Louise Frankland, Mansfield Pollard
The timely relaunch of a forgotten product has boosted the fortunes of Mansfield Pollard, which creates specialist air management units for the healthcare and data centre markets, says Managing Director Louise Frankland.
- What was your inspiration for joining the business?
Mansfield Pollard was founded 156 years ago as a sheet metalwork specialist. I joined the business as the sales director four years ago before taking over as Managing Director in 2019, then in early 2020 completed a management buyout of the business with Bryan Bentley, the Operations Director and it is now jointly owned by us. I loved the fact that the business had been around for so many years and had evolved so much over that time, and I was excited by the opportunity of where the business was moving towards. It is a really exciting business to be part of.
- What has been the impact of the pandemic on the business and how have you dealt with this?
It has been a fantastic record year for us; we have been really fortunate. Our turnover for the year to this July will be around £22 million, which is about 20% up on the previous year. The business has several facets to it, and while the demand for our kitchen ventilation hoods fell off a cliff because of the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector we saw really strong sales in our air handling units to the healthcare sector and data centre markets. Hospitals needed to expand the emergency isolation wards they were building requiring specialist units and we also took two large contracts for data centre cooling.
We also relaunched our UVent line of products into the healthcare market and demand for that has been very busy. UVent is an ultraviolet air sterilisation system which kills airborne viruses; we originally launched it 15 years ago for the Ebola and Sars outbreaks but hadn’t really marketed since then. It was designed in conjunction with Public Health England and had already been independently tested so customers have found it very useful.
- What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?
The challenge always for us is getting the right people on board. Bryan and myself have worked really hard to build a strong culture here; we have very strong values that run through the business and when we recruit people, it is not just about recruiting a team of individuals who can do a job, but it is about finding the right people who are aligned with our values as well.
- What key lesson have you learnt about setting up and growing a business?
The importance of listening to our employees and looking after them. We have a significant number of employees who have 20, 30, even 35 years’ service and a wealth of experience. When I came into the business a lot of them knew how we could make things better but the existing board weren’t keen to implement their ideas. So for us, it is about very much listening to the people who are doing the day to day roles and looking after them. If you look after your people, they will look after your business.
- What has been the secret of your success so far?
You have got to keep looking forwards and innovating – we are launching three new products over the next six months. You can’t afford to stand still. Standing still means you end up going backwards. When I joined MP I also introduced the idea of doing a 3 to 5 year business plan every year, where everybody across all departments gets involved in a shared vision of where we want to take the business. It helps create ownership, accountability and a shared view of how we can achieve things together.
- What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?
Do your research – you have got to understand your target market,your audience and what your unique proposition is going to be. Plan well then go for it. Never stop trying – there will be bumps in the road, make sure you get back up and carry on.
- What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?