The family’s home was a ‘2 up 2 down’ house in a small mining village near Bishop Auckland, County Durham. John grew up in this rural environment and was influenced greatly by his Grandfather, Dick. Dick spent his early life as a miner and was renowned in the village for his ability to fix anything electrical or mechanical. Dick even constructed his own television from a kit he acquired. John was deeply intrigued by this and this exposure was to shape his interest in engineering and mechanics.
John’s business sense was also being formed at this early age. Adapting to difficult circumstances and making the best out of tough situations were commonplace to the Elliott family as a whole.
John had limited success at school. As a child from a single parent family John was entitled to free school meals, a privilege he would have preferred to be without as being special and different is not what a school kid especially wants. For many years John felt that having no academic success at school was a significant weakness. He now believes it was a benefit since he feels other than the 3 R’s it is more important to learn by doing rather than be taught.
While at school John and his brothers rented land and started rearing hens, this developed into a business producing and selling eggs. This was the first enterprise in the Elliott family.
On leaving school at 15 John gained an apprenticeship with a local company called Westool. An apprenticeship to be a draftsman was a significant achievement in an environment where unemployment was high and about half of John’s peers went down the local mining pits. After a 5 year apprenticeship John became a Draftsman at the age of 21.
Shortly after, John left Westool and moved to the Science Research Council’s High Energy Laboratory in Rutherford. John was starting to be recognised as an innovator and, with a decade of engineering experience behind him, could devise solutions to complex problems.
After a number of years John returned to his native North East and took a position with Westair Dynamics as a Sales Application Engineer. This lasted for a couple of years, after which he was to make a decision that would change his life forever.
His first order was for 16 dehumidifiers designed and manufactured by John himself. John and his brothers set up the sheet metal work with a local factory and manufactured all the units in a shed – which was normally part of the poultry farm.
John delivered all 16 units to the customer on time. The customer was so pleased that they ordered another 70 units – as so Ebac was born.
The early days of Ebac were pretty typical of any new business. Long days, little money, basic premises and everyone mucking in. From sheet metal, product design and manufacture to the paint shop, the entire team got involved. Whatever work the team couldn’t undertake they subcontracted until they could learn how to do it.
The word was beginning to spread about Ebac - the reputation they had for designing and manufacturing dehumidifiers was growing. Even at this early stage the philosophy of Ebac was to reinvest any profit it made into developing the business and new products. An approach that has stood in the business in good stead for 44 years.
It took 7 years from inception for Ebac to reach £1 million turnover. However there never was a grand plan. John’s approach of understanding customers’ needs and “always try to make a better mousetrap” was the key. Ebac were and still are highly focused on working out what people really value and offering it to them.
For companies to thrive through bad times as well as good times fundamental things have to be done right. As well as understanding the all important customers a companies must have good well motivated staff at all levels. ”
During the 80’s Ebac continued to grow despite tough economic conditions. Ebac entered the domestic dehumidifier market and quickly established a dominant market share and Ebac products were found in all the major High Street retailers.
By this time the profile of an exceptional entrepreneur was beginning to emerge - a champion of true British values and belief in British business. At this time Ebac was bucking trends as UK manufacturing was floundering when Far Eastern imports were hitting practically every domestic manufacturing market hard. UK manufacturers were shutting up shop or moving production overseas. Not Ebac. John looked for alternative ways to compete - product differentiation, lowering cost of production, diversification into complimentary markets. Ebac were not only going to survive through a tough economic period but they would flourish.
By now Ebac’s business had grown considerably. A British manufacturing company who had survived and flourished - a totally exceptional achievement.
The John Elliott Philosophy is at the core of this success. When an organisation grows over forty years using the ‘same approach’ it means two things; the way that organisation works is sustainable over a significant period of time which means the way it works is the way it changes the way it works. Like Darwin’s evolution of the species, organisations must be able to adapt internally and externally to changes in their environment, or die.
True to John’s philosophy, Ebac continues to evolve. 2016 sees the launch of Ebac’s new venture – Washing Machines. For the first time in over 40 years you can now buy a British made Washing Machine. Ebac’s washers have some of the latest technology around – hot fill, touch screen controls and outstanding quality of manufacture. The beginning of yet another new chapter in John’s business life.