When you have been growing as a family business for over 85 years, four generations, and in your ‘home’ Lincolnshire market-town of Spilsby, I guess it’s only natural that you have employees that have been a member of the company for many years? But 50 years of service with that same company, I’m sure you’ll agree is certainly something to celebrate!?
Yes, Brian Grant, who is now a highly experienced Production Engineer, is our longest ever serving member of team Tong. Whilst he’s not alone when it comes to the ‘long-service’ stakes, as we are very proud to have many employees who have been at Tong for most, if not all of their working life, Brian joined the company back in 1967 (before some of us were even born!).
There’s one thing for sure, the fact that Brian lives just a short walk from Tong HQ means the commute to work has never really been too gruelling! But it’s the fact that Tong has been a “good sound company to work for” that’s kept Brian coming back for more every working day for the last 50 years!
And when we say there’s one thing for sure, there actually is something else for sure… Brian has seen some significant changes not only in the company, but more noticeably in the evolvement of Tong’s handling equipment over those 50 years…
When Brian started, back in 1967, our current Managing Director’s grandfather, Ken Tong, was running the company, overseeing the business’ growth in manufacturing sorting equipment for farmer’s and growers across the UK. The well-known Tong sorter was an essential piece of kit on hundreds, in fact , thousands of farms, and our old hand-written order books show we were selling, and producing handfuls of these sorters per day. A snapshot back in the day during 1967, shows that 132 sorters were sold in just 3 months.
“Back then,” says Brian, “our skills were more centred around joinery. We knew those sorters like the back of our hand and the orders just kept coming in! Now we are producing today’s equivalent, our Caretaker mobile grader, which not only dwarfs the old Tong sorters in size, but the engineering and technology that these machines are now built upon is phenomenal.”
Fast forward 50 years, and having worked with all four generations of the Tong family; Edmund, Ken, Charles and Edward, there is very rarely a question that anyone has for Brian that he can’t answer. Charles Tong, now Chairman at Tong Engineering says “We didn’t have computers for a very long time after Brian started working for the company, but after a few years we had felt like we had a ‘hard drive’ which stored important information…. which could be found in Brian’s head! The specific details and information on our machines that Brian has stored over the years is unimaginable; we still test his knowledge today and he never lets us down. ”
Brian is the first to say how things have moved on somewhat over the 50 years of being with Tong; “The company has changed beyond recognition from my early days. We all get bad days, but 50 years says it’s a good sound company to work for, and I always thought of Ken and Joan (Mr & Mrs Tong) as friends as well as my employer,” says Brian. “Joan took care of me when I first moved from the shop floor into the offices and made it like home; Ken reassured me of my job and was always there for me if I was struggling. His guidance has passed onto Charles and Edward, and it shows; with continued sound guidance I am sure the company will continue to grow through the next generations,” added Brian. “I still very much enjoy my job at Tong Engineering, and here’s to many more years… I don’t have any immediate plans to put my feet up yet!”
We should probably mention at this point that we do let Brian have a break from work; at weekends… and of course he enjoys the maximum holiday allowance, having accrued all those extra days holiday that are on offer for each milestone of ‘long-service’! Yes, whilst Brian has a soft point for vegetable and waste handling equipment, Brian’s passion outside work sees him travelling the country to attend Moto GP, World Superbike and British Superbike racing as a very talented photographer, capturing some amazing motosport moments and mixing with well-known faces. In fact, Brian is on first name terms with many riders including Tim and Tom Neave, Alex and Sam Lowes, Danny Buchan, Peter Hickman and even Grimsby’s well-known motorcycle racer and TV personality Guy Martin.
Speaking of Brian’s achievement, Edward Tong, Managing Director said “It’s quite strange to think that Brian was actually working for the family business before I was born!”
“He has displayed so much experience and knowledge over the years, and his role with the company is highly valued. I think it’s fair to say that whilst our workforce is continuously expanding and developing, with fresh blood bringing new ideas across all departments of the business, having so many long-standing members of the team has certainly helped us to maintain a very personal, friendly and family-run culture. Our employee’s commitment to the business has been vital to our growth and development over the years, and we’re very proud that their ongoing commitment has been key to us building very valuable, long-term relationships with our customers.”
So, not only has Brian’s loyalty to Tong Engineering seen him witness some huge changes in the agricultural and vegetable industries over the years, it also suggests that team Tong is a pretty good team to be part of?!
Of course, such an anniversary could not go unnoticed, but being not one for ‘fuss’, we managed to twist Brian’s arm into allowing us to hold a celebratory BBQ on the very day he started his career with Tong all those 50 years ago. If there’s one thing that brings everyone together it’s a good catch-up with good food; and that’s just what it was… freshly cooked Lincolnshire produce in the Tong factory yard, with a few old faces in the mix for old time’s sake. We also had the rare opportunity to catch up with Brian’s wife Marleen, who doesn’t normally accompany Brian to the factory; she assured us that despite his love for work and motorbikes, he still loves to spend time with his family, including Marleen and their two sons.
All in all, the celebration proved to be a fantastic afternoon; it was a great opportunity for us to get some of our old kit on show, reminisce about the ‘good old Tong days’ and dare to imagine what the next 50 years may hold…
Pictured above: Brian (centre) with the team of ‘Golden Oldies’ as we affectionately named them!
Pictured above: You can’t beat a freshly BBQ’d Lincolnshire Sausage…. or burger, or minted lamb steak!
Pictured above: The Tong ‘Nu-sort’ potato dressing machine