“In an ever-changing world, you need to be able to reinvent yourself.”
Gordon Macrae is the special projects manager at Gripple, a globally recognised manufacturing company in the construction and agricultural sectors. Gordon is one of our Entrepreneurs in Residence, a member of the Department of Management Advisory Board and he also advises on the Help to Grow: Management course.
How would you describe your leadership style?
For me, leadership is about having a clear vision. You should know what you want to do, put a plan in place to deliver it, and then manage and monitor it as you go along.
How important is innovation in the way you run your business?
Innovation is the most important aspect of our business. We’ve developed 25 pieces of intellectual property in the last 30 years, and we set a target that 25% of our turnover should come from products we've launched in the last five years. In a fast-moving, ever-changing world, you need to be able to reinvent yourself.
How has Covid-19 affected how you do business at Gripple?
We have been manufacturing all the way through the crisis — our products were used in the Nightingale hospital. For our office staff, we’ve always promoted working from home so the pandemic just accelerated that process. Any business is about people and face to face contact is crucial. Post pandemic we are operating a hybrid model supported by a flexible working policy.
We’ve had to change, of course during the pandemic. One of the ways we develop new products is by going out and talking to people out in the field. That’s not possible right now, so we’ve sent GoPro cameras to people to film the problem so we can work out a solution. Thinking outside the box like this means you can still achieve what you want in a Covid world. And these learning will make us smarter in the future.
When you’re implementing change, how do you bring your employees with you?
We’re unique as a business because we’re 100% employee-owned. If you work here for 12 months you have to buy £1,000 of shares. It gives you a voice — we have shareholder reps on the board — and it means you understand how everything you do impacts the bottom line.
And it goes beyond that, to our whole culture here at Gripple. Everyone's opinion is respected and people are encouraged to challenge the management team. In the last three years we've won three Best Company to Work For awards, and it’s one of our proudest achievements.
Innovation occurs at product, service, process and business model levels. How does the employee ownership model support innovation?
Absolutely. It's a very powerful tool. There are a number of indicators that employee ownership makes your business perform 5 to 10% better, and if you're an innovation-focused business you can achieve the same again.
It also gives your business a clear succession path. When you retire as a business owner, the next generation are already working in the business, they understand it and they buy into your values.
What does productivity mean to Gripple?
For us, productivity is all about efficiency and excellence. We’re a business that manufactures widgets, and we keep our costs low by investing in automation.
Productivity is something that you have to focus on improving each year. We drive it bottom up, where our people are always looking for better ways of doing things.
How does Gripple approach Equality, Diversity and Inclusion?
Gripple is a business based on a strong set of values with employees at the heart of whatever we do. These are important issues which we have embraced via our Gripple values ethos and will deliver a fairer and better working environment which will benefit all our staff and supply chain.
Our values are captured on our original mind map and the one key statement is that no person is better than anyone else.
The values are delivered today via the Gripple spirit which encompasses:
• Team working
What made you want to work on the Help to Grow: Management course?
At Gripple we have always supported local businesses, and we believe in upskilling. It's important for SMEs to take part in a programme like this. If they take the learnings, which are very practical and real, they will make better decisions and create a more sustainable business.
What advice would you give to a small business starting out now?
It's a challenging time, but there are a significant number of problems still out there waiting to be solved. If you've done your research correctly, if you are brave, and if you’re resilient, you can succeed.