Explore Derek Gotts' journey as Managing Director of Supply Plus Limited, a key player in the fire industry. From a shift from fire pumps to leading Supply Plus Ltd, Derek shares insights into standards, safety, and the industry's future. With over 18 years of involvement with the Fire Industry Association, gain valuable advice from this experienced professional.

08 April 2024 by Charlotte Brill, Content Marketing Executive

I am Derek Gotts, Managing Director of Supply Plus Limited. Supply Plus Ltd designs, engineers, manufactures, supplies, and distributes safety and fuel delivery equipment. The Supply+ brands are AS Fire & Safety, Bayley and Collins Youldon; these products are all manufactured in the UK and fitted to most UK fire trucks and many fuel delivery vehicles too.

I have been involved with the FIA for 18 years as a council member of FRES, formerly chair of FIRESA for over 6 years and having the privilege to hold the position of Chair of the Fire Industry Association for 4 years.

I also represent the FIA on several British and European Standards committees concerning fire and rescue products.

What initially attracted you to join the fire industry?

It was not so much an attraction to the fire industry, it was a happy coincidental transfer from commercial pump world into the world of fire pumps with Godiva Ltd, the UK based fire pump manufacturer, that got me hooked on this niche industry market sector. I then moved into the world of ladders and hose reels with the fore runners of my current business.

Our part of the fire sector is relatively small and the changes that happen are slow, this means that you can develop long term business relationships that often develop into personal friendships with the people you work with. I love the fact we consistently export to around 30 or 40 countries outside the UK each year and enjoy the travel, meeting people and the opportunities this presents.

The fact that in my early career as a Merchant Navy officer I trained in fire fighting both at Warsash and Edinburgh along with real life fire experiences on ships has really helped me appreciate the work that fire fighters carry out; equally I gained a lot of experience of the world of petrochemicals in the merchant navy which help me in other areas of our business.

Reflecting on your life so far, what achievement or milestone are you most proud of, and why?

Business-wise, joining the AssetCo group and eventually helping save our business with our management team from its demise as part of that group and restoring it to its present-day position over a period of years. We have taken the business on a full journey from being part of a UK AIM-listed group completely back into Venture capital ownership, then private ownership and then recently agreeing a sale of most of the business to a Swedish company, Lagercrantz. This recent move puts the business into the hands of a responsible owner who will seek to develop the business to the next stage over the coming years which I hope to continue to be a part of.

On a personal level, my wife and I have been married for over 40 years and we have 4 children whom I am extremely proud of who are all different and following their paths; these will be our legacy along with our 10 grandchildren to date!

How can the fire industry be improved and what does it need for this to happen?

More engagement is needed from the wider stakeholder group as there is no point in just manufacturers driving standards; others in the sector have a valuable role to play in stepping up and contributing to developing the best standards.

In the next five years, what are your career goals within the fire industry, and what steps are you taking to reach them?

I am lucky, and my career goals have all been met the next stage for me is to transition to a role that supports the business with me taking a less front-line role and placing a management team in control that can take the business forward for the next 10 years. I will be delighted to be a long-term supporter and advisor to my current business going forward as the people, the business and our customers mean a lot to me.

On a personal level in the next 5 years, I hope to continue to travel to new places and experience more the world has to offer and enjoy some sort of semi-retirement.

What's the most valuable piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting their career, in the industry?

  • I believe hard work is always required if you want to succeed at anything.
  • I think being unemotional in terms of decision-making is a big help; most of the time.
  • Surround yourself with a good team wherever possible.
  • Desire to learn constantly and refresh and upgrade your skills.
  • Sometimes it is best to take your time either to react to others or to make your own decisions.
  • You must put yourself forward when an opportunity presents and take those risks.
  • Work should be enjoyable; if it is not then you need to change!

What is the most important area of work that the FIA is involved with (for you and the overall industry - if different)?

I think the input given to British and European Standards is of vital importance to raise standards, ensure safety and deliver the best outcomes for society. Secondly, the work done by the FIA to train the industry to levels of defined competence is unparalleled within the sector.

What is your favourite hobby or personal interest outside of work?

I do not have one stand-out hobby or interest; I like to fix things (I am an engineer!) and enjoy the DIY work that I like and that which does not physically kill me. We have a motorhome and enjoy getting around the UK and Europe in it which hopefully becomes more of a feature in our life going forward. I enjoy football (watching), motorsports and particularly Formula 1. I still have an old motorbike, Honda VFR800, that needs more riding than I have given it recently… Family takes up a lot of the time and the grandchildren are a delight to spend time with and then give them back! Socialising and having the odd glass of red wine with family, friends and colleagues is always a pleasure too!

What superpower would you have and why?

To correct the mistakes, I have made over the years! I know I have learned from these mistakes, but it would have been nice to correct some of them both in my business and personal life.

If you could go anywhere in the world for a holiday for three months all expenses paid, where would you go and why?

I would travel to the UK in my Motorhome with my wife Pauline; I am privileged to have travelled to very many countries throughout my career but there are corners of the UK that I have still not explored, and we live in a group of countries many do not appreciate I feel.

Name 3 characters you would have to dinner for the perfect evening. One dead, one alive and one fictitious.

Mandela, for my deceased dinner guest, who is doubtlessly a very special person, I have spent some time working in Africa and have visited Robben Island where he was incarcerated and read “Long Walk to Freedom”, an inspirational character in so many ways I feel you could chat with.

Jeremey Clarkson for my living guest, to provide the comment and humour he has delivered over the decades to the dinner table in a style that is both irreverent and forthright.

Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses as I loved the humour and him telling Rodney "This time next year we'll be millionaires" – Believe and dream!