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    In the Driving Seat: Paul Darwent, Chairman, Mini Gears

    Paul Darwent, Chairman of Mini Gears, says that he owns ‘around’ eight classic cars – it must be too many if he doesn’t know exactly how many he has!…

    Paul Darwent

    Mini Gears


    Association with NAA
    We have been members of the NAA for around four years now.

    Why did you join the NAA?
    We joined because we found great value particularly from the networking events and the ideas sharing, plus we had a lot of help to further continue our lean manufacturing programme which has now transformed our factory.

    I am married to Helen who has managed to put up with me for nearly 20 years now! Our two combined families are now grown up so we are starting to have a bit more time for travelling and our hobbies. I am a huge fan of classic cars (owning around eight at present) and I regularly attend classic car shows all year round, but my favourites are the open air events during the summer.

    Favourite football team
    My favourite football team is Manchester United but my real passion is following Formula 1 and also the historic racing particularly at the Goodwood festival.

    Musical performer
    My favourite musical performer is Jeff Lynne, most famous as the frontman for the group ELO; I was a massive fan from my schooldays in the late 1970’s and I have just managed to get tickets for their new tour ‘Alone in the Universe’ this April.


    My favourite movie is ‘A Good Year’ starring Russell Crowe. It is a great movie with Crowe playing a stressed out City trader who inherits an old château in France and eventually gives everything up and lives there. He also gets the beautiful girl at the end! Well he is Russell Crowe.

    I am not a huge reader of long and complicated novels as I never seem to have the time to sit for very long! On holiday I love to read the inspirational books on business and life by Richard Branson, and by now – very boring – you guessed it – I must read at least 8 to 10 car magazines each month!

    Best motoring moment
    My best motoring event has included winning the odd karting competition but last summer my 1952 Cadillac won ‘Best Car in Show’ out of 850 cars, so I was rather happy and I’m looking forward to Goodwood this coming June.

    Best business advice you’ve ever received?
    This may sound rather strange but in the late 1990’s we faced losing our biggest customer who was now international and could buy 30% cheaper from lower cost labour countries. They gave us one chance to requote. The American CEO at the time was called Bob Swelgin and he told me “See this as an opportunity”. It hardly seemed like it at the time but we tackled our costs and operation methods head-on and retained the contract. We used this experience to become hugely competitive and grew our company from around £1.5 million at that time to just short of £10 million in our last financial year.

    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham