Celebrating 25 Years of TVD Group
September 2021 marks the month that the TVD Group turns 25 and what a fantastic milestone this is. Founded in 1996 by Jim Brown and his sons Mat and Dan, TVD Group started from humble beginnings in a shop in Leigh and is now a leading UK provider in audio visual solutions on both commercial and domestic fronts.
Mat, Managing Director and Dan, Purchasing Director, are just as enthusiastic and passionate about the business as the day they started and the success they have seen over the years is certainly something to be proud of. Continuing their father’s legacy, they have led the company to further success and even created their own TV brand, Mitchell and Brown, that is named after their father.
As this momentous anniversary approaches Mat and Dan sit down to reflect on their journey so far.
Q: So, how has the TVD Group changed over the years?
Dan Brown: The core ethos hasn’t really changed, but the business, the products and the structure has. In the beginning it was a real family affair; Mum, Dad and Sons working together. Print advertising was at the centre of our marketing campaigns in the early days, and it was hugely successful.
Mat Brown: We started the business from a small shop in Leigh selling TVs and videos to end consumers. Dan and I did everything from selling to installing, purchasing, marketing and accounts. TV and Video Direct evolved over the years into the TVD Group and we have been fortunate enough to see substantial growth into many different sectors and products. Now we have our TVD family, a whole team of people working to make TVD a success. Today building a business isn’t just about our own family but providing security and enjoyment for the entire TVD family. Our business is a real collaboration.
Dan: Our growth has always been sustainable and fairly gradual, but even after the first year of business we were already looking for new opportunities. Initially our business was aimed at end consumers, but it soon transitioned to B2B, and this is now where the majority of our turnover comes from.
Q. How do you feel the industry has changed over the last 25 years?
Dan: Enormously and yet in some ways it is still the same. 25 years ago Samsung weren’t on our radar and selling online hadn’t really taken off, at least not for us. Products and technology are continually evolving and it has been vital that we keep our fingers on the pulse of technological advancements. Our loyal and growing client base is tribute to our industry leading expertise.
Mat: The companies we deal with and the sectors we operate in have all seen seismic changes; the B2B market has changed massively. At one stage Phillips was the only company that offered a hotel TV, but when new technology comes to the market, such as Samsung professional displays, it’s another game changer. Technology has become so engrained in our everyday lives and is such an effective way for businesses to communicate and engage with their clients. We no longer just supply and install products but deliver technology solutions that enhance customer experiences and impact client profitability.
Q. What has been your biggest challenge been in the last 25 years?
Mat: There’s challenges every day, but our attitude has always been to just get on with it and do it. Sheer hard graft and lots of luck has helped to get us where we are and we are always grateful for what we have achieved and for the people who have helped us along the way. The last 18 months have been challenging during Covid in terms of wanting to keep a successful business together, not just for us, but for the entire team. Our Dad always said that if we looked after the business, then the business would look after everyone else. The loyalty, hard work and determination of the TVD family has seen us through this testing time. For us, the key is not to dwell too long on the challenges and difficult times. It’s important for us to learn from them and then move forward.
Dan: We are a resilient business and our experiences always make us better and stronger. We are lucky to have a loyal team and strong relationships with our partners and we are still learning every day.
Q. What has been your greatest highlight?
Mat: It’s been an incredible journey and to see what we have achieved is just amazing. We are very proud and so lucky this family business from Bolton has grown into a successful national business that deals with multimillion pound blue chip companies and has created their own TV brand with Mitchell and Brown. There are definitely moments that act as catalysts for this success. I remember a sales rep coming to see us and he happened to ask if we had tried advertising in mail order catalogues. We hadn’t, so we looked into it and at the time it was pretty expensive, but we decided to give it a go, so we advertised in ‘What TV and Video’ magazine. We didn’t know what to expect, but the publication landed and then the phone started ringing…and it rang again, and again, and again. It was incredible! Then we needed more space, so we went out and rented more warehouse space. We were doing it all ourselves, picking, packing, despatching, whatever needed doing. Then we knew we needed to recruit.
Dan: I remember us being asked to exhibit at the ‘Great Big Furniture Show’ at the NEC in Birmingham. Mat and I weren’t sure if it was a good idea, but our Dad, Jim, thought we should attend. It turned out to be a great decision and we had sold £100K in 2 days…amazing! That became an annual event and we also exhibited at Earls Court and sold over £500K at that show… the queue was around the corner!! Online was there, but not prominent at this time, so there was an opportunity to really sell and succeed at these shows.
Mat: Initially opening the shop was a lifetime dream. The opportunity arose to buy a shop in Leigh and some distressed stock, which we knew we could sell. I recall a family friend discussing his reservations with Dad, but we agreed to give it a go and when we opened our doors we could only take cash and cheque. Our first TV sale was that afternoon. We sold a Toshiba TV to a local couple after the woman had walked into the store and asked when we could deliver it and I told her the same day. Our desire to give the best service has always been part of our ethos, no matter the size of the order.
Mat: We really can’t answer this question without talking about Fred Done, the owner of Bet Fred, or at that stage Done Bookmakers. We were in the shop in Bolton one day and Paul Siddons, Senior Engineer at Done’s just happened to be walking by. He spotted the 33” Toshiba we had in the window and came in to ask how we could do that TV at that price, and we explained that we didn’t have the same overheads as bigger shops, but still had decent buying power. Then he wanted to know what the price would be if he bought 20? That was the start of our relationship with what is now some of the biggest bookmakers in the world.
Dan: And the next thing we know Fred Done himself is in our store in Bolton buying a TV from us. It was one of the first plasma TV’s produced for the consumer market. He requested that Mat and I install the TV ourselves in his house, and we were thrilled. So, we went one Saturday before work and turned up to his amazing property, where all the cut crystal had been moved so we could install the TV. Then Mat thought it would be a good idea to put the room back, but as I started to move the table the crystal started to move…it could have been a real Only Fools and Horses moment. As it turns out, we were lucky again and soon left before we broke anything. The name of Fred Done opened a lot of doors for us in the industry and we seized the opportunity.
It’s interesting how sometimes the mistakes you make can turn out to be brilliant moments on reflection. The B2B side of the business selling to independent retailers and wholesalers started from an immense screw up from myself. We had recently joined CIH and I ordered too much stock. My Dad was not best pleased and pulled me in the office and said we needed to get rid of this stock as we had to pay for it! At that stage we were mainly dealing with end consumers, but we had too much stock and so we started to look at how we could move it on. Then we had the idea to contact someone who kept offering us stock and he placed an order! We developed the relationship and it became a regular volume order. Then I started to think, well there must be others out there and it developed from there.
Q. Can you describe what is has been like to build such a successful business with your family?
Dan: Testing, fantastic, inspiring and awful. Being honest is really important to us and working with family has its challenges, but we have faced the highs and lows together. We are so proud of what we have achieved and when we started out it was really about making our parents proud. Mum and Dad’s eithics, advice and morals have definitely inspired us and spurred us on.
Mat: Over the past 25 years Dan and I have grown as individuals, grown as managers and as we have developed ourselves, the family dynamic has become easier. We both love what we do and are really passionate, which is ultimately what makes us such a great team.
Q. What’s your vision for the future of TVD?
Dan: Maintain, improve and provide sustainable growth. We’re really great at what we do and we want to do more of it and keep pushing the boundaries. There are exciting times ahead for Mitchell and Brown as a British brand and our client base and industry partners are amazing, so we see things going from strength to strength.
Mat: We really value our TVD family and going forward we want a more inclusive approach and to continue to foster a collaborative environment. The whole team plays such an important part in the success of the business and we have a few ideas for the future that could really benefit the employees and the business.
Q. And finally, Mat, what’s the best part of being MD of TVD group?
Mat: Working with my brother has to be up there, but what is really amazing is seeing people develop and progress, that’s a real privilege. We have talked about the loyalty of the team and seeing this talent and loyalty translate into a great working culture and successful business is very special and motivating.
It’s also nice to be able to give back. We love our home town of Bolton and are very proud of our roots, so it’s a real honour to be able to fundraise for and be involved in charities that make a difference in our communities.
We are fortunate to have a very bright and exciting future ahead of us. We are well respected in the industry and have built up an enviable reputation over the years, which puts us in a strong position to build on our success for the next 25 years and beyond! I feel honoured to be MD of the TVD Group and part of the TVD family.