Obituary: Julian Niman, the founder and Chairman of distributor Nimans, passed away at his Manchester home on January 12th. He is known in the industry as a market building entrepreneur, and regarded his staff as one big family.
Nimans' roots can be traced back to Julian's early interest in amateur radio. He made his first radio aged 10 and would often ride his bike around Bury with equipment bolted to the handlebars to see how far he could transmit. Julian joined Bury Radio Club where he met ‘old timers' and learned how to build aerials, transmitters and receivers. After leaving school, Julian's father, Cyril (who ran a wholesale jewellery business) persuaded the course tutor at Salford Technical College to accept Julian for a City and Guilds radio and television servicing course, despite not having the required qualifications. Julian passed with flying colours.
His first job was as a radio engineer for the Metropolitan Police, followed by a stint at Sharp Electronics as a service engineer. At that time his father was running his business in Cheetham Hill, selling costume jewellery to market traders and small shops. Julian spent most of his spare time helping out behind the scenes in the back office where he also began to repair radios and sell digital watches, clocks, calculators and CB radio equipment, as well as cordless phones. Word quickly spread about Julian's skills and he formed a limited company in 1985.
The business flourished and the Government's deregulation of BT provided a catalyst for even greater and faster expansion. Julian invested £8,000 in an Apple Mac desktop publisher - unheard of in those days - and overnight typed price lists that became professional looking brochures which were used at specialist exhibitions where much of the early business came from. The 1988/89 postal strike provided the next springboard for growth, and the decision to sell fax machines - even though they retailed at over £1,000 - proved another money spinner.
Having expanded the business significantly Julian decided to relocate in 1990, moving his 25 staff - including Richard Carter, Chris Musgrave and Roy Sarkissian who are still with the company today - to a 15,000 sq ft site at Broadway in Salford. As the company continued to grow over the next decade, more room was required so Julian bought two adjacent buildings, creating 35,000 sq ft of office and warehouse space. The next big milestone came in 2004 when the development of a new £6 million purpose-built home was created at Agecroft, housing a state-of-the art logistics operation and modern office space.
On March 24th 2009 Nimans acquired long-time rival Rocom. The deal was completed at 4.15am in a Manchester solicitor’s office after months of intense negotiations. Hours later Julian received a standing ovation from staff on his first visit to Rocom's base at Wetherby as the new owner. Next came the acquisition of Videonations in 2012. The following year Julian was recognised for his long industry service by Comms Dealer when he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award. Julian made another acquisition in 2016, Pennine Group.
For those that knew him, Julian was a rare breed. He overcame natural shyness and dyslexia and relied on his gut instinct when making crucial business decisions. His passion for the industry remained as strong as ever and he was in the office virtually every day and never took his foot off the pedal even when battling illness. Last year Nimans broke the £100 million revenue barrier. He viewed all his staff as family and his spirit and mantra to ‘serve the customer' lives on. The board of directors will run the company in his name as a lasting legacy.
Some often referred to Julian and Bob Old, Rocom's founder, as telecoms royalty. Fellow Director and friend David Bennett said Julian's passing was a huge shock but he stressed the directors will continue to run the company as ‘Julian would want us to and continue his legacy'. "Julian saw all of us here as his family and he would want us to carry on serving the customer and running the business in his memory," he said. "Many of us have known Julian for many years, and we will be supporting one another through this difficult time."
Rest in peace Julian, a true comms legend.