Keep It In The Family


Barry Wilkinson, managing director at Park Electrical Distributors, has been working alongside his daughter, PR and communications manager, Rachel Wilkinson since 2013. Formed in 1990, Park is the North East’s largest independent electrical wholesaler, with branches in Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle and Cramlington.


Barry Wilkinson managing director

I am not from an entrepreneurial background, I was born and raised in Langley Park, Durham. My father, Robert, was a miner and my mother, Joyce, worked in a sausage factory. I was the youngest of three siblings by 18 years. By the time I was of working age, both my parents had retired.

Bringing Rachel into the business didn’t initially cross my mind as she was carving a career in marketing and communications and her skill set didn’t initially feel of value to Park Electrical. Rachel was working in Leeds and driving 160-mile round trip every day and I wished she worked closer to home and didn’t have to drive so far. It’s ironic that my parental instincts were the beginning of the realisation that her knowledge and skills were exactly what my company needed.

I made it clear from the outset there would be no favouritism, she would have to work hard and earn the respect from directors, management and co-workers. I’m pleased to say that after a shaky start, Rachel has grown into the role and has a natural flair for business and people.

Rachel has strong empathy levels and relates to all those she works with. This is a great skill and priceless in business, when it’s accompanied with intelligence and hard work. Rachel is a breath of fresh air when it comes to modern business, her youthful approach and understanding of sales, marketing and commerce generally makes her contribution invaluable. Because of all these attributes, Rachel is mature beyond her years as a businesswoman and this is what I admire the most.

I would like to think Rachel has picked up traits from my character and personality that have stood up well for me over my 35-year career in wholesaling. I’m a people person and people are what make business work. It’s important to show respect at all levels and always be honest, this will get you a long way and when you add in enthusiasm and hard work you have the ingredients of success. I’m sure Rachel has learnt this from me.

Rachel Wilkinson PR and communications manager

Before I joined Park Electrical Distributors, I worked for Tunstall Healthcare, Yorkshire in its communications department. I was fortunate to travel all around the UK, Ireland and Europe meeting healthcare professionals and visiting patients, experiencing first-hand the benefits the telecare systems brought. I gained lots of experience writing case studies and press releases and worked closely with their marketing team. At this time I was living in Leeds having graduated with a degree in Public Relations.

However, I decided I wanted to get onto the property ladder and bought a house back in Durham (always been a home bird at heart), which meant I was travelling a lot! I was also ambitious and craving new challenges to progress my career. I had a few conversations with my dad, asking advice on my situation and we realised Park had never really utilised marketing as such despite how successful the business was. I knew it would only benefit the growth to introduce it.

Working with my dad has taught me not to rush decisions, to think about the outcomes and consequences but also not to be afraid to sometimes take the risk! As a family, we are pretty good at leaving work at work although it sometimes spills over. My sister has told us off for talking business when we have been out for family meals a few times!

I admire many things about my dad and one being the unbelievable mental strength he has both in business and in home life. I’ve never known anything like it, and would hope that I can develop mine into even a fraction of the levels he possesses. His ability to understand people, relate to them, and know how to really bring out the best in them is such an important skill in business and the staff at Park are a testament to this. Finally, his knowledge, I can’t think of anyone else I’d go to for advice on every aspect of my life whether it be business or personal. I know he’s developed, learned and captured this knowledge over the years through self-teaching, learning from others and experiences. This is definitely something I try to do, always learn, and hopefully I’ll be able to do the same for my children in the years to come.


Credit: Northern Insight