Group Business Development Manager
How is it April already?! It seems like only yesterday that we launched the new look Techno Group and the response has been phenomenal! Lockdown hasn’t stopped us from reaching out beyond the walls of our own facilities and collaborating more than ever before. The launch of our Engineering Solutions service has captured the imaginations of buyers and engineering departments alike, and has led to us being involved in some very exciting projects!
It hasn’t all been rosy though. I would be lying if I said that 2020 didn’t present Techno Group with its challenges and we, like many, had to make some very difficult choices. The downturn in the civil aerospace industry left a noticeable hole in our order book and, with the forecast that it is not likely to return to pre-COVID levels for another few years, we had to act fast to penetrate further into existing markets and establish relationships in new ones.
For me, 2020 and the COVID pandemic was a baptism of fire. The Techno Group restructure gave me the opportunity to step into the Business Development role representing both Techno Group companies. I had been a member of the Technoturn team since 2009, carrying out various operational roles including production and supply chain management, so the opportunity to become a member of the strategic team was gratefully received. In normal times the transition from operational to strategic management can be a tricky one, but with my background in fostering relationships and working with hugely experienced and talented people both within and outside of Techno Group, it would have been quite a natural progression. However, 2020 was not a normal year and we are not likely to return to anything like our pre-COVID way of working any time soon.
When you start a new job there is normally a bedding in period where you are learning how things are currently being done before you start to stamp your own mark on the processes you are responsible for. I didn’t have that luxury. The old way of doing business had been unceremoniously disposed of, taking with it most of the tools that I had seen my predecessors put to good effect when building customer relations. So, I started with a blank page, which is both a great opportunity and an incredibly daunting experience at the same time.
We have challenged our notion of ‘best practice’ and emerged with a new and revitalised vision for the future of Techno Group. So, what have I learnt? Well, lots of things, but two specific points stand proud.
Firstly, it is no longer enough for manufacturers to rely on the standard key performance indicators of on-time delivery and product quality to differentiate themselves from the competition. We need to be agile, responsive, and personable to provide our customer base with the complete package that they are looking for. This is by no means downgrading the importance of OTD and quality, rather it elevates them to a level that is assumed. In today’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict market trends where the only constant is change itself.
We must combat volatility with vision, uncertainty with understanding, complexity with clarity and ambiguity with agility. This places our staff, not our machines, front and centre of our competitive strategy. After all, people do business with people and we therefore need to take an empathetic view of business development activities which seek to understand not only the customer requirements, but also their environment and the problems which it presents.
My second lesson that I have learnt is that bigger is not always better. Growth for the sake of growth can actually be detrimental to an organisation and it is something that we all need to be careful as we rebuild following the trauma of the last 12 months. COVID has left many organisations hungry for more revenue and it is the responsibility of Business Development to keep feeding them, but it is important not to snatch at every opportunity that arises. A business is a biological system and it not only depends on the volume of work passing through the operation, but it also depends on the quality of the work going through. There is no point having an order book bursting at the seams with work that is toxic to the ongoing health of the operation.
Although Techno Group have worked to bring both production operations closer together, we have been careful to maintain the identities of both sites. This gives us the flexibility to pool our resources and increase our market presence, whilst at the same time maintaining the charm and authenticity of the family run business that we still are. Our growth mindset is not focused solely on increasing output, rather it is focused on growth from within, increasing our potential by providing our staff the freedom and responsibility to make informed decisions with the best interests of the wider organisation and the customer in mind.
It is the staff that give us the agility and responsiveness to remain competitive, therefore it is only right that they are front and centre of our vision for the future.
Lockdown 3.0 may be in its final days but none of us are out of the woods yet. The UK are currently fairing better than our European partners but, as we have seen before, this can change very quickly, and this is not the time to be complacent. However, I am finding a lot to be optimistic about. Although aerospace left us licking our wounds, it gave us the headroom to increase our activities in different markets. As a result, we have seen growth in the ophthalmic, photonic, and vacuum industries, establishing long-term contracts and creating security through the diversity of our product range.
Both Techno Group sites are executing their investment strategies for 2021 and are on the cusp of introducing new machine technology to our fleet. As I mentioned before, our people are our main focus in our vision for the future, and we are continuing to invest in our apprenticeship schemes as well as our ongoing recruitment campaign for skilled staff to add to our team. If 2020 was a year of reflection, then 2021 is definitely a year for action!
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