Getting to know you: Henry Amar

What do you currently do?
I am non-executive Chairman of R.H. Amar – a family-owned business started by my father in 1945. We are importers and distributors of fine foods, such as: Crespo, CIRIO, Del Monte and Starbucks and are based in High Wycombe.
I still keep a close eye on what happens in the business, but after 50 years I have stepped back from the cut and thrust of daily trading, leaving that to my son, Rob. Nowadays I mainly work on specific projects, the most important of which is the development of our house brand COOKS&CO. I am also umpire for our company cricket team.
What is your inspiration in business?
I derive much satisfaction from the part R.H. Amar has played in changing eating habits in Great Britain. Particularly with the increasingly popular Mediterranean diet, we were one of the first distributors of olive oil into the UK and are currently the largest distributors of olives.
The quality of our food in this country has improved immeasurably in recent years. We currently sell a range of 1,100 fine food items, and even today I experience a thrill when I see our products on the grocery shelves of British retailers.
Who do your admire?
During my career, I have met many remarkable businessmen. Chief among my role models was Enrique Crespo, director of one of our Spanish suppliers, who died earlier this year.
He was a man of great charisma, boundless energy, business acumen and complete integrity, admired by all who knew him. He approached business with such enthusiasm and charm that he made even the stiffest challenge seem surmountable.
Looking back are there things that you would do differently?
Thirty years ago, I had the opportunity to become much more computer-literate, but I did not seize that chance. Consequently today I am something of a dinosaur as far as IT is concerned, and have to depend a great deal on others.
What defines your way of doing business?
I attach great importance to the values of a family business. Our staff, suppliers and customers know that we are here for the long-haul, with a clear vision for the future.
A business such as ours needs to be managed intensively, but we encourage flair and initiative. Our mission statement is to be the first choice supplier of ambient fine foods in Britain, and everything we do is directed to that end.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Understand that starting, and then developing a new business, will impact greatly upon your leisure time and family life. I did not start our business, but I had to lead it through a three-year period of major change in the mid-1980s. That meant 90 hour weeks and a lot of stress.
I needed the support of family and colleagues to see me through that period. Then it’s a question of clearly defining the objectives of your business and pursuing them single-mindedly. It’s easy to be blown off course.
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