Three years working in the “boring” Inland Revenue prompted Tim Cook to change careers.
Now, after 40 distinguished years in the flour milling industry, the long-serving managing director of ADM has announced his retirement at the age of 63.
Tim will step down from his post at the end of December, after perhaps the most challenging year the industry has faced in recent times. Since March he has overseen the smooth running of seven ADM sites across the UK while ensuring the welfare of more than 450 staff during the Covid pandemic.
Despite early distribution issues, he says the industry has responded superbly to the demands of lockdown.
“Flour milling has become a 24/7 automated process, so production was never an issue,” he says. “On site, safety has obviously been the main focus – but everybody has worked sensibly together to ensure the measures we put in place were successful.”
Originally from Ipswich,. Tim took a job as a tax man after leaving college – a decision he soon regretted.
“After three years I was bored with the civil service and thinking that there had to be more to life than this. I happened to see an ad in the local paper – Cranfield Brothers were looking for trainees – so I applied and got an interview.
“As a kid I was always aware of the area’s strong milling heritage, but I had no idea of the variety of opportunities on offer. As part of the traineeship I got to work in the mill, the warehouse and the lab, as well as in sales, finance and distribution. At the end of the year I was asked which I preferred, and I told them I wanted a career in sales.”
When Cranfield was ultimately taken over by Allied Mills, Tim became an area manager. After a stint as commercial director for Kingsgate Foods he returned to Allied in 2001 as sales director.
Looking back, Tim believes the opportunity to experience all areas of the milling business at an early stage in his career was crucial to his own success.
“If you understand how it works then you have empathy with the product and the customer. That’s why it’s such a shame that traineeships like mine no longer exist, and why I would like to see them back.”
As for his own future, Tim says he is looking forward to enjoying retirement with his wife Christina. The couple have three grown-up children and recently became grandparents for the first time.
And while one-year-old Jude is the apple of his eye, Tim admits he’ll be spending plenty of time on his other main passion.
“Over the years I’ve built up a collection of Alfa Romeos,’ he says. “I’ve now got three, including a 1978 Spider which is my pride and joy. All in all, I think I’ve got plenty to keep me busy!”