John Taylor Turns 80

Julie Marshall / 20th June 2023 / All, Articles

If you’re new to JT Cranes, maybe you’ve wondered — why JT? Does it stand for something, or does it just sound cool?

Well, we do think it sounds cool, of course, but that’s mainly because it stands for the name of our founder and owner — John Taylor. As he’s now turned 80, this seems a great time to have a look at who John is and how he came to found JT Cranes.

 

Farming to Roadbuilding

The first steps John took on his career seem a world away from mini cranes. On leaving school, he immediately got a job on a local farm, working as a general farm hand. One thing that did foreshadow his later career, though, was his appetite for hard work. If any overtime was on offer, John would be the first to put his hand up for it.

However, his sights were set on a higher-earning sector than agriculture, so he began looking around for a better-paid job. He got a job in London with a company called Tyler’s, fulfilling commercial grass cutting contracts. Quite soon, though, he was working for John Laing on construction teams for roads.

John started with Laing as a driver, but before long he’d progressed to being a fitter/driver. He’d recently married Penny, and the young couple moved all over the UK, as John worked on various projects, including the A2 in Kent and the M6 near the Lake District. Eventually, he got the position of fitter in charge at Fareham, where he ran a shift while Penny cared for their young family.

 

Settling Down

By the mid-70s, the children were coming up to school age, and the mobile life they’d been living was no longer ideal. The family settled down, and John got a job with Elstree Plant as a mobile fitter looking after their fleet of crawler cranes.

He then moved on to Liebherr, again as a mobile fitter. This meant that, although the family was now settled, John was spending a good deal time away from home, working all over Europe, as well as carrying out work on oil rigs.

 

John Taylor Crane & Plant Service

Although John loved the work, it wasn’t ideal to be away from Penny and the children so much, and matters came to a head in 1980, when just before Christmas he asked Liebherr for a rise. Their offer of 10p per hour extra was completely unsatisfactory, but when John tried to negotiate, they told him to “take it or leave it.”

John chose to leave it. He went home that day and told Penny he was setting up on his own.  Over the Christmas holiday, he bought a van and established John Taylor Crane & Plant Service. At this point, realising their bluff had been called, Liebherr upped their offer to £1 an hour if John would stay, but he was already resolved. He wanted to work for himself.

The new business again took John all over the country to work on breakdowns of cranes and other kinds of plant — but this time he was working for himself and setting all the terms.

 

The Firm Grows

At first, the firm was just John and his van, but such was the demand his quality work created that it was inevitably going to grow. At weekends and during school holidays, his son Russ worked with John. As soon as he was old enough, in 1988, he passed his driving test and got a works van, so that he could go out on his own. Russ quickly became an integral part of the business, building up his own high standards in the same way that John had.

By this stage, John and Russ were in high demand. They worked with all the major crane brands, including Demag, Grove, Tadano — and even John’s old employer, Liebherr. It became clear that they needed to move up a step.

In the mid-1990s, John rented space at Bourn Airfield and took on a team. This enabled them to carry out more substantial repairs onsite, and after a few years they moved to a site at Great Gransden, which had a workshop, which is still JT Cranes’ home. In 2004 the company became limited, with both Russ and Julie Marshall as shareholders, and it celebrated 40 years in 2021.

In 2006 Russ introduced mini cranes into the business, and the firm won the Jekko dealership in 2016.

 

An Ongoing Story

Now John Taylor has reached 80. A while ago, he stepped back from day-to-day involvement, but JT Cranes is in good hands, with Russ leading us into specialising in mini cranes — though we still offer repairs and servicing. John continues to take a keen interest in everything that goes on.

Do you want to know more about the unique family firm that John and his family built up from nothing?

Give us a call and see how we can help you.

No matter what your situation or sector might be, a mini crane is always worth considering. So, if you’re looking to renovate a building, build a shopping centre, or even film an upcoming movie — we’d love to hear from you.