Tributes to ‘gentle giant’ and business leader Mike

Mike Smalley, Holbrook
Mike Smalley, Holbrook

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce has paid tribute to former president and well-known South Yorkshire businessman Mike Smalley, who has died at the age of 63.

The chamber described Mr Smalley, an accountant turned IT expert who founded Holbrook Business Systems in 1979, as “a gentle giant and a lovely man with it.”

Chamber executive director Richard Wright said: “Mike’s death is a tremendous loss.

“He had a huge influence on the Chamber’s activities during his presidency and also as a board member and chairman of Senta (Sheffield Enterprise Agency). He was superb to work with and always so supportive and enthusiastic and we shall miss him very much.”

Mr Smalley’s company – now based at Barlborough Links, near Chesterfield and known as Napier IT Group – grew out of a company founded in 1976 by Mr Smalley and another former NCR employee, which rented out cash registers.

Within three years that business had diversified into electronic accounting machines and Holbrook split away under Mr Smalley’s control.

Holbrook was in the right place at the right time for the move to desktop computing, which arguably started with the Commodore Pet, which had just been launched.

The business grew as accountancy packages were developed which could run on networks of computers, thanks to a large degree to Mr Smalley’s background as an accountant and determination to understand his customers’ needs, so that the hardware and software packages Holbrook sold could be tailored to meet those needs.

Holbrook acquired a number of blue chip clients over the years, among them magistrates’ courts and the FA.

Mike Smalley became president of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce in 2004 and, says the Chamber, it was typical of his enthusiasm that during his presidential year he swapped his business suit for chef’s whites and spent a day in the kitchens of the Cutlers’ Hall, preparing dinner for 70 people along with a team of other businessmen to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Relief.

Holbrook expanded to newly-built, purpose-designed offices at Napier Court, Barlborough Links the following year, changing its name to the Napier IT Group later, to reflect its new location.