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Brown ... achievements galore

Brown ... achievements galore

A decade of impressive growth at Hi-Force

April 2016 marks the ten year anniversary of Group Managing Director Kevin Brown, returning to the Hi-Force head office in the UK. We caught up with Kevin to discuss the changes made within Hi-Force over the past ten years, and for an insight into how he sees Hi-Force performing in the future.

Why did you decide to return to the UK in April 2006?

To be honest the decision was not entirely in my hands. A joint decision from me and another major shareholder of the business at that time resulted in the need for a change of leadership at the UK head office. Having been based in Dubai for the previous 14 years establishing our highly successful Middle East Regional Office, the challenge of a new global leadership role and desire to return to my own country, did appeal.

What were the key challenges you faced in your new role?

Wow! How much print space do you have? Once I arrived back in the UK, apart from all of the personal adjustments I needed to make, I was also very surprised to find a business that had simply lost its way and a workforce that had suffered from several years of poor leadership. The UK facilities were in a poor condition, the company finances were very limited due to a lack of investment. The general atmosphere around the place was very negative. My management style has always focused on the greatest and costliest asset of the business: the employees. Upon my return I quickly realised that if I was to succeed in making the changes the business so desperately needed, then I needed to ensure that I had "buy in" from all of the employees. Simple and straightforward decisions, like improving the quality of the workplace and understanding each individual employee’s needs, ambitions and frustrations, were absolutely vital, if I was to turn things around. I spent a considerable amount of my time in the first few months simply talking to employees, both individually and within work groups, to ensure that implemented changes to the work structure would be greeted with enthusiasm. Overcoming pessimism within a work force that had simply been mismanaged and demotivated over a number of years, was by far the greatest challenge I faced.

What do you consider were the most significant changes that you made in the past 10 years?

Undoubtedly turning Hi-Force into a world class manufacturing company with state of the art in-house manufacturing facilities, has to come top of the list. When I returned to the UK in 2006, Hi-Force had no in-house manufacturing capabilities. All component parts manufacturing was sub-contracted out, with only assembly and testing completed in-house.

This is closely followed by a changed culture within the business. Hi-Force is now a respected employer, that trains, motivates and creates career and growth opportunities, for all of its employees worldwide. In 2006 the head office employed 29 people. Today, the team in the UK is in excess of 100, and more than 250 worldwide.

To finance our expansion, a huge commitment from the Brown family was required, in terms of inward investment for the business. Fortunately I and my fellow shareholders, who also happen to be my children, have always believed in Hi-Force and therefore we have collectively never hesitated, to invest everything we have into the business.

Today Hi-Force is a financially strong and a fiercely independent business, managed by hardworking shareholders and directors, and supported by a talented workforce. In recent times there have been a significant number of acquisitions within our industry, however I and my fellow shareholders and directors, firmly believe that it is Hi-Force’s independence and ability to adapt in a fast changing global environment that is our greatest strength!

What else has changed?

When I look at Hi-Force today and recall how it was ten years ago, I am filled with a huge sense of pride, in all that has been achieved by Team Hi-Force! Today we have a world class manufacturing facility that is ten times the size of our previous facility, a highly competent and creative Engineering Design Department, a proactive Human Resources Team that is constantly driving positive change with empowerment, delegation and leadership initiatives at all levels, and an independently approved and award winning Training School, that provides training for both our own employees and those of our distributors and end users. No wonder the past ten years passed so quickly!!

Looking forward how do you see the next 10 years for Hi-Force?

To be honest, if I had listed the achievements of the last 10 years, as a "to do" list at the outset of my return to UK, I would probably never have taken the job on! Thinking about the next 10 years is both exciting and also a little daunting. I hope to reduce my daily involvement in the business somewhat, safe in the knowledge that the next generation of shareholders can continue to expand their responsibilities and roles within the business and help take it to the next level. Succession planning for any family business is absolutely vital for its continued success. My son Craig Brown is returning to the UK this April, following a 20-year career in Dubai, to take up his new role as group sales director. This role is designed to support our sales teams worldwide, and Craig is able to share his 20 years of sales experience, with the objective of increasing global sales. My eldest daughter Kelly Graham has experience in both the sales and operational disciplines of the company. Kelly is currently on a period of maternity leave but will soon be returning to the senior management team of our Middle East operations. My youngest daughter Laura Thompson is a highly competent and proactive group marketing director. In a competitive industry, where we are trying to increase our market share and brand awareness, her expertise and enthusiasm to ensuring Hi-Force products appear in markets around the world, continues to support our global growth.

Further expansion is certainly on the cards for Hi-Force. Later this year the Netherlands operation will be expanding in both physical size, and also in terms of the services offering. At head office, expansion of our manufacturing facilities, to further improve our manufacturing flow path processes, is expected to be completed at the end of Q3. Furthermore, investment in additional overseas Training Schools, along the lines of the already accredited schools in UK, Dubai and Malaysia is ongoing. We are also in the early stages of planning the establishment of a regional operation in the US; to further support our distributor network in the Americas.

Our engineering design team continues to work on several new product designs, which we are confident will be well received in the market.

Continued expansion will of course require an ever increasing workforce and our HR Department is working really hard to not only train and develop our existing workforce, in order that ambitious employees can further their career within the business, but also to recruit additional employees to join a great team of people, in a very unique business.

Having worked within the business for over 40 years now, what is the most valuable lesson you have learnt along the way?

Work hard, plan well, believe in yourself, be brave, trust and follow your instincts and be a team player. Opportunities will always come knocking, so be ready to take them!!



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