Friday, October 30, 2020
I’ve read a lot of ‘let’s make 2020 count’ blogs and articles recently, so I’ll spare you from another one of those, but that doesn’t mean that my company hasn’t been making it count. We’ve been taking the opportunities this torrid year has presented like any other firm bold enough to look beyond the pandemic. After all, if you think this year will get you, it probably will. So, instead, set out to get this year first.
While Coronavirus has taken a lot from us, it has presented businesses with openings, whether it be extra time, a need (chance) to diversify, or something else. It seems that behind the successes, failures, chances taken and opportunities ignored, are people. The right people have made a project fly. The wrong people have made an endeavour fail. Gambles have paid off because of people. And forward steps haven’t been taken because something was missing—people.
Two recent developments at my company prove this point and demonstrate how the right personnel can lead to knock-on benefits: first, in relation to the acquisition of a new engineering services division; and, second, in connection to our latest expansion into a new part of the country. The two combined take our business locations to eight across the UK.
I’m not going to name-drop the people I’m talking about in either instance because this isn’t about my company; it’s about people generally—at your business and all the others out there.
Nearly every recruitment campaign starts with the same basic level requirements (experience, professionalism, drive, determination, tenacity, positivity, etc.), but I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about what ingredients a person needs to have to fit within a culture and an operation. Some thought leaders call it company DNA. This is where we’re all different; someone who fits in at my business might not last five minutes at yours and vice versa.
Don’t mistake this for a recruitment blog though. All people are important—even the ones that have been at your firm for many years.
Let’s look at both of the above 2020 projects in more detail:
It’s actually been more than 18 months since we acquired an engineering company (Gemmak) local to where I’m based in South Wales, but it took the pandemic to really afford us the time to fully integrate the facility into our company. More specifically, we executed a campaign to ensure we found the right person to lead what was effectively going to be our machine shop in the immediate, mid and long term future. Put a novice at the wheel of the world’s fastest car and they’ll crash it. Put me in Eliud Kipchoge’s Nike Vaporfly shoes and I won’t run you a 1:59:40 marathon. Nor will Alan Varney.
So it comes down to what a person is versus what they need. A great racing car driver needs a cool car, but what they actually are is courageous, fearless, confident, observant, passionate and probably a little crazy too. They’re obsessed with winning and have the concentration powers to navigate a tarmac track for hours on end. A record breaking distance runner needs good footwear and they likely spend hours upon hours trying on different pairs (sponsorship probably plays a part too), but they’ll have speed, strength, endurance, a high pain threshold and be very self-centred. Like a racing car driver, they’ve got to want to concentrate for a long time essentially on little more than crossing a finish line.
So our new recruit was going to need the tools but we had to conduct our search on what they are and what they would bring. All candidates could use the equipment, and all of them could energise a small team. Each was experienced, punctual, passionate, and so on. But who could bring all of that and meet the special criteria that all of our businesses’ people have? That’s the secret sauce. Once we’d done the hard bit and found the right person, then it was a case of giving them the tools, time and people that they required to be successful.
If you’re looking to expand through acquisition or recruit into a new role, ask yourself what it is that the right person will enable you and the business to achieve. Otherwise, what’s the point of their existence? There’s got to be a reason for it beyond the bottom line goals that the accountant cares about. In our case, we looked at what the acquired unit was already achieving and worked out what we wanted to keep, expand on and, just as importantly, dispose of. We assessed what could be leveraged to enhance our existing operation and added to it.
It’s important to be mindful about the goals of the recruitment campaign or restructure and what the impacted people’s purpose will be. For us, it was about enhancing our ability to manufacture working at height equipment and adding fabrication capability. It also fitted perfectly with us being named an installer of FAAC’s range of automatic commercial and industrial doors. Crane services is another division that is set to directly benefit.
Your goals will be different, remember.
Eight is great
The importance of people was once again evident in connection to our latest expansion into a new part of the country.
It’s been more than three years since we opened our sixth UK lifting equipment facility in Warrington. With de facto headquarters here in South Wales, in 2008 we opened our second depot in Templeborough, Rotherham to enter the market in the north of England. Offices in Aylesford, Kent (2011); Grangemouth, Scotland (2013); and Heathrow, West London (2016) followed. I can’t say where yet, but we’ve committed to opening a seventh such site in another hotbed of lifting and rigging activity. Of course, we also now have the aforementioned Gemmak Engineering business.
If your company is looking to expand into a new geography, success or failure will be down to your ability to put the initiative in the hands of the right people. It doesn’t matter how lucrative a market seems, or how willing the prospective customer base appear to spend their money, the wrong people will find a way to mess it up. The right people, however, will take all that promise and turn it into tangible success. Furthermore, they’ll lay foundations for future growth and expansion.
We could have taken the step sooner, but we simply didn’t have the leadership or workforce in place. And without it, like onboarding an engineering services division, there’s no point in trying. The important point to stress in this second scenario is that it takes different people to be successful in different roles. While they might share the same business DNA, an engineering services division manager and depot manager are different roles. The first is almost reactive and the other proactive. One the goal-scorer and the other the playmaker. A business must be mindful that, just because Joe Smith is successful in one role it doesn’t mean the objective during recruitment is to find more Joe Smiths, or in training to make more Joe Smiths. One Smudger might be enough.
Our regional managers have much in common, yet they each know their own markets to some extent better than they understand the business as a whole. That’s crucial because people have got to know their target and potential audiences. In Wales, Warrington, Rotherham, Aylesford, Grangemouth, Heathrow and ********, there are different requirements. It’s the same in all sectors. Even if everyone in a certain area are using, say, spoons, that doesn’t mean they all want the same spoons at the same price to eat the same food in the same quantity. A spoon salesperson needs to understand that.
Choose the people to sit at your table carefully.