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JOHN Powell has all the assurance and quiet confidence of the big company man, without that element of arrogance that often goes hand in hand with power.
He gets it from a career working for the coin-op majors, has honed it in his own independent operation and now applies skills from both in what can only be described as a highly-sophisticated coin-op co-op.
"The IOA (Independent Operators' Association)? They're a collection of the absolute best brains in independent operating," said one "outsider." Another countered: "You can't get in ... they're like a private club."
The automatic assumption that operators would warn to get in says much for the IOA, a hitherto unsung organisation which has gradually attained a degree of importance way beyond the sum of its constituent parts. Major operators would never admit to fearing the collective efforts of its smaller brethren, hut to a man they now watch over their shoulders with well-merited concern.
Twenty two of the best independents in the country, the elite of the "minors," from Fair City in Perth down to Alan Davis in Torquay, all dedicated to the utilitarian good of the whole rather than the modern trend of individualistic self-interest.
Now they are just beginning to flex their collective muscle. The group's chairman John Powell--of South East Leisure at Aylesford--admits that the next milestone is to take collective bargaining to the next stage and set up the fabled "house accounts" on behalf of the organisation.
"Why not? We have 22,000 machines between us. We buy around 3,500 new AWPs and club machines each year. That's as big as some of the majors, and bigger than all of the medium-sized companies. In, fact, I'd rate us as fourth in the number-of-machines pecking order, behind Leisure link, Gamester and Rank," he claims.
But is it a private club? "Well, yes, that's a difficult area because membership has been closed for some time. We effectively cover the country--Great Britain, that is--geographically speaking. It …