Meet The Distributor - Roger Smith - Thomas Graham

Continuing the legacy his great, great grandfather started in 1892, we chat with Roger Smith, Managing Director of Thomas Graham, the steel stockholding and industrial suppliers of north-west England, in this month’s Starrett dealer spotlight blog.

Appointed to the role in 2002, Roger follows a long family succession within the company, having taken over the role from his father, Ian, who became Chairman. Still going strong 128 years later, we learn more about Roger’s role and what challenges they face to remain at the forefront of their industry.

Roger, tell me a bit about yourself.

I am Carlisle born and bred, married to Karen and have three children Abbie, Rebecca and Matthew. Out of work, I am a busy “dad chauffeur”, but when I can I enjoy all sports: playing squash and golf, coaching the junior rugby team and I am a big Carlisle United fan.

Who do you work for, how long have you been with the company and what’s your job title?

I work for our family business, Thomas Graham, who are based in Cumbria and North Lancashire. We stock a full range of steel, industrial supplies, welding, PPE and hygiene with divisions specialising in each. Thomas Grahams was set up by my great, great grandad in 1892.

I initially started 33 years ago in the steel warehouse and have done most roles before becoming Managing Director 18 years ago. I am less hands on than I used to be, but still like to be at the sharp end knowing what is happening.

What’s your favourite aspect of the job and what do you enjoy the least?

I love the wide variety and fast pace of the job, working with my great team. I look forward to coming in every day in the knowledge that there is still so much we can do to improve. Regarding my least favourite part– I’ve not really got one, but patience isn’t my strong suit, so this is something I’m trying to improve!

Is there one person alive or dead who you would love to talk with or meet, and why?

I would love to chat to my great, great grandad and show him how far his company has come and what legacy he created for future generations.

Do you DIY yourself? What is your biggest project?

It depends on how big the job is! I try and do some things myself and have just finished converting the space above the garage into a TV room for my kids and their friends. This task was bigger than I would normally tackle but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What’s your favourite tool and why? 

It has to be the hole saws, as they have been one of our biggest sellers over the years.

Tell us about your relationship with Starrett.

We have had a direct account with Starrett for over 20 years. The Jedburgh office is only 60 miles away, so we were regular visitors. Peter Ford looked after us for many years until he retired last year and now Neil Meeson is our regular sales contact.

Would you recommend Starrett to a friend or colleague?

Yes, Starrett is a great and easy company to deal with, their yellow hole saws are legendary and many of our customers won’t take any other brand.

Tell us more about the type of tools your company stock?

We keep a massive array of tools at Thomas Grahams covering full ranges of hand tools, power tools and cutting tools. We have tried to build up our business on the back of quality brands like Starrett, where our customers can come in and get a quality product at a sensible price that they can trust to do the job they bought it for.

What challenges do you think lie ahead for the industry and what do you think can be done to overcome these?

I am sure Covid is top of all our concerns at the minute and making sure that teams remain safe whilst being able to look after our customers. Nothing is easy at the minute, and we are all balancing concerns whilst looking to the future. Will there be a second spike?This is certainly our biggest worry. One bonus is that we have learnt a lot about our teams, and we need to start pushing past survival.

The internet and the tests associated with it is a challenge that we all need to address, making sure that we can trade and have strong relationships with our customers in the way they want too. Exciting times for all.

For more information about Thomas Graham, follow this link: