Interview with Nick Parker – Director of Kentcare

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“My parents Brian and Margot Parker set up Kentcare in 1978. Brian had a number of years experience in Landscaping and Grounds Maintenance and had the opportunity to start up on his own, at a time when the country was economically not at its strongest. Nationally there were strikes and power cuts but he had enough contacts to assemble a diligent team of high quality site staff.

The Family Business

The company was very much part of our upbringing. The logo of five trees is a representation of the five members of the Parker family, mum, dad and three boys, one chubby, one thinner and one with longer floppy hair! In our late teens, all the Parker boys worked on the gangs with the other staff. Physically demanding, but also a steep learning curve. Being a son of the boss usually meant high expectations, which needed to be met for many reasons!

Kentcare was chosen as a name because, traditionally, Kent is called the “Garden of England”; and if we are going to care for the gardens of England, it seemed to make sense. Being based in Hampshire,  Hantscare was considered but it was thought the word “scare” was bad for business! The surname Parker has a heritage that hails from “Park-keeper” or old fashioned gamekeeper and grounds man.

Some of our contracts near the beginning involved us travelling far and wide to do peculiar tasks that others did not want to do; one of our earliest contracts was to install a retaining mesh to stop the White Cliffs of Dover from falling in to the sea!

Another of our early contracts Kentcare handled was with the Central Electricity Generating Board, now the National Grid – for whom we have carried out a number of interesting projects over the years. One that springs to mind, was initially landscaping, and then followed by a three-year maintenance contract at one of the largest engineering projects in Europe at the time, the Dinorwic Pump Storage Generating plant in North Wales. The site is in an environmentally sensitive area in Snowdonia, incorporating two reservoirs one at the top and one at the bottom of a mountain. Naturally all the power cables had to be buried. But because cables overheat if kept underground for too long, they’re occasionally brought up to the surface. Our job was to make sure that the cables and, more importantly the cooling plant units, were camouflaged whenever they did appear. They still had to blend in with the remainder of Snowdonia.

The Next Generation

I joined the firm formally in March 1996, following my time in Financial Services, initially to help with admin, but within 6 weeks, I headed to see my parents with a proposal, offering an exit strategy for them and with me assuming control of the Parker family business.

Brian was agreeable in most part to the plan, wanting a slower transition at first; but after a few health issues which meant he spent a period of time away from the office; he became more convinced that he was passing the company on to more than just a safe pair of hands. He retired gradually, still keeping in touch with a number of the longer term clients until his death in March 2010.

One of my dad’s favourite smaller jobs was maintaining the grounds at St John’s Cathedral, Portsmouth. Of course, he used to tell the apocryphal tale that the Bishop was taking a walk in the garden one day and he stops by to talk to the man trimming the hedgerows and says ‘Isn’t is wonderful what God and mankind combined can achieve?’ The man turns to the Bishop and says, ‘Ah that’s all very well for you to say, but you should have seen the state it was in with just God looking after it!’ We maintain the Cathedral grounds to this day and it was rather fitting that his funeral was held at the packed Cathedral in March 2010.

The company’s ongoing maintenance contracts are with a variety of clients from Cleaning Companies to Convents to Sports grounds. These contracts cover a variety of areas with very different requirements – sports pitches, living accommodation and the grounds surrounding the various buildings, including accommodation for the elderly, the young and vulnerable of our society. The CRB check is a vital part of our service to reassure client, future client and public alike.

Brian Parker was pleased with how the business had evolved after his time in charge. It was difficult at times to take a back-seat in something which had been his life for a number of years, but I am confident that Kentcare will continue to grow and thrive, and I am pleased that his name; his spirit, experience and advice are still referred to from time to time, to assist the Management team and staff to deliver a first class service to our customers. ”

“No matter what highs or lows happen today,
we all sleep well and work again tomorrow”

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