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Having already achieved the highly coveted Chartered Manager status, Ian Greenaway has gone on to be named as a contender for this year’s prestigious Chartered Manager of the Year Award, organised by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). All nine finalists have been identified as possessing the highest standard of leadership and integrity, consistently demonstrating the expertise and skills needed to add significant value to their respective businesses and foster a culture of creativity and innovation within the workplace.
The winner of the Chartered Manager of the Year will be named at the CMI’s National Conference in October, with the award going to the manager who has made the most positive impact on their organisation, demonstrating their excellent management and leadership skills are among the best in their respective sector and region or nation.
MD: What was the situation like at MTM prior to you joining and what do you think were the underlying causes of these difficulties?
IG: The current owners took over the business in 1986 and in 10 years managed to amass quite considerable losses and significant borrowing; so I was essentially brought in to turn that situation around.
Since joining, we have moved from turning over £500,000 in 1996 to £2.5 million in 2011. It’s taken a bit of time, but after only being at MTM for a few weeks I had to meet with the bank’s Regional Director who told me we couldn’t have any more money and what we’d already been loaned needed repaying; something like that always helps to concentrate the mind.
There were really two underlying causes. Firstly, there was no multi-skilling, it was very much a one-person/one-machine approach, so if that person was off the machine stopped. Secondly, there wasn’t a management information system as such and the leadership was somewhat lacking. To be fair to my predecessor, they hadn’t received any formal management training, having been promoted internally to the position of MD and so didn’t have the necessary tools to do the job.
MD: How did you assess and prioritise what needed to be done to turn the business around?
IG: I spent the first few weeks talking to everybody and conducting briefing sessions, really gaining an understanding of the business and its processes. One of the biggest things I found was a lack of confidence in the workforce. It was a very secretive environment where people weren’t informed as to what was happening. When they eventually found out it was obviously very demoralising, no-one wants to be part of a failing company.
Fundamentally though, the people were fine, the skill level wasn’t a problem, it was far more systemic than that. What we also found was that the art department was causing a bottleneck in production resulting in jobs arriving late to the factory and ultimately being delivered late to clients. So another major issue was that we were losing customers at an alarming rate.
MD: What new systems and procedures did you implement in order to achieve a more focused and customer-driven company?
IG: Over the years we have taken the key principles of lean such as JIT, kaizen and Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, and applied them throughout operations. We also initially aimed to achieve ISO 9000 not just because of what it represented, but the fact it gave everyone a goal and became a useful team-building exercise. It was hugely motivating for the staff when we earned our certification and we swiftly followed it up with Investors in People accreditation.
One of the first things I addressed was the lack of multi-skilling, implementing a policy where each production task had a minimum of three people trained to handle it; which has made a tremendous difference. All of our products are bespoke and tailored exactly to each client’s specifications; demand therefore can fluctuate significantly across the factory floor. Having people with more than one skill means we are able to move them to where the demand is.
MD: How has a greater adoption of technology had a positive impact on business operations?
IG: Another early issue we addressed was to invest in digital printing capabilities to remove the bottleneck from the art department, speeding up the entire process. After the business had got back on an even keel financially, we started to invest back into the business, and on average we are annually putting £100,000 back into the business in the form of new equipment.
We have also designed and integrated a tailored management information system specifically for MTM, covering everything from works order processing, manufacturing specifications, materials requirements, replenishment systems; and it has really been one of the keys to turning the business around.
MD: What do you make of the current reshoring of manufacturing?
IG: There has definitely been a resurgence in manufacturing coupled with recognition from government, which there hasn’t been for several decades. The recession woke people up to the fact we need a balanced economy and people are coming round to the idea that manufacturing forms a key part of that economy.
Ultimately, growth will come from the SMEs and entrepreneurs as they are the ones who are always looking for new opportunities and have realised that manufacturing is now being seen as positive and important.
MD: How does your role with the CoC mesh with your role as MD of an SME?
IG: Both as an individual and as President of the CoC, one of my true passions is skills and young people. I can link what I do in my day job with my personal beliefs, such as apprenticeships, trying to help young people get to where they want to be, as well as making sure that what is coming out of educational institutions are the skills and attributes which industry requires.
There hasn’t been enough engagement between industry and schools or colleges in either direction, nor has there been any joint-up thinking by the government in terms of its Education department and its Business Skills and Innovation department, but we are working on it.
MD: What impact do you think a wider adoption of flexible working practices could have?
IG: What we’ve found is that flexible working practices benefit both parties. If you recognise that people have commitments outside of work they tend to give a lot more back; this has been another key element in turning this business around.
Companies need to get away from seeing flexible working as solely for mums with young children and embracing it fully, like we do. I truly consider flexible working to be a business improvement tool; with global trade across various time zones coupled with online customers who want to purchase goods 24/7, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to be more flexible in how you service their needs, fundamental to which is flexible people.
MD: What do you consider the key to creating successful company, regardless of size or industry?
IG: Professional leadership of people and engaging them, making sure you get the best out of your team by motivating them and creating an interesting environment for them to work in is fundamental to achieving success.
About Ian Greenaway:
Having spent 25 years working in batch manufacturing, Greenaway’s unique leadership style is well respected in the industry and has been used in a number of government publications. Considered a national expert on the importance on flexible-working practices, the MD regularly conducts presentations across the UK and Europe and has presented workshops at 10 Downing Street due to his global reputation.
Greenaway was elected President of the Chamber of Commerce (CoC) for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, the third largest region in the UK, in October 2011. Having previously held the position of Vice-President for two years, his focus on skills and young people has seen him elected for a second term, which rarely happens.
About MTM Products:
Started in the 1970s, the Chesterfield-based, primarily B2B Company predominantly provided self-adhesive vinyl labels for industrial applications. Over the last 15 years, MTM has widened its product range to include graphic overlays, engraving and metal nameplates. MTM also supplies almost 80 percent of the UK’s demand for emergency lighting panels and signs, seen in locations as diverse as shopping centers and factories.