Operations Director – Packaging

Operations Director – Packaging

Our client, an international packaging manufacturer, had a requirement for an Operations Director to manage its 24/7 plant in Ellesmere Port, producing paper-based packaging, predominantly for a major blue-chip FMCG customer. They had traditionally recruited people from within the sector, but wanted to look at potentially recruiting somebody with the core competencies required, including strong people management skills, running a high volume continuous manufacturing operation, and working to Continuous Improvement principles, but with a background in a different sector.

Wickland Westcott carried out a full executive search campaign which involved identifying locally based Plant and Operations Managers/Directors working for organisations carrying out similar high-volume manufacturing. We contacted over 90 potential candidates and put together a long-list of 8 who were interviewed face-to-face. From these, CVs for 4 short-list candidates were submitted to our client, along with full interview notes and the results of a personality profiling test designed to assess leadership style. After the client’s two stage interview process, which included a site tour and presentation, the first-choice candidate was offered and accepted the role.

The successful candidate had a background in printing, chemical products and, most recently, textiles. Throughout their career, they had focussed on implementing Lean practices and a “right first time” culture, along with delivering high levels of customer satisfaction in high pressure 24/7 manufacturing environments. In addition, they had strong people management and leadership skills, with a track record of bringing about meaningful change to drive performance improvements.

On the back of this assignment, Wickland Westcott were appointed to identify an Engineering Manager for their site in Wigan, a business critical role that our client had been unable to fill for over 6 months.

For more information on our services please contact Wickland Westcott on 01625 508 100 or email ww@wickland-westcott.com.

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.

Managing Director

Managing Director (Germany-based)

Part of an entrepreneurial and highly acquisitive US Holding Group, this international manufacturing business supplies technical solutions to B2B customers across a range of niche sectors. The company’s success is based on its ability to engage on a deep level with customers with specific requirements, collaborating in the co-creation of applications to meet exacting needs. The business, which has its head office in North America, was seeking a successful General Manager/Managing Director to lead the growth of its interests in Europe from an established location in the South of Germany.

The brief was to search the local market in Germany for successful leaders with experience gained growing manufacturing businesses supplying similar technical products. The emphasis of the role was on implementing a clear commercial strategy, identifying new growth markets, whilst developing the delivery capability of the existing team. Therefore, ideal candidates would bring strong commercial credentials complemented by the ability to develop people and processes and to oversee the adoption of more efficient ways of working.

The search focused on similar sized manufacturing companies supplying technically differentiated B2B products where success required a strategic approach to business development. The process delivered a shortlist of five candidates, each of whom had the opportunity to meet the company CEO, local leadership team and a senior member of the Holding Group. A final candidate was taken through a battery of psychometrics and a full executive assessment prior to his successful appointment. He had worked locally and internationally at MD level with manufacturers of speciality chemicals, rubber compounds and customised stainless-steel containers.

Post the conclusion of the assignment, the client offered the following comment:

“Wickland Westcott was instrumental in helping us manage a long and complex recruiting process for a multi-national, key leadership position. They were able to provide us diverse, highly-qualified candidates with great depth and breadth that are game changers in their respective fields. Without our Leadership Consultant Jerome Bull, it would have been a very difficult process!”

 

For more information on our services please contact Wickland Westcott on 01625 508 100 or email ww@wickland-westcott.com.


Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.

Chief Operating Officer

Chief Operating Officer

Established over 100 years ago, this world-leading institution is widely recognised for the scientific, technical and advisory services it provides to the global food and drink sector. A member-based organisation, it counts many household names amongst its customers, and collaborates closely with high profile brand owners across the manufacturing and grocery retail sectors. The company was seeking a new COO to help drive change and modernisation in pursuit of growth as part of the senior leadership team.

The role of COO, which sits on the Executive Committee, has responsibility for a team of approximately 300 highly qualified technicians operating across different service lines and technical specialisms. The emphasis of the role was on promoting a greater level of collaboration and integration between sub-teams, leading to the promotion and delivery of a more cohesive customer proposition. Therefore, the role required significant but sensitive leadership and change management skills, ensuring respect for the history and tradition of the business whilst embracing the future.

The assignment involved the identification of senior technical/R&D General Managers with significant leadership experience gained with a recognised food manufacturer and/or retailer. In addition to exemplary qualifications and technical credentials, the search focused on candidates with experience gained delivering meaningful change across a workforce of scale. Leadership style was also particularly important given the history and prevailing culture of the business.

The shortlist, which included relevant and highly qualified candidates from B2B and B2C food manufacturing environments, met with the CEO and leadership team, completing personality psychometrics and a presentation as part of the process. Ultimately, the assignment resulted in the appointment of an individual with outstanding pedigree, blue-chip experience and a strong profile in the sector. He also brought the potential and headroom to step up to CEO in the fulness of time, satisfying an important succession planning consideration.

For more information on our services please contact Wickland Westcott on 01625 508 100 or email ww@wickland-westcott.com.

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.

Operations Director (Field-based Workforce)

Operations Director (Field-based Workforce)

Our client is a major transportation services and judicial enforcement business that works on behalf of local authorities, central government and the private sector, including collecting fines. They have grown significantly over the last few years, both organically and via acquisition, and they have c.4000 field agents, based throughout the UK. Their rapid growth resulted in the creation of a new position of Group Operations Director, reporting into the COO and with responsibility for developing and implementing the operations strategy to ensure the effective management of the field team, focussed on ensuring that end customers received the highest possible level of service in what is a politically sensitive market whilst bearing in mind cost and budget issues.

Finding candidates with experience of managing similar sized, nationally based teams was not an easy task, particularly given the perception of the industry that our client operates in. After an initial market mapping exercise, we contacted some 80 potential candidates, assessing their experience in managing, communicating with and motivating a large field-based team, along with their track record of working under pressure and to tight deadlines, managing major change programs and using technology to maximise efficiency and reduce costs. A strong ethical focus and values-driven approach was also needed given the scrutiny that organisations in this market are subjected to from both the public and the media.

We interviewed and psychometrically assessed twelve potential candidates and put together a short-list of four, all of whom were interviewed by the HR Director and COO. Two of these were then met by the CEO of the organisation, who was happy that either could carry out the role effectively and add real value to the organisation. As such, the COO offered his preferred candidate, who accepted the offer and who has already made a positive impact on the operation.

For more information on our services please contact Wickland Westcott on 01625 508 100 or email ww@wickland-westcott.com.

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.

Rainmaker vs CEO

Rainmaker vs CEO

By Colin Mercer

The stay or go dilemma 

Star performers sometimes have doubts about staying with their firm. CEOs worry about holding on to their big names. What causes these doubts? Sometimes it’s down to a personality clash. But more often it is due to a difference in perspective – there are two sides to every story. We’re used to advising on situations like this one. See if anything sounds familiar to you…

Rainmaker

I am one of the biggest billers in our firm. I generate nearly 20% of our annual revenue. Every day I take on daunting, complex, high-profile assignments in order to help our firm succeed.

I often lie in bed at night genuinely fearful of what I have to do the following day. There is nothing lonelier than that moment when you step into the fray.

I work longer hours than most of my colleagues. I spend more nights away from home and I take more personal risk – putting myself in harm’s way. And I see less of my children. My spouse asks: “Does everyone work as hard as you? Why is it always our weekends that suffer?

I am very well paid – I earn more than I or my parents ever imagined. But in terms of sheer fairness, I should probably be paid more. Much of my fee income is spent paying the salaries of staff in our support functions.

Other professionals in the firm often want access to my contacts, and I am usually happy to oblige. But why are they not able to build their own contact base?

I love our firm, but should I stay here? I feel it is too slow, insufficiently client focused, and a little bloated. Mediocrity is commonplace, and we have lots of back-office resource not focused on sales or delivery.

My boss is competent. She understands the professional life and undoubtedly has credibility having won her spurs out in the market, where it matters. But as CEO she tolerates under-performance and has lost some of her commercial edge.

Is this the right place for me, or should I move somewhere where the ambition matches my own? I do love this firm though, and especially the people in it. Maybe I just need to stop moaning.

CEO

Maya is a star performer. Brave, tireless, commercial, and sharp as a tack. She built a book of business, and then a whole department, based upon her ceaseless effort, industry and entrepreneurialism.

She drives a significant portion of our revenue. More than that, her business area is strategically important – a growth market that our firm should be known for. She is not the only show in town – we have a few other big-hitters. But we do need her.

She is quite a character. Quick-witted and straight-talking, sometimes intolerant of those around her. She burns though admin support like no tomorrow. She inspires enormous admiration across the firm but is not a great manager. Perhaps because she is so self-sufficient she assumes her people need little support, or even time with her.

We have made repeated attempts to keep her engaged. I asked her to join my executive team and this worked for a while, but she found it frustrating. She is not always respectful of colleagues. She does not really role-model our values. I have to manage my own behaviour to ensure Maya’s views carry due weight, but not too much. I can’t be seen to be beholden to the big-billers.

She believes she should be paid more. She does drive enormous value. But whilst her clients undoubtedly value her, they also value our brand and the broader infrastructure that sits behind her.

Maya (and other partners) have been vocal about the relative weakness of our brand, the lack of talent coming through, and our ‘appalling’ systems. We therefore invested significantly (but carefully) in our marketing, HR and IT functions – the very people she sometimes describes as ‘overheads’.

Maybe I am being unfairly critical of her. I like her a lot. She is wonderful company, an incredible talent, and a real asset for the firm. But I can feel we are reaching a cross-road. How do we keep her in the firm, whilst satisfying her and also remaining true to our values?

Do you think Maya should stay? Should the CEO flex to accommodate her, or hold the line? Should they meet half-way to provide what they both want?

Dilemmas like this are commonplace in professional service firms. For a confidential conversation on useful tips and solutions call Colin Mercer on 01625 508100 or email cmercer@wickland-westcott.com

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Grant Thornton

Leadership Support Programme

Malcolm Gomersall, COO: “Wickland Westcott has provided excellent leadership advisory support this year. They are a top class consultancy partner.”


Blinkers Off – The Case for Recruiting from Outside your Sector

Blinkers Off – The Case for Recruiting from Outside your Sector

By Jerome Bull

For many employers, recruiting from within their industry is preferable to appointing a candidate from outside the sector. They believe that this specific knowledge is a prerequisite for success, and that candidates without this insight present an unnecessary risk.

In Wickland Westcott’s Industrial Practice however, our experience is that certain Managing Directors, General Managers and senior operations executives are able to successfully switch sectors, and that these individuals often bring a fresh perspective along with the ability to add value beyond the application of existing industry knowledge.

Those able to make the transition, however, do come with a specific set of skills and characteristics, and Wickland Westcott has recently completed a research project to identify them:

An aptitude for learning – In order to successfully switch sectors, individuals need to quickly familiarise themselves with new products, processes and industry terminology. This learning may also extend to specific regulatory and marketplace requirements.  The ability to make sense of a new environment at both a conceptual and operational level is, therefore, critical to establishing credibility and making an early impact.  According to Duncan Martin who has worked at senior level in fmcg, waste management, nuclear energy and multi-sector private equity-backed manufacturing environments: “this requires a logical mind and the ability to acquire and assimilate new information“. It is not about becoming an expert in everything, but rather having the ability to grasp the fundamentals by simplifying complexity.

A developed understanding of manufacturing systems technology – Participants in our research consistently reported that, in order to shift from one industry to another, it is essential to have a reliable operating framework to work from, and to understand the key principles of manufacturing.

Stephen Forbes, MD Explore Manufacturing (part of the Laing O’Rourke Group) explains the need for: “a set of appropriate KPIs, typically including safety, productivity, cost, quality and customer service, via which you manage performance.  When moving industry you need the ability to interpret KPIs and to adapt them to the environment that you are working in“.

High levels of performance are also underlined through the adaptation and application of continuous improvement tools and techniques. Keith Broadbent, an Operations Director who has worked in the automotive, telecoms, luxury yacht and electronics sectors, commented: “You need to break down the principles of manufacturing – structures, KPIs and good people; the building blocks are common. The overall manufacturing process is essentially made up of a linear sequence of activities which can be measured, manipulated and improved“.

Leadership capability – Success in any senior role is largely dependent on the ability to gain the support and commitment of the team. This requirement is intensified when moving into a new sector where a lack of market knowledge, and the absence of an installed base of contacts, has the potential to undermine credibility in the short term. The key to gaining respect in the first instance is a willingness to show humility, demonstrate interest in other people and to listen and learn. Credibility is also likely to be achieved by correctly identifying and addressing the priority issues.

Beyond this, the attainment of results is based on an ability to get the best out of other people. This is characterised by a visionary outlook and the capacity to align others behind a common set of goals. Specific attributes contributing to success in this area include an open and participative approach, enough courage to make and act on tough decisions and a willingness to manage performance, both good and bad. Communication is also vital here.

Business skills – The ability of senior managers to anchor their efforts back to the goals and objectives of the broader business is obviously key. Tom Carpenter, a CEO who has worked in the electronics, pharma and cable manufacturing sectors, comments: “you will not survive without good business skills; commercial acumen is therefore a prerequisite“.

Tenacity – Many participants in our research identified determination and tenacity as crucial to achieving success. There is much talk in modern management literature about the need for innovation – at Wickland Westcott we believe that perseverance and discipline are at least as important. More than this, success is about having a well thought-through plan and being prepared to work to it.

Contributors in this area commented on the importance of:

  • “Remaining focused in your efforts…identifying the priorities and using your metrics to guide you”
  • “Having a clear plan to work to”
  • “Being able to cope with setbacks”
  • “Having a level of determination that enables you to deal with opposition and adversity”

Adaptability – Individuals that fail to make the leap from one sector to another were consistently reported as being too rigid or inflexible in the way they applied their tools and techniques. Typically, they were too prescriptive and kept trying to do what they have always done, rigidly implementing what had worked for them in the past. Julian Allen, a senior executive in the fmcg and building products sectors observed: “you cannot afford to be too slavish to one particular style.”

In short, the above capabilities can go a long way towards mitigating the risks of appointing an unsuitable candidate from outside (or indeed inside) of the sector. Organisations should be encouraged to remove sector-specific blinkers and bring in fresh, paradigm-shifting executives, as long as the candidate they are looking for has the above skills.

Building on this research, Wickland Westcott has developed an assessment toolkit to support recruiting companies in their decision making in this area. To find out more contact Jerome Bull on 01625 508100 or email him at jbull@wickland-westcott.com.

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Editorial Strategic Director

Editorial Strategic Director

Our client, a leading newsbrand, retained us to appoint an Editorial Strategic Director. This new position would aim to bridge the gap between editorial and commercial whilst introducing the required digital capability to help drive the organisation’s digital and customer centric transformation. Given the limited talent pool within the vicinity of the organisation’s HQ, it was highly likely that a relocation would be required. 

Our research team meticulously mapped the media sector across Europe to identify the very best digital content candidates, who possessed strong leadership credentials. It was important to identify individuals who had an intricate understanding of how editorial operations work, but who also possessed the ability to create the digital content strategy and infrastructure to help deliver the company’s ambitious growth plans. Drawing on our deep expertise and network in media, we were able to build a compelling shortlist of engaged and diverse candidates who were receptive to relocation.

Our positioning of the opportunity was crucial in our ability to heighten initial interest and create excitement. Moreover, the need to rigorously assess and understand the individual’s key drivers and genuine desire to relocate for the right opportunity was a vital part in delivering this very successful assignment.

Our client selected their ideal candidate and Wickland Westcott managed the complex offer process, providing support and counsel to the candidate throughout the move, and ultimately securing the services of an outstanding individual.

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.


Digital Manufacturing – stripped back and made simple

Digital Manufacturing – stripped back and made simple

By Keith Butler

The media love to promote Industry 4.0 or I4.0 or even I4 as the next “silver bullet” solution for manufacturing companies; and often in doing so create an unhealthy expectation which has the effect of alienating exactly those organisations that should be excited about such things. At a recent industry dinner event hosted by Wickland Westcott and Barclays the collective 32 leaders representing the sector expressed their dislike of the term I4.0, preferring the more accurate descriptor of “Digital Manufacturing”.

Brian Holliday, MD of Siemens Digital Industries, explained that as more automated tools and computer systems have become used in manufacturing plants it has become necessary to model, simulate, and analyse all of the machines, tooling, and input materials in order to optimize the manufacturing process. Overall, digital manufacturing can be seen sharing the same goals as computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), flexible manufacturing, lean manufacturing, and design for manufacturability (DFM). The main difference is that digital manufacturing was evolved for use in the computerized world. That said, this is not just something for large scale operations to consider.

On the evening many examples were shared of how digital manufacturing can add cash returns to small and large companies alike, one being a small “metal bashing” company on the Wirral. With £5m sales and employing 50 staff, the company improved their operating efficiency from 30% to 70% by tapping into government backed initiatives, like Made Smarter that offer funding and insight. On this occasion they largely provided knowledge and were able to advise the company on how they could improve machine utilisation, with little / no investment, and benefit from government subsidies to encourage the adoption of digital manufacturing, resulting in the delivery of £500k of cash profit.

Interestingly, the conversation on the night also acknowledged that key to success when adopting digital manufacturing is agile learning and agile working along with cultural change and is the subject of another of this month’s pieces. (Lack of Trust and Leadership – the Biggest Barrier to Flexible Working).

The event was held at the 1830 station warehouse, part of the Science and Industry museum in Manchester and home to the worlds’ first inter-city passenger railway. Back in 1830 representatives from other cities visited and then copied this approach and a new era dawned. Seeing something working in practice helps to crystalize the potential, therefore, following on from this event we are arranging a digital factory tour for clients to help further their understanding.

If you are interested in understanding more about digital manufacturing or joining the tour please contact Keith Butler on 01625 508100 or email him at kbutler@wickland-westcott.com.


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