Magazine article Management Today

Young Gun to Industry Bigshot

Magazine article Management Today

Young Gun to Industry Bigshot

Article excerpt

The '80s spawned a creature destined to be catalogued in social history as the 'corporate sportsman'. It drove Range Rover Vogues with 'BOSS1' numberplates, wore shooting stockings with embroidered bon mots and despatched vast numbers of low pheasants.

Roger Hum is the antithesis of this. The 58-year-old chairman and chief executive of Smiths Industries was brought up to shoot. 'I was 12 when I was given a.410 hammergun,' he recalls. 'I had my first lesson with it here, at the Holland & Holland Shooting School, in 1950, when meat was still rationed but rabbits abundant. Having learnt how to hit things, I sneaked off on a dawn raid against the rabbits swarming over the local golf course and came home, jubilant, with a couple.'

Those days of shortage have long gone, though Sir Roger still enjoys rough-shooting. We had planned to share a hide shooting pigeon coming into spring-sown wheat, but the birds had decided to stay snug in the woods, snacking on abundant acorns.'

So it's the Shooting School instead, and Hum is performing very prettily with a Holland & Holland Royal 12-bore built in the '30s, a period regarded by many as the golden era of London gunmaking.

For Hum, the gun is symbolic of the cream of British craftsmanship, a reminder of his apprentice years with Rolls-Royce before he joined Smiths Industries in 1958. At the time the company was a key manufacturer of car parts, particularly speedometers and mileometers, but later diversified into avionics, medical equipment and specialist industrial products. This successful combination made 1995 pre-tax profits of 138 million pounds, a contribution to industry which helped to secure Sir Roger's knighthood last year.

'If I do have a personal management credo,' he says, 'it's to agree strategy and plans with managers and then delegate authority and responsibility to them to perform against the agreed targets. When they turn out to be successful, a significant part of their reward is paid as a bonus.' His philosophy is seen clearest in the shooting field, where he is always the first to congratulate another on a good shot.

Since work is the curse of the shooting classes, he has had to make sacrifices. 'I'm very lucky to be invited to some marvellous shoots,' Hum says, demolishing a clay pigeon, 'but I never put sport before my work. …

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