Brian Richardson discovered quite early on in life while growing up on a dairy farm in West Yorkshire that he did not have the practical skills needed for farming, but he did have a talent for numbers.
After college he got a job on a management training scheme with G Morrell & Sons, an agribusiness in Harrogate covering different sectors.
After four years there he moved to the JSR Farming Group and it was his time there that had a profound influence on Mr Richardson.
“I worked with someone called John Rhymer and he was one of my mentors over the years,” Mr Richardson, 56, says.
“He made me a director of the business when I was just 26 and I was given a lot of responsibility.”
While with the group, he became the managing director of JSR Healthbred, an internationally renowned pig genetics business.
“After 15 years there, I went on to run two farming co-operatives, which were both in Lincolnshire and then I came here,” he says. “I met the directors and there was a very clear understanding of the potential in the business and the people in the business and stakeholders in the business.
“The staff were also very aware of the rural and farming community and, after running two co-ops, I was keen on that.”
Another experience which stimulated his interest in H&H was the fact that, in 1998, he was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship – funding provided to individuals which allows them to research topics of interest in farming, food, horticulture or rural sectors.
This allowed him to travel in both Europe and Australasia to see a variety of different ways in which agriculture can be run. “I am not a ‘muddy boots’ person in terms of farming, but I did get a real feel for working with farmers,” he says. “My whole career has been agriculture-based and I see myself as an agribusiness person.”
Mr Richardson has been chief executive of H&H Group since 2008. When he arrived at H&H, the company employed about 160 people and since his arrival that has almost doubled to about 300.
This has happened through both organic expansion and the takeover of other businesses.
He says: “My first impression was that it was a very traditional business with a lot of people doing a very good job.
“There was a very solid business in place and it has been my job to develop that.”
The group’s results from the last six months of 2016, published in March, would suggest he has done just that.
An increased turnover of £7.9 million represents a rise of 11 per cent over the same period in 2015, up from £7.1m. Profits before tax are also up to £805,000 from £340,000. The group’s average share price has risen from £26.48 to £27.85 for the same period in 2015.
One of the biggest issues Mr Richardson has addressed is making sure that H&H does not limit itself just to Cumbria but also has interests in other parts of the north of England and southern Scotland.
He is also keen to build on H&H’s already strong reputation with its customers.
“We have a great team of staff and a big group of stakeholders – 25,000 customers – and I think it is about delivering an effective business to them and to develop as required.”