MTA 2021 winner Service

Donald Burton, founder of Don-Bur (holding trophy) collects the award from Guy Reynolds, commercial director of Aquarius IT (second right) with host Alexander Armstrong (far left)

Donald Burton was born in Draycott, Stoke-on-Trent, on October 10 1933, a birthday he shares with the opera composer Giuseppe Verdi. He was academically bright and passed his 11-plus before going to the local grammar school, Longton High, where he also excelled in sports and his passion for boxing resulted in an unbeaten record.

His first job was in 1949 for Hassells, a coachbuilder in Portland Road, Stoke-on-Trent. Unknowingly he was working only 100 yards away from one of the current Don-Bur service sites.

Burton then worked for Metalcraft, who made coaches, before joining the Coldstream Guards on 11 January 1952.

After leaving the army in 1954, Burton started at Tom Byatts, a van dealership and bodyshop, at the princely rate of 1/10 ½d per hour. That’s the equivalent of 9p per hour today.

Being a keen and talented footballer, in 1955 he left Tom Byatts and grasped the opportunity to play at a professional level for Derby County where he played at number 8. But an Achilles tendon injury put a premature end to his professional career and he went back to Tom Byatts in 1956.

In 1960, Tom Byatts built a new coachbuilding shop and Burton was selected to be foreman until 1962 where he became general manager; typically working 12 hours a day, seven days a week. In the early 1970s, Tom Byatts was sold to Bristol Street Motors, which also owned Welford Truck Bodies and Burton was asked to take over the management of Welfords where the business become known affectionately as “Donny-Burtons”.

In 1979, Bristol Street came close to bankruptcy and Burton saw an opportunity to carry out one of the first-known management buy-outs, which completed in 1981. The new firm was conveniently named “Don-Bur” after its founder.

At 87, Don is now chairman and continues to come in to the factory every day. He is a man of presence and obvious drive but shies away from recognition. Despite being the focus of numerous awards over a period of 40 years, there are no award ceremony photographs on his walls or trophies gracing his window ledges. He has driven the company over 40 years from being a back-street local bodybuilder to the internationally-recognised blue-chip supplier Don-Bur is today. He is responsible for the employment of around 500 members of staff and yet remarkably knows the names of each and every one.

Outside the factory walls, Burton still enjoys golf and took an opportunity in 2011 to acquire his own 18-hole golf course and club, which has thrived ever since. Being asked what continues to drive him, he mused for a moment and, with a reflective smile, simply said: “I suppose it’s in my blood.”

"I’ve just gone about my job, building up the company and trying to satisfy customers, right up to here now in 2021. I’m just absolutely delighted with this award. It was nice just to walk down the stairs on the red carpet and people showed great appreciation. This is really one of the best nights I’ve had since I’ve been in business. My son knew I was going to receive the award but played a straight bat all the way through so I didn’t know until the announcement came. Frankly, it’s made my night"

Donald Burton, founder, Don-Bur