I enjoyed a great catch-up with the Managing Director (MD) of a (target) company of mine today. This family owned business is a leading advanced engineering company in the North West and the MD’s insights into business and the way things are changing is always sharp and insightful.
We discussed the economic challenges of the past 12 months and, given the long life-cycle of procuring and then manufacturing their products he saw the next 6-12 months as a period of “consolidation”. Many of their competitors had already been squeezed out, although he suspected there would be more to come – especially as businesses who survive then suffer from over-trading as the market (hopefully) returns “in around 2012” – the mantra Cash is King will remain as crucial as ever.
What was most interesting was the sense of cohesiveness mixed with a strong focus and direction that he was building within the organisation. The tough times over the past 12-18 months have clearly made them much more focused on their core strengths and therefore more inclined to sub-contract the work that they do not believe they can do as well – this is brave but strategically right for the longer term. Likewise they are actively seeking opportunities to assist other engineering firms with their expertise and resource to help meet demands or short term resource needs. A flexible approach that the MD could see being a key growth area in the business.
They have also continued along a path of identifying and nurturing new and emerging engineering talent within the North West – an area which is of strategic importance for them over the longer term but which is clearly already bringing success. This commitment to supporting early stage engineering ideas and businesses is crucial to the future of the North West economy and is refreshing to see within a long established family company.
Picking up on the team cohesiveness, the MD explained how his choice of location for their new offices was largely dictated by where his team live (“we really wanted to keep them”) and how he would like to increase the commitment of the business to social responsibility by allowing staff to complete 4 week sabbaticals on hands-on roles such as building orphanages in Africa in the not too distant future – all on full-pay. Notwithstanding such lofty goals, the MD was both surprised and warmed by the team’s response to his impromptu decision to give all staff an extra 2 days holiday over Christmas this year – “I’ve handed out pretty decent bonuses in the past and have been greeted with a “thanks (but I’ve earned it)” kind of response but was stunned by the response to this gesture!”
A great business with a great leader. We need more like it.