Gold standard

08th Aug

A landmark in the heart of the city and potentially at the centre of a controversy over its survival, Alan Boyson’s iconic Three Ships mosaic dates back to 1963.
By then Vic Golding was already established in his first career as an accountant with some of the biggest names in British industry. Just over a decade later he was progressing towards his second, taking the first steps towards the technological advances that would revolutionise businesses worldwide.
Behind the big mosaic, he was responsible for training staff at the Hull and East Riding Co-operative Society ready for the introduction of VAT and the start of Sunday trading. They worked with punched paper tape, signs of a move towards computerisation for a retail empire that was omnipresent.
Vic recalls the Co-op having more than 20 stores around Hull and many more throughout the East Riding, employing 1,200 people or more. Over the years, a number of outlets were sold, including the flagship store in the city centre and the dairy in Park Street.
He remembers the Co-operative bank agency, a car dealership and of course the funeral directors: “You could always tell when the undertaker came in the office because of the smell of formaldehyde!”
Thousands of people ventured inside over the years, shopping in the Co-op and BHS, dancing at Romeo’s and Juliet’s nightclub, its predecessor Bailey’s and, earlier still, the legendary Skyline Ballroom, venue for gigs by Jimi Hendrix, the Moody Blues, Cream and more.
We’ll come back to Vic’s own near-miss with pop stardom, but as an office the building had a certain opulence. “We were on the fourth floor and it was a magnificent building. The management suite was unbelievable. Everything was of the finest quality with dark wood on the walls, thick carpeting on the floors. People talk about the Three Ships but there is also a very impressive mosaic of fish on the top floor.”
Vic’s current office is just along the road, the imposing Royal London Insurance building that he bought in George Street two years after setting up Golding Computer Services from his home. The office opened 35 years ago and a certificate on the wall reveals it’s 55 years since he qualified with the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants, which later became the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
Vic has been a supplier of Sage products since the company launched its accounts software in 1983 and is confident of being the longest-serving partner in the world. He also sold the first Amstrad computers in the region, and things really began to take off after Sage developed packages specifically designed for Amstrad.
But even for a highly experienced management accountant on his way to the status of Chartered Global Management Accountant, the work has never been just about the numbers.
Vic said: “It was always about training. We were selling the Amstrad packages like hot cakes but at that time most of the businesses in Hull didn’t have any computers at all. Many bought their first machines from us, but they couldn’t use them.”
Goldings partnered with Hull City Council and the Department for Employment, pioneering the use of computers in business, writing manuals and training the staff at hundreds of businesses in the new technology. The modern-day equivalent is Goldings’ work for HCUK and the Humber LEP which provides businesses with fully funded training in computerised accounting and payroll.
The sale, maintenance and support of hardware and software – acting as the IT manager and helpdesk for SMEs – is still a core activity and that dovetails with distance learning services that have won countless awards from the International Association of Bookkeepers.
Vic’s first training after venturing into the world of work was in the basement at Hammonds, selling irons, hairdryers and other electrical goods after being sent to the department store by the youth employment service.
He said: “They had stacks of jobs in a card index tray and they pulled out three. The first was in an ancient drapery warehouse but that wasn’t for me and fortunately I wasn’t for them. I went for an interview at Priestman Brothers but didn’t hear anything so joined Hammonds.”
When the letter from Priestman’s finally arrived, Vic left with the blessing of his boss who was aware that the trainee management accountant role offered more potential than honing his ironing expertise.
He relished the opportunity to get involved in costing the manufacture of cranes, excavators and the other heavy-duty construction equipment coming out of a world-renowned factory. When he left, it was for other household-name businesses – Smith & Nephew with Elastoplast, Webley & Scott with revolvers and shotguns, Klaxon with… erm… klaxons!
Vic was eager to learn, monitoring the development of computers and picking up management and diplomacy skills, notably when he became stuck in the middle of the acrimonious merger with English Electric during one of his spells with GEC.
Ambition had taken Vic to Birmingham and he had gained a wealth of experience in a wide variety of industries by the time family commitments brought him back to Hull and the job with the Co-op. But the challenges of his next two roles convinced him to set up his own business as first Associated Fisheries, the Macrae brand, moved its operations from Essex Street in Hull to Fraserburgh and then local construction giant Spooner Group collapsed.
The closure of the Essex Street factory left Vic with a choice between moving to Scotland or head office in London, but he negotiated a third option that enabled him to keep one of the prime perks of the job.
He said: “At that time the airports in Aberdeen and Kirmington were little more than sheds and the journey started and ended with a ferry trip across the Humber. When the factory in Essex Street closed the challenge was to get the people in Hull to train the workers in Fraserburgh, and it was something the Hull workers did with great pride.
“I decided to stay in Hull and I was allowed to keep my company car, a Cortina 2000E, metallic purple with a black vinyl roof. It was a classic car and the MD had driven it down from Aberdeen himself.”
Spooner Group’s construction achievements included Hull College and half of Bransholme. After the company hit hard times Vic was hired as part of the rescue team, appointed as accountant to one of the subsidiaries but made redundant again when the group went out of business.
He said: “I decided to set myself up as a computer consultant, providing local businesses with the same expertise as the blue-chip companies I had worked for and I soon found my clients wanted me to supply the software and hardware I recommended.
“We only work for businesses now but the accreditations we received then from the main computer manufacturers including Apple, ACT Sirius, Sanyo, IBM, Olivetti and Amstrad meant we were very much in the right place at the right time for the birth of the personal computer.
“However, the theme throughout my career has been my interest in training. Wherever I worked the focus was on the systems – understanding and introducing changes to systems to make businesses more efficient.
“It was the same before computers. I always tried to make sure that people understood not only their own job but also what happened before and after their part of the process so they understood where they fitted in.
“At Smith & Nephew I found there was somebody producing slips of paper with five copies, production records which were distributed every day. It turned out they weren’t being used any more by anybody but nobody had bothered to check. We stopped that because there were plenty of other things for them to do.”
A sizeable pile of cuttings from newspapers and magazines indicates an awareness from day one of the importance of media and marketing, and as technology has advanced so the platforms have varied, and Vic has become more innovative.
Traditional print has been topped up by e-flyers and even a jingle on Viking Radio. The auto-enrolment campaign featured football-themed captions on the TV screens at Hull City. But the most prescient advertising stunt also turned out to be the biggest opportunity missed.
When Take That performed at Malet Lambert School, Kingston High School and LA’s nightclub back in 1992 they shared the stages with advertising boards from the main sponsor – Golding Computer Services. But Vic doesn’t have a photograph of himself with the band – revealing that he turned down the chance of a photo session with Robbie Williams, Mark Owen, Gary Barlow, Jason Orange and Howard Donald.
He said: “We spent more than £60,000 on advertising that year so £750 to sponsor Take That wasn’t a massive amount even though they were relatively unknown at the time.
“We’ll never know whether anyone bought a computer because of the sponsorship but we did have a good year. We were established as a supplier to businesses but with no big retail sheds at that time we also saw the opportunity with the growing market for home PCs.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the show because it finished earlier than I expected. I turned up at LA’s at 9pm and they were just about to leave. They offered to pose for a picture with me, but I didn’t want to delay them so off they went.”

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