In Focus: About Terry Milling

Terence (Terry) Milling is the worthy recipient of the LADAs 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award

… announced in November last year at the prestigious industry Laundry and Drycleaning Awards held at The Grand Brighton.

Terry has spent his life in the industry at Snow White Laundries, the Milling family business based in South Wales and founded in 1968. They celebrated their 55th birthday last year. The business was started by Terry’s father, Ray. Terry took to the helm, alongside his brothers Steve and Brian and younger sister Jean, to help develop the business to a more commercial footing. Snow White Laundries is now run by Terry’s son, Leighton who was appointed as managing director in 2014 after working his way through various roles in the business. Snow White Laundries is a team of 130 people, and growing, across their two commercial laundry sites based in Pontypool and Cardiff. They were the proud winners of Commercial Laundry of the Year at the LADAs 2022.

On his industry career …

About a year after completing an apprenticeship as a mechanical design technician at Llanwern Steelworks, I went into partnership with my father who was running a small chain of launderettes and operating a retail collection delivery service for drycleaning and fully finished laundry. The laundry was being contracted out to a local independent which was taken over by a regional group, and this resulted in a reduction in standards along with increased costs. I persuaded Dad that we should set up the necessary plant to process this work ourselves.

We bought an old, steam heated, two roll Tullis ironer and a Fulton 30 boiler plus a few other items and learned (the hard way) how things had to be done. We gradually moved away from retail into commercial laundry services and linen hire for smaller hotels etc and the business grew steadily.

My two brothers, Stephen and Brian, joined the partnership and shared the growing load. Brian brought expertise in sales and Stephen took control of production. Allowing me to focus on technical and administrative matters. We outgrew our 3,000 sq ft premises and acquired the adjoining building, later extending both premises to cover 10,000 sq ft. Allowing us to install better, more productive equipment.

In the mid 80s we bought out a smaller competitor in Cardiff, upgraded the equipment and, over the next 10 years, built up the turnover in Cardiff to the point that we really had to move to a larger premises. In 1994 we relocated that branch to an 11,000 sq ft factory. Brian continued to sign up new business and we did very well for quite a few years.

In 2000 we went from a partnership to a limited company with myself as MD. Things got tough though, when a much larger competitor opened up in our area and aggressively undercut prices. To make things even more difficult, two small competitors also opened up in the area, catering specifically for Asian restaurants, of which we had been doing work for many. A combination of depressed prices and high loan repayments made things very difficult and things stagnated for several years. The business effectively went into a slow decline.

However, the next generation started entering the family business. Their fresh approach and appropriate qualifications made the world of difference. Efficiency and customer satisfaction rose dramatically, and growth took off again. I stood down as MD in favour of my eldest son Leighton. In 2019 we began relocation of the Cardiff branch to a 26,000 sq ft factory and, aside from the Covid interlude, turnover has increased at an astronomical rate.

I continue to work full time and have no desire to ever retire, I get too much job satisfaction for that. Especially as the family business is thriving so well with my three children and two of their cousins now running it. Their grandfather would be amazed and delighted to see what they have made of his startup.

I always advised my three children that they shouldn’t enter the family business straight from school. I encouraged them to go through university and/or an apprenticeship first and get a job elsewhere. This would provide valuable experience, give them a taste of working for an organisation where they had no special privileges and prove to themselves and the world that they could make a success on their own. They each did that and are the better for it I believe. Today they bring business and technical qualifications to the firm, along with experience of working in other industries. All good stuff and it shows.

On industry developments …

In 1983 we bought our first computer and accounting software. It was a revelation to me when I discovered that programming in Basic was more or less writing instructions in English, learning the correct syntax and applying straightforward logic. This allowed me to develop a suite of programmes that catered for the automation of packing, delivery notes, transport routing and stock control, all integrated with our sales ledger. It represented a huge reduction in clerical work and made much useful data readily available.

I later developed software for machine control and we converted our washing machines from card control to PC control. Eventually we purchased four old CBW’s to replace most of our washing machines and I fitted PC controls to those too. The ability to make process changes easily in house, to integrate production data and monitor output from the office was extremely useful. Ever greater automation is inevitable I believe.

Robotics and AI will surely change things dramatically. As a consequence, greater investment and bigger plants are certain to put many smaller, less efficient laundries out of business. There will however, I’m sure, always be a place for some smaller laundries that provide a more personal, local service.

On collaboration within the industry …

Collaboration is a great thing in my view. Having been through an awful year in 2015, following a devastating fire at Pontypool, we certainly would have benefited from some collaboration then. We have always taken a positive approach to collaboration. We have supported various competitors over the years. Both by processing work on a regular basis and on a contingency basis. Helping out a friendly competitor generally brings only positive outcomes. You can expect support when you need it. You can learn from one another, and life is more enjoyable when you’re on friendly terms. But it’s only recently that we’ve engaged with formal groupings. So far I’m impressed with the opportunities this opens up. Not only the new business possibilities but also group buying power, increased contingency support and research sharing. It has a lot to offer.

Left to right: It’s a family affair! L-R Terry with Joanne Mulcahy (daughter), Derry Milling (nephew), Leanne Milling (niece), Leighton Milling (son) and Ian Milling (son)

 

To celebrate his lifetime contribution award and in recognition of the support and contribution of his siblings, Terry, pictured left, organised Snow White Awards in January 2024. To honour the valuable contribution of the Milling’s second generation to Snow White Laundries. Leanne (in honour of her late father Brian), Jean and Steve received Lifetime Contribution awards

 

Terence (Terry) Milling is the worthy recipient of the LADAs 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award

… announced in November last year at the prestigious industry Laundry and Drycleaning Awards held at The Grand Brighton.

Terry has spent his life in the industry at Snow White Laundries, the Milling family business based in South Wales and founded in 1968. They celebrated their 55th birthday last year. The business was started by Terry’s father, Ray. Terry took to the helm, alongside his brothers Steve and Brian and younger sister Jean, to help develop the business to a more commercial footing. Snow White Laundries is now run by Terry’s son, Leighton who was appointed as managing director in 2014 after working his way through various roles in the business. Snow White Laundries is a team of 130 people, and growing, across their two commercial laundry sites based in Pontypool and Cardiff. They were the proud winners of Commercial Laundry of the Year at the LADAs 2022.

On his industry career …

About a year after completing an apprenticeship as a mechanical design technician at Llanwern Steelworks, I went into partnership with my father who was running a small chain of launderettes and operating a retail collection delivery service for drycleaning and fully finished laundry. The laundry was being contracted out to a local independent which was taken over by a regional group, and this resulted in a reduction in standards along with increased costs. I persuaded Dad that we should set up the necessary plant to process this work ourselves.

We bought an old, steam heated, two roll Tullis ironer and a Fulton 30 boiler plus a few other items and learned (the hard way) how things had to be done. We gradually moved away from retail into commercial laundry services and linen hire for smaller hotels etc and the business grew steadily.

My two brothers, Stephen and Brian, joined the partnership and shared the growing load. Brian brought expertise in sales and Stephen took control of production. Allowing me to focus on technical and administrative matters. We outgrew our 3,000 sq ft premises and acquired the adjoining building, later extending both premises to cover 10,000 sq ft. Allowing us to install better, more productive equipment.

In the mid 80s we bought out a smaller competitor in Cardiff, upgraded the equipment and, over the next 10 years, built up the turnover in Cardiff to the point that we really had to move to a larger premises. In 1994 we relocated that branch to an 11,000 sq ft factory. Brian continued to sign up new business and we did very well for quite a few years.

In 2000 we went from a partnership to a limited company with myself as MD. Things got tough though, when a much larger competitor opened up in our area and aggressively undercut prices. To make things even more difficult, two small competitors also opened up in the area, catering specifically for Asian restaurants, of which we had been doing work for many. A combination of depressed prices and high loan repayments made things very difficult and things stagnated for several years. The business effectively went into a slow decline.

However, the next generation started entering the family business. Their fresh approach and appropriate qualifications made the world of difference. Efficiency and customer satisfaction rose dramatically, and growth took off again. I stood down as MD in favour of my eldest son Leighton. In 2019 we began relocation of the Cardiff branch to a 26,000 sq ft factory and, aside from the Covid interlude, turnover has increased at an astronomical rate.

I continue to work full time and have no desire to ever retire, I get too much job satisfaction for that. Especially as the family business is thriving so well with my three children and two of their cousins now running it. Their grandfather would be amazed and delighted to see what they have made of his startup.

I always advised my three children that they shouldn’t enter the family business straight from school. I encouraged them to go through university and/or an apprenticeship first and get a job elsewhere. This would provide valuable experience, give them a taste of working for an organisation where they had no special privileges and prove to themselves and the world that they could make a success on their own. They each did that and are the better for it I believe. Today they bring business and technical qualifications to the firm, along with experience of working in other industries. All good stuff and it shows.

 

To celebrate his lifetime contribution award and in recognition of the support and contribution of his siblings, Terry, pictured left, organised Snow White Awards in January 2024. To honour the valuable contribution of the Milling’s second generation to Snow White Laundries. Leanne (in honour of her late father Brian), Jean and Steve received Lifetime Contribution awards

 

On industry developments …

In 1983 we bought our first computer and accounting software. It was a revelation to me when I discovered that programming in Basic was more or less writing instructions in English, learning the correct syntax and applying straightforward logic. This allowed me to develop a suite of programmes that catered for the automation of packing, delivery notes, transport routing and stock control, all integrated with our sales ledger. It represented a huge reduction in clerical work and made much useful data readily available.

I later developed software for machine control and we converted our washing machines from card control to PC control. Eventually we purchased four old CBW’s to replace most of our washing machines and I fitted PC controls to those too. The ability to make process changes easily in house, to integrate production data and monitor output from the office was extremely useful. Ever greater automation is inevitable I believe.

Robotics and AI will surely change things dramatically. As a consequence, greater investment and bigger plants are certain to put many smaller, less efficient laundries out of business. There will however, I’m sure, always be a place for some smaller laundries that provide a more personal, local service.

On collaboration within the industry …

Collaboration is a great thing in my view. Having been through an awful year in 2015, following a devastating fire at Pontypool, we certainly would have benefited from some collaboration then. We have always taken a positive approach to collaboration. We have supported various competitors over the years. Both by processing work on a regular basis and on a contingency basis. Helping out a friendly competitor generally brings only positive outcomes. You can expect support when you need it. You can learn from one another, and life is more enjoyable when you’re on friendly terms. But it’s only recently that we’ve engaged with formal groupings. So far I’m impressed with the opportunities this opens up. Not only the new business possibilities but also group buying power, increased contingency support and research sharing. It has a lot to offer.

Left to right: It’s a family affair! L-R Terry with Joanne Mulcahy (daughter), Derry Milling (nephew), Leanne Milling (niece), Leighton Milling (son) and Ian Milling (son)

 

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