Furniture manufacturer Godfrey Syrett supplies various sectors across the UK from its base in Newcastle. CEO and Chairman Mark R Dixon tells us more about the business and his role.
What is it the company does?
Godfrey Syrett is a designer and manufacturer of furniture solutions, supplying to a wide range of public sectors including corporate, healthcare, education and accommodation. We supply nationally from our base in the North East of England.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I was appointed to direct, and ensure we deliver on, our growth strategy to hit £50m turnover by 2020. Godfrey Syrett is a tremendous company with ambitious targets – my job is to make sure that our staff are empowered and have the right tools to achieve them. This will include consolidation of the business infrastructure, streamlining and improving management systems, and a continued investment in digital manufacturing technology.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I am a chartered engineer by profession – my first job out of university was in the power generation sector. It was whilst working for Rolls Royce that I was persuaded to undertake an MBA part-time at Newcastle University Business School. I was juggling a young family and a very challenging job, so at the time it felt like a crazy move; but it turned out to be the best decision I could have made. Part of the MBA was to develop a solid business plan – I developed this even further, creating a services business plan; and used this to raise seed capital and launch the Promanex Group.
Promanex was my life for 15 years; and it grew from a small facilities management company to an employer of over 1,000 staff. When I sold Promanex to Costain in 2011, sales were at £70m. At that point, I thought I’d retire… but it turns out I’m not very good at retirement!
I lasted nine months until I got bored and started looking at some of the requests for business guidance that I’d received; among which was an invite from Godfrey Syrett. It took just one visit for the business to get under my skin, and from that point I was hooked. I came on board first as executive chairman, then towards the end of 2017 I was appointed as CEO.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Vision, integrity and intellect.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Managing the organic growth of the business. There’s a lot going on within Godfrey Syrett at the moment; with various different projects running in tandem alongside our everyday activities. We’ve had to react and adapt to changes in the market – for example; we’ve recently seen a significant growth in our soft seating sales. Offices and learning spaces are becoming softer, with a more domestic feel; and this is reflected in furniture choices. We have invested in digital manufacturing technology to ensure we can keep up with market demand, and our future growth will be underpinned by further investment.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I live near Berwick, which is a beautiful part of the world with, in my opinion, the most beautiful coastline in the UK. My wife and I spend a lot of time birdwatching in the area. I’m also a keen cook. Oh, and I don’t get stressed!
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?
A reluctance to accept ownership of a project, process or problem. If staff aren’t empowered to make decisions and deal with issues, it has a negative effect on both the rest of the workforce and our customers. We have made a number of changes to our internal structure recently, to ensure we have the best teams in place to manage the business and deliver on our plans. Procrastination is a swear word.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Godfrey Syrett is a company with big ambitions – we have recently upped our short-term turnover target to £50m by 2020. Past that, we are planning our break into the export market, both within Europe and further afield. I would like the Godfrey Syrett brand to become synonymous with high-quality British design backed by the latest digital technology investments.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
The individuals who are prepared to go too far are the only ones who really know how far they can actually go.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Don’t assume that everyone is blessed with common sense.
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