How I Beat Two Recessions; Special Correspondent James York Talks to a Businessman Who Told His Employees His Company "Would Not Be Taking Part" in Two Serious Recessions and Who Solved the Problem of Getting a Grand Piano Hoisted by Crane from the Street into His Flat BUSINESS PROFILE
Byline: James York
When the economy is going through recession and inflation is rampant, companies are often forced to make workers redundant in a bid to keep parts of the business afloat.
But Alan Woodfield, who has just stepped down as chairman of hydraPower-dynamics to become non-executive chairman, had other ideas to keep the business going and his 40 employees in their jobs when his plans were threatened by a downturn.
He got them together and told them his solution: "There may be a recession, but we are not taking part in it." That was the short, pithy message and aimed particularly at the small sales team.
While the blizzard of cutbacks, redundancies and failures to challenge the prevailing situation continued for many companies, Alan saw his staff respond and try even harder to bring in business. The firm survived. It is now expanding again.
The company, founded in 1983, has come through two serious recessions and today employs more than 100 and has a turnover of more than pounds 7 million. It has just opened a new business at Aldridge called hydraPower-dynamics (Staffs) with a workforce of 11, whose number is expected to increase gradually as the surface coating work in which is specialises comes on to the order book.
In future all hydraPower-dynamic's surface coating business will be carried out at Aldridge with a predicted turnover of pounds 2 million in its first full-year of trading at one plant. The total turnover target for the hydraPower-dynamics business is pounds 8 million over the same 12-month period, an increase of pounds 1 million.
Manufacturing companies are always under pressure but hydraPower-dynamics, manufacturer of hose and tube assemblies, surface coating equipment and aircraft test equipment, has survived these ups and downs.
It has provided specialist pipework to cool crystals for a pounds 1.3 billion international project to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang as part of the biggest experiment ever undertaken by international scientists at CERN in Switzerland who will be the first to witness events which they believe created the universe.
Alan said: "The company has done well since myself and Martin Moran, who is still hands-on as the production director, landed our first job. We had both worked for companies producing hydraulic hoses and we decided to set up our own business.
"We had a small office on the premises of a firm at Halesowen and our first order was for a quarter-inch diameter hose. I did the measurements and Martin and myself made it."
Twelve months after the business started one of the first staff recruited was Patrick Browne who is now managing director. Patrick came in when the first period of trading, just shy of a year, totalled pounds 20,000.
"The office was very small so we moved into Birmingham and had about 2,000 sq ft of floor space and that was the start of producing our first hose assemblies. Then we had five employees and during the next two years we had grown to 15 employees.
Alan had worked with a firmed called Trist Draper which manufactured friction materials. After leaving Trist Draper Alan was involved in a management buy-out but he could see the result was not working because too many people were involved.
He decided that the only solution was to start his own business and that was when he and Martin embarked on their own business operation.
"There is never a good time to start a business unless it is in an emerging market like the mobile phone boom was," said Alan. "When I told the staff that our firm would not be taking part in the recession I meant that being a small fish in a big pond we could make decisions quickly, while larger companies had to run things through committees."
A new business breaking into a sector against established companies is a huge task but the new hydraPower-dynamics company looked not just at the existing product but its presentation. …