Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
I am Managing Director of Barnsley-based sensory specialists Experia, one of the UK’s leading designers, manufacturers and installers of sensory equipment. I joined the business in April 2016 to grow its product range and market presence and to increase turnover by 20%.
Many people say their products change lives but Experia’s truly do, and this is the first role where I can honestly say that. I have never before met so many people dedicated to the loving care of others. Not only does this equipment change lives, it has changed mine.
What is it the company does?
Experia designs, develops, manufactures, supplies and installs sensory equipment to aid sensory development. We employ nearly 30 staff and work with schools, hospitals and specialist care centres across the country to create multisensory environments to enable users to develop their sensory skills. Our products, which include bubble tubes and fibre optic walls, give users the ability to create cause and effect and can deliver calming, stimulating and dramatic atmospheres and environments, typically used to care for conditions such as autism, behavioural needs and dementia.
We are the preferred supplier for leading sports charities The Lord’s Taverners and Wooden Spoon, which give disadvantaged and disabled young people opportunities to participate in sport.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Actually, my first job was as a labourer in an engineering works, shovelling swarf and oil from the machines. I then moved onto the machines before being given a further commercial apprenticeship, moving through purchasing into sales roles.
For several years, I sold tooling and sub-contract machining services to the aerospace and automotive sectors, later moving into second tier components before starting my ownconsultancy, covering business improvement work and training for sectors as varied as renewable energy, vehicle manufacture, sheet metal and lighting. I also had an installation business, with a mixture of employed and sub-contract installers within the fit-out and interiors sector.
I then took a three-year sabbatical to look after my wife who became ill and this was to be my rapid and fast learning introduction to the care sector.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Understanding and empathy balanced with determination to succeed. However, this can’t be achieved alone, so a strong team must be trained, developed and encouraged. Give a little and you can get a lot back. Work as a team and you multiply that factor.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Change, both process change and cultural change.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Always look at the bigger picture. If you focus on the required result, rather than the immediate problem, there is more chance of a good outcome. Believe in the strengths of your team and play to them.
Empower people and make them feel valued and this eases the pressure. You can’t have a one-man Premiership team. It’s the same in business.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Untidiness and negativity. Both are part of developing a culture and developing a culture needs patience and belief. Change management is hard and it’s never finished. Plan, do, act, check and sustain. Never give up, always believe.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Better. This is a great company. It was a great company even before I arrived but my job is to make a difference. More people need to know about us and more people certainly need to understand the benefits and applications of sensory equipment. If we achieve that, along with greater efficiencies and new products, the rest follows.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Never give up. Don’t judge by appearance. Always be prepared to listen and learn. Put your trust in good people.