A MARRIED couple hold key roles in the largest vending machine, refreshment systems and artisan coffee company in North Yorkshire.

Alec Upton, the founder of the Selby-based Upton Group founder, brought his son-in-law, Ross Macdonald, into the business as managing director in 2009 to help the company reach the next stage in its growth.

Ross, husband of Alec and Janet Upton’s daughter Tracy, had been managing director of Spanish-owned vending machine manufacturer, Azkoyen, Farnham, and was invited to inject the experience of a large corporate into a highly-regarded family business.

The Upton Group, founded in 1966, supplies refreshment systems for dispensing hot and cold drinks, confectionary and snacks, fresh foods and sandwiches, chilled water as well as artisan, hand-roasted coffees to enterprises from SMEs to international businesses throughout the UK.

His appointment meant working with his wife, who is finance director. Mrs Macdonald said: “Everybody joked that Ross and I would not be able to work together, but it works well and the business is going from strength to strength.”

Mr Macdonald was able to view the family business dispassionately and instigated changes including a streamlined departmental management structure where directors have devolved control; renegotiated or scrapped unprofitable contracts, made cost savings, focused on service to enhance client retention and this year acquired artisan coffee roaster, York Coffee Emporium.

This result has been seven years of consecutive growth leading to a projected £6m turnover this year. Mr Macdonald said: “My biggest professional achievement is that Alec trusted me to develop his business. I have repaid his faith by growing the company as well as purchasing another to diversify and create stronger foundations for the future.”

What job would you like to have other than your own and why?

Ross: A tour playing professional golfer – but was not good enough.

Tracy: Run a horse hospital.

Greatest Achievement?

Ross: Personally, my children and grand-children and that, through my endeavours, I can provide for them now and into the future.

Tracy: Personally, like Ross I am proud of my children and grand child and how each is developing as people in their own right.

What makes you most angry?

Ross: Rudeness and poor manners.

Tracy: Litter and fly tipping blight our beautiful countryside.

Biggest mistake?

Ross: In a previous job I committed to delivering an untested prototype machine and ran the risk of over-promising and under achieving. Luckily it turned out okay.

Tracy: not starting my own business and earning my father’s trust earlier

What do you need to make your life complete?

Ross: More grandchildren would be lovely.

Tracy: Being more mercenary, a new horse, horsebox and house extension!

Why do you make a difference?

Ross: I work with our staff to help them achieve their goals and aspirations.

Tracy: Two staff recently retired after 25 years, our technical director has been here 30 years and our average length of service is 8.2 years –a fairly positive endorsement.


Ross: “Not sure I got the work, rest and play balance correct – but I did have fun.”

Tracy: I hope there are horses in heaven.