Nov 25

Appleton a Way of Life

Ian Kilbride Appleton Warrington, Ian Kilbride Appleton School, Ian Kilbride Appleton the Company. A long term association, a slow progression over many years and a lifelong love of Appleton as a concept, village and as my home. My name and that of Appleton have been linked, and or used, in the same sentence since I was nothing but a wee boy, in fact even as a big boy when I captained Appleton Grammar School 1st XV rugby team, well to be honest I wasn’t very big then either!

So it was strange to recently visit Dublin in Ireland, where another Ian Kilbride a professional Gaelic Footballer entertains his fans weekly and a company called Appleton operates in the financial services arena. Stranger still is the fact they are still using a logo I designed and trademarked way back in 1997. The Appleton of Ireland now operates successfully under the guidance of two smart and hard-working men, no they are not called Kilbride, they are in fact the Walsh brothers.

Appleton Ireland is no fraud for using the name and logo, actually quite the contrary, I have known the guys since the 90’s and they were part of the far larger company, known as The Appleton Group. That is until some genius in JHB, or was it Auction Alliance, decided to sell the brand to them for a ticky, as I said they are the smart ones, nice name, and great logo! Chatting to the lads in Ireland it was clear that they had a great “new” business model and were fully committed to making it work. They also clearly explained to me the true extent and devastating depth and impact that the banking and economic crisis had on them, both personally and on Ireland in general, it also convinced me that in SA we got off rather lightly.

We were sat having a drink at their offices and I had drawn their attention to a newspaper article, a story on the front page of the Dublin Times. A stunning large property was being sold with an asking price of €4.5m, which to me seemed impressive. They, however, were adamant that the seller was likely to get no more than €3-3.5m. Quick mental arithmetic meant the house was still going to sell for around R35m, not bad at all I thought. That was until you read deeper and discovered that the seller had in fact bought the house at the top of the market in 2008, for a mere €45m. Yes, I kid you not, he paid R450,000,000 for a house he would now lose over 90% of its value on. Can you imagine today being able to buy a huge mansion in Constantia or Sandton for R3.5 rather than the R35m it was worth in 2008? That was the reality of what was on offer in Dublin that day and it shocked me deeply, as to what had gone on in Ireland, and how lucky were we back in SA.

Appleton in Ireland, although no longer my baby in any way, is well worth watching. They have moved into the funding and promotion of green energy, via their own funds, as well as one or two other clever means of investment. They already have a few wind farms and other projects off the ground, so to speak, these guys are survivors and smart entrepreneurs. They seemed to me to epitomise the model smart businessman, the person who adapts as and when it is required, we can all learn from that adaptive mind-set.

John Keynes once said, “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions, what do you do, sir?” Adapt, change, grow and so survive, the daily mantra that all businessmen should shout 100 times from their rooftops. People generally hate change, personally I love it. Change is what keeps you keen and on your toes, if you stand in the middle of the ring with nothing but a left hook in your armoury, no matter how good that left hook is you will be flat on your back and being counted out before you can say, “But I thought I had done enough?” In business the rules are always changing and thankfully in South Africa we have a larger number of entrepreneurs than normal, and they generally understand the need for constructive change and growth.

So all the very best to Appleton Ireland, good luck to the inspiring Walsh brothers and many great games to their Ian Kilbride. I know those guys will make it, as they are humble, hard-working and open to ideas, as long as they keep thinking smart, keep adapting to change and, finally, if they avoid any overpriced mansions that may come up for sale on the Dublin market!

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