So we are in the early 1980s, the Esprit kit had taken shape and was ready to sell. As coaches at that time were beginning to appear with huge, laminated windscreens Esprit decided that this was the market they would initially target. Way before the days of the internet, there was a “Little Red Book” which listed every coach and bus company, along with details such as the size of their fleet. So every week John Wellard would decide which area of the country he would head for and would select 8 companies with more than 10 coaches. A phone call to see if they suffered from chips and cracks was normally all it took to get through the door, so John would load up his car on a Sunday night and head off around the country, sleeping on various relatives’ sofas, and carrying out kit demonstrations to the coach companies.
Although Esprit were the first windscreen repair company in the UK, it was quite hard to persuade coach companies to believe that the product would work, however, after a demo it was rare that they didn’t buy a kit. This was the first “on the job” training too, as John wanted to make sure that all the staff could use the kit, something we still consider vitally important today.
One of the first big companies signed up was National Bus Company, who had depots all over the UK. Once Esprit had supplied to them, word spread fast about this fantastic money saving product. Resin sales were also rising so Pam had a daily trip to the post office with a big box of packages of resin to send out, as everything was still being done at home at this point.
Sadly, during this exciting time for the business, John’s dad, Thomas, who was still an integral part of the business, died suddenly. It was always a disappointment for John that his father never got to see just how successful Esprit would go on to be.
As time went on, John realised that he couldn’t cover the whole of the UK, and at an exhibition he met Phil Bonam who went on to become the salesman for the Midlands and North of England. Phil was a huge asset to the business, with his jolly demeanour and outstanding sales ability, he was liked by everyone, as well as driving sales through the roof. He stayed with Esprit until his retirement a few years ago.
Next month…new resin, BSI and competition!