan is still very much involved in the day-to-day business. As he tells everyone it really is his passion, hobby and life, he just cannot help but be involved with it and he wouldn’t want it any other way, he offers so much experience in the sector and ensures he’s involved in all the latest developments and threats and he also knows all the members of the staff personally. Never one that felt management style that sets supervisors, managers and owners above other employees, he prides himself as ‘ being one of them’ an employee of the company.
This is something Alan has instilled into Chris and Michael and it has proven to be of great benefit as every member of staff contributes ideas to the company and it’s well being besides product ideas.
At trade exhibitions Alan enjoys catching up with friends and colleagues, but he doesn’t enjoy the business side of exhibitions like he used to, as so many friends are no longer on the scene. In 2011 all 3 of them exhibited at the Gadget Show Live with Sound Leisure’s Classic jukeboxes division, and Alan really enjoyed this exhibition. He felt it reinvigorated him and he was firing ideas at a hundred miles an hour for the next 3 months, the best of these having already been taken into development.
Like many industry stalwarts Alan remembers the ‘good old days’ and how it used to be, but he still finds today’s industry fun and a great place to be involved in. He feels there are still opportunities to be had, and sometimes things are more important than the deal, camaraderie for example. Not only does he feel he has to do the right thing for Sound Leisure it also has to be the right thing for the industry, yet again something he has instilled in Chris and Michael.
Retirement for Alan is something in the far distant future as he loves what he does and as long as he can get behind a bench and tinker with his latest development he’s totally happy. The biggest problem that arises from this is that Alan creates so many ideas it’s difficult at times to know which ones to push forward. Once an inventor always an inventor, and this is Alan, his mind never stops.
Neither of the boys can see Alan fully retiring in fact they have a standing joke ‘that Alan will die at his bench with soldering iron in one hand’ and he would be delighted if he did go this way.
Chris and Michael are responsible for the day to day stuff, but both Alan and Eddie are there if guidance or a second opinion is needed.
Not a man to have hobbies such as golf and the usual other things people do to relax, Alan’s relaxation and hobbies consist of 3 things at present, Sound Leisure, ‘Rocket’ a kitten that was found at the rear of their factory, Alan has adopted ‘Rocket’ and even has a pen for her in the boardroom. The final one of the 3 things and the most important one is Maureen his wife and his family, Alan repeatedly says he’s got Maureen, his family and his company and he’s the luckiest man alive, and now he can add adopted kitten ‘Rocket’ to this, and has utopia.
Alan thinks he’s the luckiest man alive, I feel that this industry has been lucky to have a man like Alan Black in it, a man that has earned and deserved respect for many years, and will continue to do so for many years to come.
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