Over the past year, I have been working with Advance Tapes International Ltd. to help them grow the business and develop their leadership team. Advance Tapes has forged a strong position within the specialist industrial tapes marketplace. They are a market leader within an ever-growing marketplace with a global demand estimated to be around £6 billion. I spoke to Chief Executive, Mike Ayres, to give us the lowdown on how his business has benefited from my support:
Background and future objectives
Advance Tapes was established in 1964 by three founders, David Ayres, Harry Holyoake and Peter Hargrave, who previously worked for a business making adhesives for the medical industry. However, when this company relocated, the group decided to start their own business, sourcing their own equipment and switching to the production of industrial tapes. Over the years, Advance Tapes has grown to become a market leader focusing solely on manufacturing premium quality industrial tapes. When Peter Hargrave retired in 1999, I became Chief Executive having joined in 1990.
When I became Chief Executive, capacity was limited so I focused on increasing the added value per employee - which has doubled during my time at the company. I have continually invested into achieving greater manufacturing efficiencies, which includes better plant machinery and a recent relocation. In 2013, we made our biggest investment yet in the form of a coating line for our fabric tapes. However, producing high-quality products has not been my only focus; I am committed to improving customer service to allow leaner stock management through the supply chain year on year to allow the business to tap into the 5 - 6% annual increase in global demand.
Leadership pressures and challenges
Within the global marketplace, the premium “speciality” tapes marketplace is estimated at around £6 billion. Therefore, to grow in line with increasing demand, I wanted to focus on improving efficiencies and our customer service. However, along with only one other director, I found himself both directing and managing many of the day-to-day operational activities, which pulled my focus away from any plans for growth. I was introduced to Cherie by Ian Mattioli from Mattioli Woods, who relayed Cherie’s experience in helping manufacturing companies achieve business growth and greater efficiencies.
Creating a 5-year vision and Senior Leadership Team
I have been working with Cherie for just over a year now. One of the first measures she helped us put into place was to give the company more resource at a senior level; this included helping us to recruit an Operational Director and a Finance Director to share some of the pressure and relieve some of my responsibilities, so I could focus on the future of the business.
After establishing a new leadership team, Cherie then helped us to look at critical areas, which involved the creation of a 5-year vision – this included:
- To grow the business by 50% (4-year target)
- To improve customer service including better order completions
- To maintain our company culture by gaining more buy-in from employees
Fast progress and striking results
We are already making good progress towards achieving our 5-year vision; we now have the right measures in place to achieve the output we need to achieve our target growth. So far, we have had striking results, which include an increase in our tracked “on time in full” completed orders, which has risen from a 70% average to consistently within the mid-90s range (%).
I have also been working with Cherie to develop my leadership style, which includes helping me to focus less on every detail and more on becoming a better leader. I am more focused on how to devote my time; how I communicate to the business; and how visible I am to others. Cherie’s support has been essential in helping me to achieve my objectives to increase employee engagement. My overall aim is to give my employees the scope to learn or take on more responsibilities by creating opportunities for personal development and self-progression. I want my people to have the chance to progress or enjoy the satisfaction of increased earnings by working for a successful business. Therefore, I decided to meet every person in my organisation. In groups of 4 - 6 people, I listened to their likes, dislikes, and what they would like to see in the future. As a result of these meetings, we have now set up an annual cycle of feedback meetings to follow up on how my employees feel things are progressing. Two months ago, we held an event to present our plans for the future, when we launched our vision to the business in March 2018.
Cherie has regular one-to-ones with each member of our new Senior Leadership team, as well as meeting with us collectively on a quarterly basis, when she attends our off-site board meetings. I find Cherie’s involvement to be greatly beneficial both individually and when we meet as a group - her useful input and insights are invaluable.