Keep On Truckin’ – interview with Matthew Kibble
by Karen Shaw
EDITOR KAREN SHAW TALKS TO COLNE'S 'KING OF THE ROAD' MATTHEW KIBBLE
You may not know the face but you’ll certainly know his name. You may be standing at a bus stop, cycling down a country lane or driving down the M62 and at some point he’ll be there…
Apologies for sounding creepy, but Matthew Kibble is a name you often see plastered on the side of a wagon/truck/lorry and if you attend Colne’s Gala on Saturday June 18th, you’ll see his signature vehicles transporting the festival through the town.
“We’ve got six or seven trucks in the gala this year,”grins Matthew (Managing Director of MKT), “the only disappointing thing is that I don’t get to be the Gala Queen!” He laughs. “I love it. It brings so much joy to so many people, rather than just people walking up and down staring at a couple of classic cars.”
Since 2005, Matthew has kindly donated lorries to use in Colne’s gala. “I’d much prefer to see a procession with the community all dressed up and having fun. It’s great to see the smiles on kids’ faces.
“A few years ago, I was sitting on the wall near the Commercial Pub in jeans and a T-shirt watching the procession going through Colne when a guy leant into me saying, ‘bloody hell… this guy Matthew Kibble’s got some trucks, hasn’t he?’”
Without speaking a word, Matthew nodded in agreement, he certainly did have a lot of trucks…85 to be exact. Not bad when you consider he started at the turn of the century with just one.
Matthew hated school and (despite having a successful business) admits to not being “academic” describing his first ever job at Wellhouse Wires in Barnoldswick as “wasting four years of his life.
“I’d always wanted to drive,” says Matthew, “but, you had to be 21 in those days before you were allowed to drive lorries.” After a few miserable years working in the world of wiring, his dream of trucking was soon to became a reality when he began his driving career with Macfarlane Transport in Leeds and then later began driving for local chap, Graham Guy in 1998.
In the October of that year, after a few months trucking, his boss Graham warned him to start looking for another job. “He said, ‘Look, find another job this Christmas, I’ve had enough, it’s too much grief.’ I immediately said, ‘I’ll take it on!’” says Matthew.
So, in January 1999, Matthew Kibble Transport Ltd was born, with two trucks and one man. At last Matthew had achieved his long-term ambition to drive trucks, never did he foresee that he would soon be giving Eddie Stobart ‘a run for his money’ – within a matter of years this lad would soon be Colne’s very own ‘king of the road’.
In 2008, after almost a decade running his business Matthew was overjoyed to be awarded ‘Haulier of the Year’ at the industry’s prestigious award ceremony. “We’d just expanded the business and moved to Nelson, my fleet was young, everything fell into place and we ended up winning it. I won it alongside another company – Turners of Soham. It’s the only time it’s ever been shared. The judges couldn’t pick a winner. I’ve gone on to judge it since,” says Matthew. “There’s some really slick presentations. Mine was four pages long, had some photos stuck on it, a few words, and a stapler in the corner!
“After eight years it was quite an achievement for me, it was the equivalent of receiving an Oscar!” Later that year, he went on to scoop a Pendle Business Award for Business Person of Year. Life appeared to be going well, his business was blossoming, while his personal life was slowly dying.
Matthew clearly recalls a conversation he’d had with a fellow colleague when he’d decided to ‘go it alone’ and start his own business. “I told him I was ‘going it alone’ and he said ‘I’m not saying don’t do it, but you’ve got to remember you’ve got to give it 110% all the time. That means missing birthdays, Christmas, weekends, you name it. If you’re not going to give it that effort don’t do it.’
“He was right,” says Matthew, dad to daughter Charley, 17, and son Max, 14. “I’ve missed many occasions and milestones over the years, and had to make plenty of sacrifices.”
It was the breakdown of his marriage that made him realise he needed to change his approach to work, by giving 110% he had built a thriving business, but his family circumstances had suffered.
“Everything happens for a reason,” smiles Matthew and when Mark Attwell joined the company as GM in 2014, Matthew describes it as a ‘turning point.’ “Mark has been invaluable within the business. At the time I had around 40 trucks but was losing direction in regard to driving the business forward. I’ve had a lot of good timing,” he smiles.
It’s a lonely place at the top of a company not having anyone to bounce ideas off. “I find myself thinking is this really happening? Something’s going to go wrong. When things are good, I worry about what’s going wrong. You see people that try really hard and they don’t seem to get anywhere, it feels like I’ve cheated somehow.” But over 23 years since its inception, Matthew has strived, grafted and slogged to build a successful business. Where does his work ethic come from?
“It was my grandad who just passed away a couple of weeks ago,” sighs Matthew. “He was a great character. He played in a brass band during the war, and did a lot of smuggling and ducking and diving!”.
Jack Frankland, Matthew’s grandad, had certainly taken advantage of being away and after ‘ducking and diving’ returned back from the war in 1945 with a hefty thousand pounds (a lot of money in those days!) in his pocket, purchased a cobbler’s shop and then later bought the post office on Skipton Road.
Obviously, a clever chap ‘our Jack’, and despite Matthew claiming not to be academic, he’s as bright as a button. With a wily grin, a sharp mind, and a refreshing sense of honesty- it’s plain to see why Matthew has succeeded. “You need drive and ambition. I’ve seen people set up who haven’t got drive and ambition and wonder why they’ve fallen over. Fire in your belly, and that’s the problem nowadays, not many people have got that fire in their belly.” Matthew tells it as it is, he’s certainly full of gumption which is useful when you consider the escalating rising cost of fuel, something which is definitely going to impact his business, especially after the pandemic.
“Last year was just horrific,” says Matthew, “transport went up a lot and it was just relentless. I have an inbuilt fear of increases, because there is always someone who will try and undercut you. You have to be blunt, and stand your ground. It is a ‘ballsy’ approach,” admits Matthew, “there’s a lot of pressure there. It’s not just your livelihood you’re risking. You’re risking the livelihoods of 130 people.”
WHEN THINGS ARE GOOD, I WORRY ABOUT WHAT’S GOING WRONG.
Matthew’s dream had always been to be a lorry driver, he certainly achieved that, but how often does he get out on the road?
“I do miss it. I’d love to be able to get out. I do have a favourite run that I favour up the North East, up round Middlesborough to Newcastle and back and it’s all small deliveries and small shops, and I enjoy that. He goes onto say, “I’ve still got my little pocket diary at home, what I got for the job, how much the tolls were, how much the fuel was, worked my profit out.”
Born and bred around the Langroyd area of Colne, Matthew now lives in Foulridge with his partner of six years, Leonora. “Since meeting Leo, I’ve found real happiness,” smiles Matthew. So, with the love of his life and a tidy amount in the bank, I wondered if Matthew would ever consider sailing off into the sunset…
“We could move wherever we wanted but we just like where we are. We like walking so we often walk into Colne, it only takes three quarters of an hour. Living in a Foulridge is perfect. After growing up here I know so many people. We have everything we need right here!”
ColneLife Summer 2022