profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities

No. 55 in a continuing series

Caricatures by

David Lewis

Adrian Forbes-Black

Regional Manager Europe, Columbus McKinnon

A major turning point in Adrian Forbes-Black's working life came at the age of 17 when having quit a BTEC at Sutton Coldfield College after only six months, his mother threatened to send him to live with his grandmother if he didn't find a job within two weeks. With a life on the ocean wave not to be (he was studying to be an electrical engineer in the Royal Navy) a visit to the jobcentre was a necessity.

Little did he know what lay ahead when he spied an office junior position at Light & Sound Design in Birmingham. With a relatively good set of GCSEs from a local grammar school on his CV, Karen Cronin duly offered him a junior sales position. The role would deal with the Total Fabrications range of products as well as the Lumo Lighting range, which the then Christian Salvesen owned LSD had recently purchased. To this day, Karen swears he attended the interview in his school uniform!

Just over a year later LSD introduced the Icon moving light and Ade was drafted in to help with the dispatch of the newly built systems to Light & Sound Design Inc. in Los Angeles and various Icon stockists around the world. He will never forget the day he had to walk into Peter Johns' office (the then general manager of LSD) and explain to him that the freight company had left a flight case with three of the new lights at a venue in Berlin. It got no better when he also had to tell him that the venue had been robbed and the revolutionary new luminaires had disappeared - along with all the building's fire extinguishers.

A positive career change was around the corner when Chris and Karen Cronin, Liz and Ian Coles and Peter Johns purchased the Total Fabrications element of the company and moved in set up 300 metres down the road. Ade was offered the position of sales representative and jumped at the chance to continue working with his colleagues, albeit concentrating on the truss and lifting products. It was at this time that he started his love affair with the chain hoist and spent time working and receiving training at Verlinde in France, for whom Total Fabrications were the U.K. distributor. He was promoted to UK sales manager in 1997.

In 1998 truss manufacturer Tomcat opened a brand new factory in the Wirral, and owner Mitch Clark enlisted his help to lead the sales effort needed to support the new facility. In February Ade made the move up the M6, although due to relocation delays it wasn't until the week before PLASA in September of that year that his wife Clare was able to join him. "That was probably the most difficult portion of my career so far," says Ade. "Only seeing my wife at weekends for nearly eight months was a real drag but things sorted themselves out - just as I was about to do load in for PLASA!"

For Ade the Tomcat move meant a switch in chain hoist allegiances with the company actively promoting the Columbus McKinnon Lodestar. "After three years of telling people how wonderful the Verlinde was here I was saying the same about the Lodestar. However, I'm sure I'm not the first person in the industry to have had to do something similar during their career."

With Denis Bramhall's departure from Tomcat UK to Unusual Rigging in 2000 Ade was made general manager and immediately responsible for helping to integrate the accounts functions of the recently purchased Brilliant Stages operation. "Getting to work with the Brilliant Stages folks was a real bonus for me. All of a sudden I was working on completely bespoke items for projects and tours like the Rolling Stones and Robbie Williams."

Ade's most recent career change has been his most drastic. In January this year and still only 27, he joined Columbus McKinnon to be their regional manager for Europe. Initially based from his home in the Wirral he is now responsible for all of CM's entertainment industry sales in Europe, as well as the company's conventional industrial sales in the region.

"It is a little daunting to be entering a whole new market with very little previous knowledge other than product," he comments. "Nevertheless I still get to deal with all of my friends in the entertainment business and have a whole new world of trade shows to look forward to! I may even have to go out and buy a second suit!"

Look out for the next subject in our Profile series...

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