Bright Spark Q&A – Richard Whitehead

Richard Whitehead, chief executive officer at Hindley Circuits Ltd

What led you into your chosen career?

I was brought up in a very rural community in the Scottish Borders, I wasn’t really aware of the huge range of careers that existed. However, I was obsessed with all things engineering based. An opportunity to start an engineering apprenticeship seemed like a good choice at the time. To be truthful, with time, I found the commercial aspect of business much more appealing in practice and my career moved in that direction. My role developed in materials management, some product and then a good stretch in business development, before running a business division and, ultimately, starting this business. Short answer – luck.

Who or what has made the greatest impression on your career?

Difficult to pin that one down to one person. My work ethic is very much from my parents, my desire to succeed came from tougher times. In my twenties, I would have to give credit to an ex-boss of mine who inspired me to focus on achieving my potential and believing in my ability. That belief turned into my first management role and, ultimately, my first directorship. So, thanks DJG!

What does your company/organisation do and how is it making an impact?

We are a manufacturing business that provides the service of building electronic products for our end customers. Our customers identify a market need for a product and either design it themselves or with our assistance. We then manufacture the product and the customer markets and sells the product to its customer set. Our niche is our ability to make what the customer wants, when they want it. So, it’s not about us, it is about them.

Briefly, what does a typical working day comprise for you?

Being a young company and growing quickly, the first agenda item of the day is cash-flow. We strive to pay our suppliers on-the-button to continue to build confidence. Next tends to be an informal update with production on progress and current challenges. Interleaved with lots of coffee can be new business opportunities and the latest products we are looking to make. I tend to walk through the facility everyday and get a feel for the dynamic and what issues the team is encountering. Keeping the staff here happy is very important to me. What may be a cause of concern to them may seem like a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but if it’s a concern for them it is due some attention or consideration in my book. This team came through some lean times, they deserve that.

Supply chain is critical in this business and some part of the day will involve working a resolution or an opportunity in this area. I try to keep in regular contact with our customers either indirectly or directly, we have some exciting opportunities and it is key we are aligned with their requirements.

The rest of the day will tend to focus on the future, keeping our external directors up to date and working with them on the next steps we take as we develop.

We are in the process of acquiring another business, this will be our second acquisition in the space of a month, so ensuring that is progressing on plan is vital.

Generally, I meet with our operations manager daily and discuss some of the step change projects he is driving within the business to ensure he has the support needed. The day tends to end with a quick review of order intake and production output around six thirty and maybe a cup of tea.

What are your company short and long-term aims?

Our company was formed by buying the assets of a business that went into administration. That business had got into a terrible state as a result of major cash flow issues at a group level. As a standalone business it had a chance. So, year one was all about recovery and re-assuring all the stakeholders. To be honest, year two was planned to be a year of consolidation but we have enjoyed such strong growth our business plan has jumped a full year in almost every way.

Medium and longer term, the plan is to continue to invest in our core business activity and look tactically towards acquisitions that strengthen our overall proposition to the marketplace. There are many factors that could affect our growth aspirations but we think there is still space in the market for a quality, service-focused business of this type and approaching £10m turnover doesn’t seem like an unreasonable objective. However, my eye will be on the bottom line. Let’s see, we will do what we can.

Hindley Circuits
01670 590646