His company has never been the biggest, but it caught the public imagination in a way that no other logistics operator has.
I’m talking, of course, about Edward Stobart, who died last week following heart problems. And the flood of tributes since then reflects the affection felt for the Eddie Stobart name.
One I particularly liked said: “He took a small company in an unfashionable business and turned it into a household name.”
The story has made the pages of all the national newspapers in the UK as well as the BBC. The Sun, the UK’s biggest selling newspaper, exhorted readers to: “Honk if you miss Eddie”.
Edward Stobart took over the family business in 1976 when it had eight trucks and 12 employees. 25 years later the fleet had expanded to 1,000 trucks and 2,000 employees.
But that does not explain why it has become such a phenomenon. Stobart brought a new level of professionalism to the business. Not only were vehicles kept clean and smart, so were the drivers. Unusually for the haulage business, they wore ties.
On top of that he named every truck – and it has become a game for generations of children to spot the different trucks on the motorways. There is even an Eddie Stobart fan club with thousands of members around the world.
Edward sold the business to his brother William and businessman Andrew Tinkler in 2004. Today the company regularly tops its Superbrand category. And last year it became the first company in the industry to have a television series made about it.
Not bad for a small company in an unfashionable business.
It’s not always what you do that matters most, it’s how you do it. Edward Stobart has earned his place in the pantheon of industry greats.