Scotland’s largest and leading fencing supplier, James Smith Fencing, based at Lynnbank, Kirkcudbright, is celebrating 70 years of being very much a family business, with an enviable work ethic ‘bred’ into the team.

Since December, 2014, the business has traded under James Smith Fencing and now is currently run by directors Ian Smith, his wife Lee, James Smith, Anna Campbell (nee Smith) and Lucy Wallace (nee Smith).

However, it was the late James Smith, who established the business in 1950. He was born on the farm Mill o’ Plunton, in Borgue, and the family had been there since 1786 – he had also been a tenant at Glenquicken Farm, Creetown, for a few years along with his brother, Alex.

He soon started fencing works and associated works such as dyking, draining and agricultural construction as part of making the farming business pay.

“There really wasn’t much my dad, Jimmy wouldn’t have a go at. He worked as a sheep shearer for eight weeks during the summer months, he was an extremely hard-working man,” Ian told The SF.

“Dad used to shear sheep all day and come back at night to sharpen blades until as late as midnight for his own shearing team, as well as our customers,” he added. And all that whilst running the James Smith and Co business, where turnover is now split 80% to fencing, animal comfort and roofing and cladding divisions, whilst the remaining 20% lies in the hand of fencing contracting works.

The Scottish Farmer:

The entrance to the James Smith Fencing yard Ref:RH010116116

There were no ‘wet days’ off with Jimmy Smith and some employees would argue that nothing has changed as his son, Ian, is very like-minded! He first joined his father in business in 1978 and he worked for 12 years as a fencer before gradually expanding the company into one of the largest fencing suppliers in the country.

“I do believe that the success of James Smith Fencing, or JSF as we’re more widely known today, is partly due to the time I spent as a fencer. Gaining a broad knowledge of both the industry and the materials when dealing with customers is invaluable and allows enquires to be dealt with on a much more personal level,” said Ian.

“We strive to provide a personal service which ensures each and every customer and order regardless of size is treated with the same level of importance and efficiency as the next and of course the last,” he added.

James Smith and Co were carrying out fencing works locally when Ian Smith left school in 1978. The company turnover at this point was £60,000.

As time went on this side of the business was never ignored, but Ian started up selling fencing materials and very gradually turnover increased to £1m in 1989, the year Ian and Lee got married. Since then, gradual expansion has been a key aim and expansion only happened when profit allowed it to happen.

“It is possibly an old-fashioned method, but that was Jimmy Smith’s values and we are extremely proud to not have let him down. JSF has a current turnover of over £8m. We have worked and built up the business to make it what it is today,” added Ian.

The name, James Smith and Co has not disappeared, as the family own 500 acres of land adjacent to the business yard that is let out as seasonal grazings, but it has also allowed the company to increase its yard size from three acres to eight acres! There is never an issue with storage at JSF!

JSF holds considerable amounts of stocks of fence posts, wire and mesh, livestock fencing, security fencing, fencing tools, fittings and more all at a reasonable value for money. The team are available at most reasonable times to assist with any fencing, animal comfort, roofing and cladding enquiries.

The Scottish Farmer:

JSF have its own fleet of lorries, which keeps delivery in house and to a high standard Ref:RH010116102

It is still very much a family affair, with both Ian and Lee’s daughters, Anna and Lucy, now having young families of their own but still working for the company part-time – and they have indicated they wish to do so in the future.

Son James is a professional showjumper – with some major success both at home and abroad – but as well as this he is often found behind the wheel of the company’s HGVs. James is familiar with most of the customers and is always an early bird when driving, so he is back home to work with his horses later in the day.

Anna’s husband, Steven, has been with the company for seven years and has turned into a great all-rounder as he splits his time between being an HGV driver delivering materials and is office based working on fencing sales for the rest of the time.

On top of the family, the team consists of 25 employees as well as five or six self-employed contractors who work with JSF on a regular basis. “We would like to mention everyone but it is not easy, we do feel that a company is only as good as its staff and we could not be any more proud of our team,” added Ian.

“We feel it says it all that between 12 of our employees they have 253 years of service – including Jackie Donley, who has worked across the generations for the Smiths clocking up 48 years service!”

The Scottish Farmer:

The backroom staff who make the business tick – Jon Newbury, Emma Victoria Fortnum, Lucy Wallace, Kim Lockhart and Gary Simpson Ref:RH010116098

The team diversified into selling roofing and cladding, which began when the company bought over the well-known and respected business of MS Muir some years ago. This division is now under the careful eye of the cladding sales manager, Kim Lockhart, who is a local farmer’s wife living just a mile along the road for the ‘base’. Kim has worked with JSF since 2002 and is assisted by another local man, Gary Simpson.

JSF imports large quantities of animal comfort mattress systems and rubber matting, as well as slat rubber. Ian McCreath is their man on the ground, with office back up from Emma Fortnum, the fencing sales manager who helps ‘keep him on the straight and narrow’.

So what is next for JSF? “We want to continue to offer the best service and honest advice as we always have, by building up strong relationships with our customers and suppliers,” said Ian.

“We pride ourselves on our prompt payment of suppliers and we are confident that they are behind us when needed and that means we are consistently buying the highest quality material at the most competitive rates. Our business doesn’t ever seek credit so secure great rates and service.

“That means we have a lot of loyal customers and we are now dealing with the third generation of many of our agricultural account holders. We feel it is so important to have everything in our accounts department running smoothly and my wife, Lee, is very much head of this department!

“Lee is dedicated to keeping our books in order and is in the office for at least 10 hours every day assisted by Jon Newbury so there really is nothing that gets past her!”

And what of the future? “We have plans up our sleeve to get our turnover figure to more than £10m! Just watch this space!” concluded Ian.