COLIN Simpson has several reasons to celebrate.

As business development director of pump distributor and manufacturer, Tomlinson Hall, he has overseen the company in Billingham, near Stockton, honoured with industry awards and accolades.

But the lifelong Middlesbrough FC supporter is also enjoying his team's exploits on the pitch.

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The corridors of the 27-people strong business are decorated with signed Boro shirts.

Behind the walls of this unassuming building, on Cowpen Lane Industrial Estate, is a company that supplies a vast range of pumps from leading global brands and makes Liquivac, its own innovative liquid ring vacuum pump, as well as offering servicing, repairs and engineering supplies.

Soon to be celebrating its centenary year, the reins of this business are now in the hands of Tony Keville, the third generation running the business.

He took over from his father, CJB Keville, who succeeded his father-in-law Alf Tomlinson, who founded of the general engineering supplies firm with Frank Hall in 1919.

A graduate of Sheffield University, a chartered engineer, a member of the Institute of Engineering Technology and chairman of the UK Pump Distributors Association, Tony was part of the team who first discovered the hole in the ozone layer and transferred his innovativeness and ingenuity when he joined the family business in 1976.

“Tony has continued his family’s legacy, integrating family ethics into this business to make it the success it continues to be,” said Mr Simpson, who joined the firm in 1993.

“Tony is one hundred per cent focused on our staff and they reward us with their loyalty.

"When people join us they stay and we are very proud they choose to work with us.”

Tomlinson Hall boasts a great deal of experience within their workforce which enables the company to offer a total service, including pump selection and supply, problem solving, site surveys, service and repairs.

After his father passed away in 1997, Tony continued as chairman with the support of his colleagues.

“Tony is a problem solver, an inventor who can look at a product and improve it in ways that other people wouldn’t even think of and that’s what makes our products sought after across the globe,” said Mr Simpson.

The Teesside business has gone from supplying major industrial pump brands, including its own product Liquivac, to businesses in the North-East and across the UK, to Europe and now to the Middle-East, North America, South America and Asia.

In fact, they are currently exporting to more than 100 countries.

But success has not come overnight and as director of business development, it is Mr Simpson's job to continually look for new opportunities.

“You’ve got to have a plan.", he said>

"It’s no good sitting back and waiting for the opportunity to come to you, you’ve got to go out there, meet people and show them that your product is the best one for the job.

Although they may not always agree, the relationship between Tony and Colin is based on respect and Mr Simpson is trusted with taking Tomlinson Hall’s products to a worldwide market.

“We had a very strong reputation locally and we decided it was time to broaden our target area,” he explained.

“One of our first major national contracts was with Scottish and Newcastle Brewery, latterly Scottish Courage and now Heineken, which got our pump products in cities across the UK.

"From there we had a ripple effect, building our client base, modernising our production and ordering service and pushing our business forward.”

Honesty, offering realistic expectations, integrity, a quality product and the highest customer service is what this company has relied upon.

“Late one Friday afternoon, we had a panicked phone call from one of our clients, a distiller in Scotland.

"They were planning a visit from the Queen the following Monday and had a disaster with a ‘noxious’ gas, which would’ve caused a great deal of unpleasantness for Her Majesty!

"One of our team jumped on the first train heading north of the border to solve the problem.

"Years later we’re still in touch and laugh about the close shave.”

Tomlinson Hall’s success also comes down to a broad customer base.

They serve end users across a range of industry sectors, including the process industry, chemical processing, petrochemicals, shipping, food and drink processing, land remediation and environmental management, water utilities, energy, leisure and desalination.

Their products are even aboard Roman Abramovich’s super-yacht, the Eclipse.

“We learnt the hard way not to put all our eggs in one basket", said Mr Simpson.

"A few years ago our turnover dipped slightly, due the mothballing of the Corus Redcar steelworks, which had previously been our number one customer for pumps and ancillary equipment.

“We learnt to diversify, not to rely heavily on one company and we recovered.

"Since then we’ve more than made up this shortfall with new customers and continued growth.

“We’re grateful to have the opportunity to be able to work within sectors built on basic human needs.

"People will always need to eat, drink and safely dispose of waste and while these industries are in business, there will be a need for our pumps,” explained Colin.

Tomlinson Hall has won the Pump Distributor of the Year Award in the British Pump Industry Awards four times, most recently in April 2014 and will be travelling to London later this month to compete on a national stage for “Small Business of the Year” at the British Chamber Awards.

It is an exciting time for the business as they begin to contemplate their future and potentially the next hundred years.

“We always try to plan at least five years in advance,” said Mr Simpson.

“What products will we push? What industry or country will we explore? What will our staffing requirements be?

“There are skills in workshop that we don’t want to lose when a hardworking employee chooses to retire.

"Our pump engineer apprentice, Josh Chambers, works alongside his mentor learning the trade, acquiring new skills and offering his own fresh ideas.

“Tomlinson Hall is committed to providing opportunities to young people and we believe that training the next generation of engineers is important for both our industry and the North-East’s engineering and manufacturing base.

“This is how we deal with any potential skill shortage.

"We predict where our gaps may be in the future and find a solution.

"Our workshop manager, Michael O’Hare, started off as an apprentice, as did his colleague Jonathan Parkinson, who is now completing an HNC in engineering with our support.

"It is imperative to invest in your people; they are the future of your business.”

It is a strategy that seems to be working well so far with the company almost doubling its turnover since 2007.

“Between 2013 and 2014 we saw a substantial increase in sales of 12.9 per cent.

"This year we have increased a further 7.89 per cent and our goal is to increase total company sales to £5m by 2018,” said Mr Simpson.

“A key objective for us is to build Liquivac into a globally distributed brand and we are aiming to secure additional global distribution partners.

"Last year we visited the Middle-East to attract more end-users to the product, and we were extremely glad to find its capabilities are in high demand out there, in a range of sectors.

“We’ve developed an ambitious export strategy and are re-branding the product, building a new website and investing in a strategic marketing campaign. We’re determined and believe in the quality of our product and people can see that when they meet us.

“Over the next three years we also aim to strengthen Tomlinson Hall’s position as a leading pump distributor both in the UK and in global markets and will add further major pump brands to our distribution portfolio, complementing the existing products we offer.”

As part of their growth strategy, the company has also recruited a sales support administrative assistant and business administration apprentice, Molly Pickett.

“It’s ambitious but we have an aspiring team of employees and if we all pull in the same direction we will do it,” said Mr Simpson.

“If I were to offer any advice it would be to invest in your staff, help them reach their potential and place your trust in them.

"Nurture your working relationships with customers and always be respectful, today’s apprentices could be managers of the future.

“I admire other business people and try to learn from their successes.

"It’s important to ask for help when you need it and take advice from organisations like NECC and UKTI who are ready to help.

“Stay one step ahead, plan for the future, offer a quality product and customers will come to you. And last of all, find a job, and a football club, you love.”

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, will be attending the national awards with Tomlinson Hall, in London.

He said: “This company is an excellent example of how a traditional, family business can diversify, modernise and react to ensure it is in a solid position for its customers and employees for years to come.

“They are a leading light in the North-East and will do the region proud on the national stage.

"I look forward to accompanying our seven–strong contingent of NECC members shortlisted for the national BCC awards and wish them all the very best of luck.”