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Aberdonian says ‘time is right’ to retire after 50 year career at one firm

Colin Campbell rose to be MD of the family business, which has more than 100 staff.

Colin Campbell retires after 50 years at Langstane Press. Image: Langstane Press
Colin Campbell retires after 50 years at Langstane Press. Image: Langstane Press

When Colin Campbell was 18-years-old he made the decision to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the family business Langstane Press in Aberdeen.

Now 50 years later Colin has decided now is the time to retire from day-to-day work  and step down from his managing director role.

The grandad-of-one has held several positions throughout the years, including 37 years as managing director.

Langstane Press was founded in 1947 by Colin’s dad, also called Colin, and his uncles John and Jim.

‘Privileged position’

As well as supplying office products, it portfolio extends to furniture, health care products, print and promotional services, catering and janitorial supplies.

Dad-of-four Colin said: “I was in a very privileged position and opportunity because it’s a family business.

“I was following my father in to the business at that time. The company was started just after the war and it was them getting back in to real life.

Colin pictured in his earlier years with Langstane Press. Image: Raymond Besant.

“Initially it was purely as a printing company, hence the press part of the name and it was in Langstane Place.

“When I joined it was also doing stationery and office supplies so it had become a wider offering than just print.”

Family business right route for Colin

Colin, who is married to Doris, joined the firm after leaving Aberdeen Grammar School at the age of 18.

When asked his first position he said: “The lowest of the low is how I would describe it.

“I was handed to the man who ran our warehouse and distribution and he was told to use me in any way he needs.

“It was sweeping floors, cleaning vans, packing products. Just learning what goes on at the end of that business.”

Colin very nearly didn’t join Langstane Press straightaway and was contemplating university.

He said: “I was all set to go to university to do a degree in business studies and at the very last minute I had a change of heart.

Colin pictured in 2016. Image: Ross Johnston/Newsline Media

“I really got a feel for how business worked and I was involved in getting the business  its first computer up and running in 1977.

“I’d have missed all that if I was at university. The hands on practical experience of doing it was fundamental for me in setting me up for the future.”

Various roles at Langstane Press

Langstane Press currently has a turnover of £18 million and 103 members of staff across its head office in Aberdeen and branches in Dundee and Livingston.

Colin had a spell in the 1970s working in telesales and running the retail shop before following in his fathers footsteps and becoming more involved with the purchasing side of the business.

When Langstane Press opened a new warehouse in Bon Accord Terrace in the 1980s Colin changed position and was the buyer and managed the wares and distribution centre.

When his father retired in 1987 he stepped in to the role of managing director.

Colin, who has four daughters, said: “I was only 30 at the time so very young in many ways. But ready for it.

“We set out on a journey which has been quite remarkable in many ways.

“We set out a strategy in the early 90s.

“There was a bit of foresight that we couldn’t really rely on oil and gas forever which formed the basis of most of our customers.

Colin Campbell previously pictured outside the office in Links Place.

“We thought we should spread our wings a bit.

“The plan to get away from oil and gas has definitely worked because our number one biggest customer was always oil and gas up until 10 to 15 years ago.

“Now our number one customer is NHS Scotland because we have the contract to supply all its office furniture.

“We have also diversified to be their number one source of patient care furniture as well.”

‘The business is sound and in good health’

Colin, grandad to three-year-old Magnus, admits to thinking about retiring before now but decided the time wasn’t right.

He said: “When you are in a family business it becomes your life and it’s hard to see the day when that comes.

“As you get older you think maybe it would be great to retire early.

“But then the global oil price crash happened in 2015 and I couldn’t think about retiring. It was about steering the business through the challenge.

“That was a brutal recession and the toughest time we’ve had as a business.

“Coming out the other end of that oil recession was important and then stabilising and getting ready for the future which we did.

“We got back on track and then the pandemic hits. I couldn’t even think about it then.

“My thoughts were once we get stable again and in a sound position it opens the door for thinking about retiring.

“About a year ago when I realised it would be 50 years I thought that was the perfect time.

“The business is sound and in good health. It’s time to move on.

“I’m passing the business on to the first of the third generation.”

Passing on the family baton

The new managing director, from June 3, will be Mark Campbell, who is the son of Colin’s cousin Jack.

Mark has worked for Langstane Press for more than 30 years.

He said: “I’m looking forward to continuing our success.

Mark Campbell and Colin Campbell. Image: Langstane Press

“We are in a very strong position to generate more growth.”