After 24 years with the Bernhard and Company, Diane Caldwell retired this July. At the company’s annual sales conference she was given a farewell presentation. Stephen Bernhard talked of her many contributions to the company, and recalled many special shared moments over the years.
Diane joined the company in October 1989 as a bookkeeper.
“Stephen Bernhard interviewed me. I remember well his bubbling enthusiasm and I knew I wanted to be part of that.
“We were a small company, there were just five of us in the UK office. We were selling grinders, greenhouses and planters. Gradually as the sales of grinders increased, Stephen sold off the other parts of the business.
“Over the years, as the business grew, I moved from the accounts department to the sales side which I really enjoyed.”
Diane loves a challenge and she loves to talk – so the idea of talking to people every day, building relationships, getting to know people over the years has been a great source of joy for her.
“As Sales Co-ordinator I was on the phone much of the time and I got to know so many people in the industry, particularly in USA. I felt privileged to do my job, to follow people’s careers, listen to their stories. It’s been a wonderful job.”
Diane travelled to the USA several years running to work at GIS – which was quite a challenge for her as she is terrified of flying.
“I sometimes wonder how I ever got on a plane.” she said laughing, “I did get very ill, but with some gritty determination I worked through it and it was well worth it. I particularly loved San Francisco and San Diego. New Orleans was fascinating too and I’m very glad to have visited Orlando and Las Vegas, where I of course met so many of the people I had talked to throughout the years, so wonderful to put names to faces.
“In those days we hosted the Prestige Club dinners at GIS and they were fun. We started out with around 40 guests in the first year and grew and grew to an invitation list of around 160. I think it was one of the most desirable events at the show. We had an impressive list of speakers.
“From time to time I have worked on special projects and have loved the challenge, particularly if someone has told me it’s going to be difficult. That really fires me up, and I have always got a thrill from achieving.”
Diane says that despite its growth Bernhard and Company still feels like a small business to her because of the way it’s run. “Stephen is still so involved and he does look after his staff. He’ll always do anything he can to help. Life is never, ever dull.”
The highlights for Diane have been getting The Queens Award for Industry, Prince Edward coming to open the new Rugby offices, and the opening of the new Haverhill factory last October.
Diane still lives in Rugby where she was born and educated. Retirement is not quite what it seems as Diane has agreed to work on special projects for the sales team.
“I can’t really imagine life without Bernhard, but now I have more time to spend with my grandchildren and I do love to cook, so I think the balance is about right.”
Bernhard and Company www.bernhard.co.uk