‘The fu­neral busi­ness is re­li­able but takes em­pa­thy’

Melville mor­gan boss nick berry man on how the fam­ily-run firm has moved with the times and why he’ s con­fi­dent th a tb rex it will work well f or theuk

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - @news­mulg

It’s not a busi­ness for just any­body,” says Nick Ber­ry­man — the boss of fam­ily-owned fu­neral busi­ness Melville Mor­gan. The 46-year-old busi­ness­man, who spent his for­ma­tive years work­ing in Ja­pan and has also worked for some of North­ern Ire­land’s big­gest engi­neer­ing firms, took over at the helm of his wife’s fam­ily busi­ness al­most two decades ago.

And un­like many busi­ness own­ers, the fa­ther-of-two says he thinks the UK will pros­per once it leaves the EU.

Nick, who is orig­i­nally from Chiswick in west Lon­don, has ex­panded his wife Rosie-anne’s fam­ily firm since he joined. Ear­lier this year, it re­branded from Melville & Co to Melville Mor­gan.

The fa­ther-of-two, who worked for firms in­clud­ing FG Wil­son, now Cater­pil­lar, was asked by his fa­ther in-law Ray­mond to work in the fam­ily busi­ness.

The com­pany has two main strands, and also in­cludes Mor­gan Removals, which is now Mor­gan Doc­u­ment Se­cu­rity. “We look af­ter peo­ple’s hard drives, we deal with solic­i­tors and ac­coun­tants. We act as their fil­ing cab­i­net,” he said.

The fu­neral busi­ness has grown to five branches un­der the Mel- ville Mor­gan brand, in­clud­ing lo­ca­tions at York Road, Lis­burn Road, Holy­wood Road and Ballysil­lan Road in Belfast, along with an­other in Ban­gor.

The firm also owns Bobby Mor­ri­son fu­neral di­rec­tors in Lis­burn.

Melville Mor­gan now has 25 full-time and part-time staff based across the busi­ness. And like any busi­ness, it has moved with the times — though some things never change.

“When I came in back in 2000, there were no com­put­ers. There was just a type­writer down­stairs,” Nick said.

“We now have com­put­ers, we have added to our staff and we are just on our sec­ond fleet of cars and are run­ning Jaguar limos and hearses.

“The core of what Melville Mor­gan has al­ways been, that’s the core thing that we have pre­served.

“Ev­ery fu­neral is still or­gan­ised by pen and pa­per. When you are sit­ting down with a fam­ily, you don’t want to flip­ping up a lap­top.

“It’s ex­tremely re­ward­ing. You are sit­ting down with peo­ple when they are very emo­tional.

“It’s lis­ten­ing to what each fam­ily wants, treat­ing them with re­spect, and mak­ing sure that day is mean­ing­ful for them. There is a lot of sat­is­fac­tion de­rived from ev­ery­one that works here, from that process.

“You have to get used to peo­ple look­ing over your shoul­der, to make sure you don’t put a foot wrong. You can’t go back to the fam­ily and say, ‘we’ll redo this’. You have to get it right first time.”

And he said the busi­ness of death and deal­ing with the fi­nal jour­ney an in­di­vid­ual will make isn’t for ev­ery­one.

“It’s not a busi­ness for just any­body. The fam­ily don’t want us to be sym­pa­thetic, they want us to be em­phatic.

“There are days that are more dif­fi­cult than oth­ers. A child’s fu­neral is al­ways up­set­ting, no mat­ter how long you have been in the busi­ness.

“Day-to-day, we have to be pro­fes­sional. The fam­ily don’t want to see any of us show­ing emo­tion. It is pay­ing trib­ute to the per­son that they loved.”

Nick was born in Chiswick in 1970 and went to school at King’s Col­lege.

“From there on, I came to Ul­ster Univer­sity in Col­eraine, where I stud­ied busi­ness with Ja­panese,” he said.

“I had stud­ied busi­ness stud­ies in school, and the Ja­panese econ­omy was grow­ing. It seemed like a good choice. It was an­other lan­guage and I had spent six months out in Ky­oto with the de­gree.

“Through my fa­ther’s con­tacts in Ja­pan I worked in a depart­ment store for six months and re­ally got to grips with the lan­guage.

“I only bumped into two other peo­ple who were from English speak­ing coun­tries in that time.

“They (the com­pany) moved me around and looked af­ter me very, very well. It was ex­cel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice ori­en­tated.

“The cus­tomer is al­ways right to the nth de­gree. It was ex­cel­lent ground­ing.”

He then joined gen­er­a­tor maker FG Wil­son in Larne when it was still a fam­ily busi­ness be­fore

❝ It’s lis­ten­ing to what each fam­ily wants ... and mak­ing sure that day is mean­ing­ful for them

❝ We are look­ing to ex­pand, but it’s never a busi­ness which is go­ing to mas­sively take off Next week, the Big In­ter­view speaks to Gareth Cham­bers, chief ex­ec­u­tive of sand­wich com­pany Around Noon

its takeover by Amer­i­can gi­ant Cater­pil­lar.

“When you go into your first com­pany, that’s when you dis­cover how lit­tle you know about busi­ness. It was an ex­cel­lent ground­ing in the op­er­a­tion of a busi­ness,” Nick said.

“My role com­ing in was pur­chas­ing some of the stock parts for gen­er­a­tor sets, then I went on to spe­cialised parts for cus­tom made gen­er­a­tor sets, which were shipped out world­wide.

“On from there, I be­came pur­chas­ing man­ag­ing at Dae­woo Elec­tron­ics in Antrim.”

He met wife Rosie-anne dur­ing his time at univer­sity in Col­eraine.

“She was do­ing Euro­pean busi­ness stud­ies and Span­ish,” he said.

“She went into the fam­ily busi­ness, when it was a removals busi­ness. There was a lot of work in deep-sea removals and she was deal­ing with those.

“Their work turned into a lot more cor­po­rate work. They then moved into records man­age­ment.”

The com­pany has its roots dat­ing back to 1858, when the then Melville & Com­pany used horse­drawn car­riages.

“My fa­ther-in-law (Ray­mond) bought the fu­neral busi­ness about 30 years ago, in the late 1980s, and had grown it slowly over the years,” said Nick.

“He then added the Ballysil­lan Road and Clan­de­boye Road (Ban­gor) busi­nesses. We bought the sites and put in two pur­pose-built fu­neral homes. I came in af­ter I reached a peak in Dae­woo, at that stage and in early 2000, my fa­ther-in-law des­per­ately needed some­one in Melville Mor­gan who could take the busi­ness for­ward.”

Rosie-anne is a di­rec­tor in both busi­nesses, but mainly works with her fa­ther in the in­vest­ment part of the com­pany, with an over­sight over records man­age­ment and fu­neral busi­ness.

Ray­mond got his start in the world of busi­ness at the ten­der age of 14.

“He wasn’t great at school, and started on vans which were de­liv­er­ing school din­ners around Belfast,” Nick said.

“They had the con­tracts for de­liv­er­ing newsprint across Belfast news­pa­pers.”

Ray­mond’s fa­ther, Wil­liam Mor­gan, was in pol­i­tics — a Union­ist MP in north Belfast andnd a for­mer Min­is­ter for Health and So­cial Ser­vices in the 1960s.

Nick has two sis­ters, both of whom live close to where they grew up in Chiswick. His fa­ther, Peter, in his late 80s, is a qual­i­fied bar­ris­ter who spent most of his time as an in-house com­pany lawyer, while his mother, Gil­lian, passed away seven years ago.

A keen hockey player in his youth, play­ing for Cliftonville, Nick’s fam­ily have also fol­lowed in his sport­ing foot­steps.

Nick has two sons, Mor­gan (20) and Se­bas­tian (10).

“Mor­gan is study­ing at the Univer­sity of Stir­ling, and went on a swim­ming schol­ar­ship and is study­ing law,” Nick said.

Speak­ing about the com­pany’s per­for­mance, es­pe­cially com­ing through a tough eco­nomic land­scape over the last few years, Nick said it’s a busi­ness which is largely un­af­fected by re­ces­sion.

“A re­ces­sion does not ad­versely ef­fect the death rate. We have a busi­ness which is pretty re­ces­sion-proof,” he said.

“Through the boom times, we weren’t boom­ing, we were rolling along.

“We are look­ing to ex­pand, but it is never go­ing to be a busi­ness which is go­ing to mas­sively take off. It is slow and steady.”

When he’s not run­ning the busi­ness, which he says you “never switch off from”, it’s all about his fam­ily.

“We have just taken in­ter­est in what our kids have been do­ing. Mor­gan was in­ter­ested in sports and swim­ming. That eats into a large part of your week.

“Then you have com­pe­ti­tions all over the place. When you are play­ing taxi driver it takes up a lot of your time. I’m also teach­ing rugby, which I thor­oughly en­joy.

“We also have four dogs. We have Bas­sets and two Point­ers. The Bas­sets are very laid back, while the Point­ers are very af­fec­tion­ate, but they need a bit of ex­er­cise.” And on Brexit, he’s con­fi­dent the UK will pros­per out­side the EU. “I know it’s early days, but I think Brexit will ul­ti­mately be a suc­cess as UK com­pa­nies have al­ways adapt-ded to dif­fer­ent trad­ing con­di­tions bet­ter than busi­nesses from any other coun­try,” he said. “The UK has al­ways bbeen a na­tion of traders. Brexit will I be­lieve also be of ben­e­fit to small busi­nesses.”

The com­pany is still look­ing at op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pand fur­ther still, should the op­por­tu­nity present it­self.

“Yes, we are very much in­ter­ested in do­ing that again if an­other site came up in an area we are not in,” added Nick.

Nick Ber­ry­man with dad Peter and his two sons, Mor­gan and Se­bas­tian

Nick Ber­ry­man (left) play­ing hockey for Cliftonville and (above) out­side the busi­ness premises

KEVIN SCOTT

Nick Ber­ry­man with his wife Rosie-anne at Melville Mor­gan fu­neral di­rec­tors and (below) com­pany founder Ray­mon­dond Mor­gan

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