After 43 years at the helm, company co-founder Vaughan Monroe has passed the baton to the next generation. He will continue to support sons Chris and Tim and Smiley Monroe's senior leadership team as chairman of the Lisburn, Northern Ireland-headquartered manufacturer of endless conveyor belts and cut rubber parts for OEMs within the global crushing, screening, recycling, road construction and environmental industries.
"I'm proud to say that Smiley Monroe has never been stronger in the 43 years since I co-founded our business," said Vaughan. "Now it's the turn of the second generation to take our family business into the future. My wife Mary and I are confident that Chris, Tim, our Senior Leadership Team, and all our colleagues will keep striving to achieve our ambitious vision of becoming your number one partner in our mobile equipment world – which is far beyond anything we dared to dream all those years ago in 1979!
"I know I've been threatening to retire for some time, but I'd just like to say that it's been an honour and a privilege to work with you all in this wonderful industry of ours, to have made lifelong friendships, and to have played my part, however small, in your success stories."
Sharing his experiences of the build-up to the founding and subsequent development of Smiley Monroe, Vaughan added: "During the mid-1970s, when the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Co. in Craigavon produced high-quality rubber products, mostly for export, I was lucky enough to get accepted onto their evening training classes which focused on conveyor belt production processes, and importantly, materials handling applications. The theory was that if we salespeople understood the quality aspects of conveyor belts better, we would sell better.
"I enjoyed the training and my newly acquired technical knowledge. But most of all, I loved the site visits to quarries, the salt mine (who would soon become Smiley and Monroe's first customer) and fertiliser plants with the Goodyear experts. My job was to problem solve and sell to these quarries and industries that used rubber parts and conveyor belts. Repeatedly, I found that most belt failures on-site were due to mechanical joint failure (belt clips). At that time, few belt vulcanising service companies existed on the island of Ireland, so an idea to address this gap in the market quickly developed into a business plan. We would offer local conveyor operators a full conveyor belt survey and a belt supply service, including the hot vulcanised joint.
"On the 1st of October 1979, 'Smiley and Monroe', with next to no money, a small overdraft from the bank and big enthusiasm was officially in business. Mark Smiley and I had worked out how much we needed to sell each day to survive! Sadly, shortly after we started our little business in a garden shed just off Cross Lane, Maze, the Goodyear belt factory closed and relocated to Brazil, with the loss of over 1000 jobs.
"Fast forward 43 years and two have become 200, the garden shed has given way to purpose-built production facilities (via the obligatory portakabins along the way), we've been named in 1000 companies to inspire Britain, and our first employee from 1980, David Murphy, is still with us, along with his brother Jimmy and son Stephen, which might help explain where our 'one big family' Hi5 value came from."