Mandatory Jogs & CraigmoreOnline Blogs

Mandatory Jogs & CraigmoreOnline Blogs

My first post is being written after a rather murderous 3 mile jog; the first proper exercise in about 6 months…

Having just turned 50 and inheriting poor genes resulting in raised blood pressure and a fairly terrible cholesterol score my encouraging and rather forceful sporty family have forced me back onto the treadmill. Like most people in 2016 who work long hours it is always hard to squeeze in time to exercise, but now that I am half way to my target age of 100 (target weights are not for me!!) I must make more time to look after my body. Let me say this, CraigmoreOnline does not sell exercise equipment or Zumba DVDs, and we certainly do not give fitness advice. However, safety at work or home is important to us and to our suppliers such as 3M, Karcher and SIP.

I suppose I should introduce myself… I am Geoff Baird, the founder and managing director of Craigmore and CraigmoreOnline.

Based in Northern Ireland; CraigmoreOnline is the online shop for our bricks and mortar business called Craigmore (no surprise there!)
Craigmore was started over 25 years ago but my business journey goes back to my teenage years. Perhaps I will get to that story in the future.

I have no experience of writing a blog. I have spent the last few months listening to advice, opinions and trawling the internet reading other people’s blogs. …But after all that I can say there is no magic formula and no perfect way, so bear with me!

Here’s what I will state right now, this blog will not be about blatantly trying to sell you more stuff. This blog will not attempt to teach you stuff you know already or will never need to know anyway.
I will always welcome your comments, good or bad and I will always be open and honest because that’s just who I am.

As a fond reader you can find anything from fiction, autobiography and business on my book shelves.
A particular favourite is Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
An addition to the original is a small book with daily quotes and if they are useful or I just like them I share them with others…

I recently read this: “It is possible to be busy – very busy – without being very effective”

Think on that, comment at will, change if you can.

P.S. These fails are guaranteed to cheer up even the dullest Thursday.


Craigmore Karcher Sponsored Porsche at Circuit of Ireland 2015

Craigmore Sponsored Porsche
There may have been glamour models and Hollywood A-listers among the competitors on Circuit of Ireland 2015 Rally, but there was only one real crowd puller – the Tuthill Porsche 911 R-GT sponsored by Craigmore Karcher Centre. Driven by Robert Woodside, with Allan Harryman on the notes, the unmistakable flat-six reverberated around the Mourne Mountains on Good Friday, evoking magical memories of past events.

The Circuit of Ireland has a deep connection with the Stuttgart supercars. During the early 1970’s, the 911 scored back to back wins in the hands of Jack Tordoff and Cathal Curley. Although, Porsche power and ‘The Circuit’ became intrinsically entwined in the mid-1980s. A tie up with title sponsors Rothmans saw Henri Toivonen, Bernard Beguin, Saeed Al-Hajri and the Millstreet maestro, Billy Coleman, drive DRA-run 911 SC RS’s in consecutive events.

The final Rothmans Porsche appearance in 1986 proved to be an unhappy one. Early on day 2 of the event, Al-Rajhi crashed his car heavily and had to retire. Teammate Billy Coleman remained, but his car would also succumb to accident damage. However, just under thirty years later, the 911 was reunited with the inscrutable Irish tarmac, thanks to Tuthill Porsche and the new R-GT rules.
Craigmore Sponsored PorscheThese regulations have enabled Tuthill to take a stock 997 GT3 and turn it into a rather cooking, FIA approved rally car. After a number of outings in World Rally Championship, most notably in the hands of François Delecour, Tuthill brought the 911 to Northern Ireland for a test session in mid-March. The purpose: to see if they could rouse interest for an Easter excursion. Robert Woodside liked what he saw and happily, a deal was struck.
Craigmore Sponsored Porsche
A quick look around the service park, the special stages or social media last weekend, and it was clear that the 911 was the star of the show. Whilst the spectators flocked to the ditches to see the ding-dong battle between Robert Barrable and eventual winner, Craig Breen, no-one went anywhere until the distinctive matt black machine had roared over the crests and dips of the County Down countryside.
When the car failed to complete day 1 due to clutch problems, there was a palpable outpouring of public anguish. Not just from rally fans; but from casual observers to the downright curious. They may not have understood the intricacies of the actual event, but they all recognised the 911. It was the one car everyone could connect with.

The Tuthill mechanics worked late into the night and the resurrection was complete. The car took to the roads for the second day and reinvigorated Woodside brought the car home for a first finish on Irish soil.
Craigmore Karcher Sponsored Porsche
Indeed, it’s fair to say that everyone hopes this is the first of many finishes for the Tuthill Porsche in Ireland. The Tuthill team clearly liked what they saw and have expressed a strong desire to come back. Needless to say, the spectators can’t wait to have the car back! With Killarney Rally of the Lakes only weeks away, the prospect of a Porsche howling through Moll’s Gap would be very special sight to behold.

Story broadcast by and images supplied by Really Mean Sounds and written by Chris Andrews

Living Life Between Castaway and The Terminal: Doing Business in Northern Ireland


International business cannot survive without travel but when you live on the most westerly isle in Europe the travel often becomes tiring.

Today is the 20th of February and so far in 2017 I have been to Stuttgart, London, Paris, my diary says Birmingham next week and London again the week after. Travel time from my home to London is normally 4-5 hours, Paris is 5-6 hours and Stuttgart is 7-8 hours… My life feels like a mix between Castaway and The Terminal. Tom Hanks may be my favourite actor but constantly feeling stranded on an island takes it toll.

This leaves me thinking why would I want to continue to live in Northern Ireland. Why not move closer to the major cities and population centres of Europe?

Chain Reaction who recently merged with Wiggle have announced the closing of their NI distribution hub and the relocation to Wiggle near Birmingham. All of our major suppliers are based in the UK or European mainland and yet we are based in Northern Ireland. But then I remember why I live in Northern Ireland… I just love it!

My family and my wife’s family all live here. I can drive from Portstewart in the North to Cork in the deep South in less than five hours. We have the Giant’s Causeway, ‘the eighth wonder of the world’, we produce Guinness and Bushmills Irish Whiskey, we have the best football fans in the world, we built the Titanic (I know it sank but we still built it), and all around we have scenery and attractions where a person can lose themselves for days.

Less people means less traffic. Less traffic means easier journeys. Easier journeys means less time driving. Less time driving means more time together.

So even though travel outside of the island can be a pain… I have concluded that the quality of life on our small island outweighs the hassle when one needs to leave and the delivery service from here to anywhere in the world is first class. I still prefer a forty-five minute journey to the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa than a six hour journey to Paris. That being said, having just returned from a weekend spent in the Lancaster Hotel in Paris (a gift from a friend who booked but could not go); I am convinced it is good to leave your island and spend time in other wonderful places, whilst always knowing your island awaits you on your return.

It is easy for all of us to adopt an island mentality of “things are good so I will never leave”. But I continue to encourage people, young and old to check out another island, to go see somewhere else. I know it can be a hassle but many times the rewards outweigh the hassle.

So I say “leave your island, go explore, try new things”, and if you want to, then return to your island and feel safe again.

It’s 2017 and the advice I have been given on the first week: Change or Die

It’s halfway through the first month of 2017 and already people are asking when is the next holiday

Some have already booked that summer break, some are just going or just back from the annual ski trip and others are thinking about a quick weekend to the local spa resort, Slieve Donard, Newcastle.

I am just back from a great Karcher dealer conference in Stuttgart, Germany. Thank you Karcher for treating us like kings and queens, sorting out alternative flights when BA cancelled for no reason and for launching us into 2017 with a raft of new and exciting products. My plans for 2017 are pretty much set already, at least from a business point of view, new products, new launches, new staff and this week a celebration with two members of staff who have been with me for 25 years. Congratulations to Norman and Derek who have been 25 years on the roads of Northern Ireland assisting customers and flying the company flag.

As I have been reflecting over the past 25 years and looking forward to the next 25 I have been reminded again that even though we all lay plans and have many long term dreams we truthfully have no idea of how our lives can sometimes be changed in an instant. An accident at work or on the roads, news from our doctor which rocks our world, the passing of a close friend or a loved one, the loss of our job and our security or for the lucky few all your numbers come up on the lottery and financially you are set up for life.

I know I love plans and I sadly still carry my faithful Filofax with all my appointments, important dates, phone numbers and passwords for everything, I like to think I can predict future trends and market changes, that is my job as managing director of a fast growing business. In my personal life I am somewhat laid back, I have a super wife who plans most of my social and domestic life, our weekends together, our children’s birthday surprises, doctor, dentist, hairdresser and family get togethers.

Change is coming in 2017…

I plan to lose some weight and use the gym more, I plan to work harder but take more time off and I plan to resist the urge to just run away and hide from a world that seems to get crazier with each passing year. We will see Brexit (whatever that means), Trump in the Whitehouse, yet another election in Northern Ireland and predictions of a heat wave in July which normally turns out to be a flood of biblical proportions!!

The keynote speaker at the Karcher conference had a presentation title which said “Change or Die”, I worried he had been speaking to my doctor or worse still, my wife. It turned out he was referring to the digital change and not my health.

Perhaps in 2017 change will happen to all of us and whether it is good or bad we will have to embrace it and work through whatever it is, a famous motivational author said this “If we want to change a situation, we first have to change ourselves and to change ourselves efficiently we first have to change our perceptions”.

What looks good may not always end well, what seems unbelievable often is very believable and sometimes disaster brings stories of bravery, human endeavour and hope for a brighter future. Change is coming, how you embrace it might define what 2017 will look like in July 2018.


The anticipation is building… tension is rising…the big day is almost here…

Small children are trying their best to be good, homes are being prepared and the big man is putting the final touches to his plan!

Yes its Manchester United v Sunderland, Old Trafford, Manchester 3pm on the 26th December.

What else could be more important?

You see we all get excited about different things, I know an old bearded gentleman will travel the world in the next couple of days, break into your home and leave something you have always wanted under your Christmas tree. But seriously, Manchester United are on a winning roll and Sunderland are struggling, it’s an easy three points.

I am of course joking (although I do follow Man Utd) Christmas is a great time to escape our normal work life and meet with family and friends to eat, chat, watch repeats of old movies and fall asleep at the fire. 2016 has been a very busy year at CraigmoreOnline, new records set, new staff brought into the team and exciting plans finalised for 2017.

But at the end of it all we are just normal people who in 2016 have been shocked by Brexit, scared by Trump, enthralled by Rio and made very proud by both Irish football teams in France.

However I cannot write this at the end of 2016 and not speak of Aleppo, Nice, Brussels and now Berlin. Having grown up in the Northern Ireland and lived through forty years of terrorist attacks I am still moved to tears when I see reports of innocent men, women and children murdered and injured; lives changed forever in a split second attack. I walked the promenade in Nice in June just before Northern Ireland’s first group match in Euro 2016 and the shocking images of the 14th July attack stunned all those who had experienced the French warmth and hospitality there in the summer.

Aleppo has been in the news for so long that I think most of us no longer understand the conflict or even know who the good guys or the bad guys really are. But this much I do know, children do not deserve to die, hospitals should not be bombed and people should not be starved to death in 2016.

So I urge us all to be peace makers in 2017, to look out for each other, to speak to our neighbours, to look out for the vulnerable, the weak, the lonely, to go that extra bit simply because we all know it’s the right thing to do!

I want to end on a positive note and not write a blog which is so dull and depressing that even I won’t want to read another one in 2017! Below is Kayleigh Rodgers from Killard House School in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah! This should put a smile on all our faces as we see how hope overcomes circumstance and how we can each be encouraged about 2017. To be inspired to smile and rejoice at the air in our lungs and the sun as it rises and sets around the world each day.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Gift Ideas for the Welding Fanatic

Gift ideas for the welding fanaticWelding Gift Ideas

  1. Welder’s Genesis Sticker, £3.50
    I bet you didn’t know welding was mentioned in the Bible… They were next in line after Adam and Eve, someone had to weld all that metal!
  2. MG Chemicals 426-NS Super Wick Desoldering Braid, £3.75
    It may not be fun, but this is actually one of the handyiest items a welder can have. Any welder will tell you that they’re already running out of this stuff.
  3. Welder Tee, £13.99
    Welding takes patience, skill and precision. If you can carry out this task then you can proudly walk by others knowing this design speaks complete truth…. and no one can say anything about it!
  4. Parweld Fingertip Sensitivity Tig Glove £7.19
    Keep those hands of your loved one safe when welding this Christmas so they don’t have an excuse not to hold your hand in public!
  5. Welder Gift Travel Mug, £20.4
    They may not actually be the ‘World’s Best Welder’ but shh, it’s Christmas and you have to play nice if you want a good present in return.

  6. Welder Keychain, £9.71
    This wooden keyring is great for locating keys at the bottom of a bag, however you must be sure your receiver can get past the fact it is a product of woodworking and not metal working and welding… tricky!

  7. Silverline 633505 Welders Apron Full Length, £11.25
    Fingers crossed they’ll enjoy wearing this welding apron so much they’ll resort to using it in the kitchen and Christmas Dinner making will have more helpers!
  8. 3M Speedglas 100 Helmet – Trojan Warrier, £129.95
    At £129.95 we can’t exactly call it a splurge, but this is a real treat for the welder in your life, the bestselling 3M helmet is far more than just a pretty helmet.
  9. Probably Best Welder In The World Hoody, £17.99
    If Carlsberg did Welding…

Customer Service – how often do we commend or condemn?

Well, December has arrived with the usual flurry of bad weather, extra traffic, bad music on your favourite radio station and people doing a count down to the ‘big day’ every morning in your office.

Here in Craigmore we love the whole Christmas thing, we get the Christmas tree up (same one as last year), we get some Christmas music on and we look forward to a few days off. I love the excitement and build up and even though my three children are now young adults (18, 20, 21), Joy still loves to have lots of wrapped gifts under the tree and a few surprise treats no one was expecting.

This week I had an appointment in Belfast with Joy and I reluctantly agreed to do some Christmas shopping in the city centre. Our appointment was over at four o’clock and we headed for Victoria Square Shopping Centre. You can not imagine my delight when we discovered there was no late night shopping, the stores shut at six o’clock, Joy was gutted but I was ecstatic. After a quick dash to Jack Wills, Hotel Chocolat and All Saints we settled in Pizza Express for dinner and a chat.

It was while we chatted in Pizza Express that I once again was struck by the importance of good customer service. Our server was great, polite and courteous, attentive and knowledgeable about the menu, well done. However, at the table to my left was a family of two adults and one young child. They were shown to the table and given a menu, then five minutes… and fifteen minutes… and almost 20 minutes had passed and no one has returned to speak to them. The restaurant was not busy, there were plenty of staff but no one came back. I am not a patient person and the little family were saints in my mind, but I could take it no more… I called a passing server and explained the situation and asked them to please act. I am pleased to say they did, and the hungry family were duly saved from starvation in a Belfast restaurant.

Serving customers well has always been a pillar of Craigmore, we do all we can to understand customer’s needs and expectations, we go the entire mile to ensure best value and best service in our industry.

Of course we don’t claim to always get it right, but when it goes wrong we move swiftly to make it right at Craigmore. Customer feedback is vitally important and we value it and respond to the good and the bad.

I like to give praise and thanks when appropriate and I believe in speaking out when the service is below standard, and I would encourage others to do the same. In a world of caution and political correctness I feel we are too frightened to say something was good or bad, we need to get past this and be prepared to speak up when needed.

I fear my escape from the Christmas shop may be short-lived and I will once more be thrust into the scrum of people desperate to spend their hard earned cash in pursuit of that perfect gift. So as we all embark on this perilous adventure in the next few weeks I encourage you to say “thanks and well done” when you are well served and “no thanks and please try harder” when you are not well served.

“Customers may forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. ” Anonymous


Political Volcanoes and White Walkers

My continued quest to remain healthy does bring some benefits -this week it was perspective…

As I walked in Tollymore Forest Park this week during a glorious sunny autumnal afternoon I was reminded of the beauty which surrounds us and the ease in which we can access the great outdoors. It is definitely the “great” outdoors when you are literally walking on the set of Game of Thrones – See Proof Here. (It made its mark as the Haunted Forest, where the White Walkers began their march into the realm of men.) As I spent time with my wife exercising in the beautiful countryside of Northern Ireland,  with the Mountains of Mourne to my back and the Irish Sea to my front I was left feeling that the world just keeps on turning.

In a month when we have had an opportunity to remember those who lost their lives in two world wars and countless conflicts to ensure our freedom and liberty. We must never lose sight of the fact that we have the power to vote our leaders in or out. Always be thankful we live in a democracy. We should not be lazy when given the chance to be involved in how our country is governed.

Great entertainers and great leaders have always interested me.

Business people like Richard Branson and Bill Gates; leaders like Margaret Thatcher and J. F. Kennedy; sportsmen like Juan Manuel Fangio and Jessica Ennis Hill. When I watch a documentary about these people or read some of the many books and features written about them, I see people with a deep desire to be great in their specific field whilst also having a human spirit which endeared them to others in their sphere of influence and on a much wider scale. There is much that we can learn from these people, both from well made decisions and poor ones. We all have to plough our own furrow in life and work hard to leave a mark in business, sport, community and our family.

Could I really write to you all and not mention the minor news that took place this month?

Donald Trump is the President Elect of the USA… I doubt many of us ever thought we would say those words. Hillary Clinton thought she was a sure winner. The pundits and pollsters said she was a sure winner. The bookies paid out early for fear of major losses. Yet, Clinton lost. The key point emerging right now is that most people were simply fed up with the current political elite and that their conversations on change had been ignored for too long. In Europe the Brexit vote was a very similar outpouring of angst and anxiety at a political system which appeared to ignore the many and listen to the few.

Although political volcanoes will continue to erupt; we each have the power to influence our families and our communities for good, and I would encourage everyone to make an effort and do just that.

“A bruise is a lesson… and each lesson makes us better.”
George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones


Geoff Baird

Is it Normal to Fear Free Time?

This month I was diagnosed with fear of free time.

Since my last blog to you I have been faced with less free time than ever, yet, all I could think of this past week was exactly that…

Another month gone – only 52 Days until Christmas, and only 59 days until 2017. CraigmoreOnline has again posted a record month (a big thank you to all our new and repeat customers). Due to this fact, free time was only a luxury I received when going to sleep.

This week I met with one of our biggest suppliers; Karcher as we finalized plans for 2017…
We discussed new products, new and improved offers, technology and we found oursleves pondering what the future may be like.
Driverless cars are a constant news item, robotic vacuums or lawnmowers are now commonplace and it seems every electronic company is trying to produce a robot to do everything for us.
With all these inventions to ‘make life easier’ will the result be more free time?

I began contemplating my life if I had more free time on my hands…

I don’t play golf or an instrument and I certainly don’t run marathons (see last post) or cycle down mountains.
However, I do love the sauna in the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, Co. Down (if you have never been I would add it to your to-do list). But can you really go there on a weekly basis?
On Tuesday, upon discussing the subject of free time with my father I was told stories of his early years of retirement; from travelling up the Amazon river to climbing high Andes mountains to visit missionaries he had supported for many years. He talked of his pedigree Limosin cattle herd and the enjoyment of visiting the cattle market to see other men his age with similar free time on their hands.

I realised after this that my fear of free time stems from the fact I am a self-confessed workaholic.

Even after all my father’s retirement escapades it was short-lived, and within the year he was back on the farm working.
Free time is the result of not working, and to me that makes no sense when I love my job. I have run my own business from the age of 25 and I don’t see why I couldn’t carry on doing this for another 25 years.

Steve Jobs passed away 5 years ago last month at the age of 56. He was the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple. With his vision of affordable personal computers, he launched one of the largest industries of the past decades while still in his early 20s. Steve Jobs remains one of the most inventive and energetic minds in technology.
One of his most prolific quotes is a challenge for us all to consider:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Steve Jobs