Debbie Heald of Heald Ltd
Debbie Heald, co-founder and managing director of Hornsea-based manufacturer Heald Ltd, gives her top tips for aspiring business leaders and charts her career so far...
What does your role involve?
I am the co-founder and managing director of Heald Ltd; a manufacturing company based in Hornsea, specialising in hostile vehicle mitigation systems.
Previously an agricultural engineering business employing only two people, the company now operates internationally, securing high profile sites around the globe.
I manage most aspects of the business with the support of my partner Rod Heald, who takes care of product design and development. I direct the day to day activities at Heald, which includes implementing strategies to drive company growth and ensuring a happy and motivated workforce.
What is it the company does?
Heald Ltd designs, manufactures and installs a range of innovative counter-terror products such as roadblockers, barriers and bollards that aim to protect vulnerable sites around the world.
Our products, which play a leading role in the defence of properties against terrorists and criminal organisations, are installed in airports, shopping centres, military sites, government buildings and many more.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I began my career working for the local authority in Beverley, East Yorkshire after I left school. I also undertook an additional six years of studying at college and university where my focus was business studies.
In 1994 the opportunity arose to take voluntary redundancy from the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. I decided to use my redundancy money to purchase a 50% share in my partner’s company, Heald Ltd.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I think being firm but fair is very important when it comes to leading a team. Successful managing requires a strong, positive approach and above all else, empathy. Understanding each individual and how they fit as a wider part of the organisation is key.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Not having enough hours in the day! As a lot of women in business will find, raising a family and heading up an international business is not an easy job! I also have a tendency to want to get things done instantaneously when making plans for the future of the business… which often is not possible!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I love extreme sports! Mountain biking, motor biking, water skiing… I’ll try anything! I do have a pilot’s license, but I don’t get much chance to use it these days.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought travelling the world on a horse always seemed like a great idea! Seriously, I always wanted to run my own business.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I dislike bickering, grumpiness or negativity in the workplace. I try to encourage positivity at Heald through flexible working schemes and career development opportunities. We’re also very open with our employees so if any problems do arise they are sorted very quickly.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Hopefully, we will have doubled in turnover and secured further international projects. I would also like to continue launching at least one new product every year. It is also important for us to protect our innovations in this industry through patenting.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Be positive and believe in yourself. Listen and assess before making any decision. Think about the implications of your actions and don’t be afraid to share knowledge. Ultimately, don’t hesitate. If you think something is right, then go for it!