Managing Director – High end electronics for aerospace and defence


Established in the mid 1980’s this manufacturer is an industry innovator in the design and manufacture of electronic enclosures and components.  Part of a larger European group, generating revenues in excess of €150 million and floated on the stock exchange, the UK operation had grown under the current Managing Director’s stewardship of six years, with plans to double turnover over the next 10 years.
They satisfy a diverse range of industries to include telecommunications, industrial control, medical electronics, defence and aerospace. Defence “primes” and aerospace were the growth sectors for the UK operation.
Having done a lot of work in moving the UK workforce towards a more growth mindset the current MD of six years was due to retire in March 2019.


Pre-takeover of 2009, this single site manufacturer had been managed poorly and so a lot of the retiring MD’s role had been bringing disparate, disengaged teams together and driving a common vision for what was expected of them from the head office in Central Europe.

In later years his management style had started to bear fruit, with a far more cohesive, results oriented environment developed.

Key to the role would be this person’s ability to continue this work in driving a more challenging environment for the team, whilst having a good appreciation of how to enthuse and influence them. Clear direction and communication skills were going to be essential.

Taking this brief, it was clear to Collingwood that the softer skills of candidates would be tested as much as their exposure to working for an established and bespoke aerospace manufacturer.

Listening to the retiring MD this person would come from an operational or finance director background, with the business not wanting to bring in a sales orientated successor.


Once Collingwood's client had signed off the Strategy Document outlining our interpretation to what was required and how we were to approach the market, Collingwood researched aerospace and defence manufacturers within a 50-mile radius of this client’s site in the Northern Home Counties. This led to 71 target businesses drawing in the defence hotspots of Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire.

Upon checking there were no conflicts of interest with the client, Collingwood then researched Operations Directors, Finance Directors and, in the cases of smaller manufacturers, existing Managing Directors. This expanded the list of approachable candidates to 109. 

A major barrier communicated back to the client was directors' working for large defence / aerospace businesses ability to take on a broader role for a smaller, one site operation. Working with the MD helped both parties realign expectations and understand deeper what was essential from this role. Collingwood witnessed a lot of Operations Directors who were, naturally, very competent at running plants, but would not have a strong enough handle on the wider requirement to manage finance and glue together the commercial operations. 

Salary was another issue, although proved manageable.  Again, this was clearly outlined to the client, thus helping him understand what good would look like at a given salary range.


Once referrals were gained, 121 candidates were spoken with in total.  This led to Collingwood sharing eight long listed candidates with the client. Five were agreed to be met by Collingwood to assess in full.  Feeding back, three were agreed to be met with by the retiring MD and Sales Director, with two moving forward to final interview.  With the preferred candidate secured, the Central European head office threw us all a curve ball stating the COO and CFO wanted to meet ahead of offering. They also wanted two candidates at their stage. 

Based on further refinement from the client’s feedback, Collingwood further refined the headhunt leading to two additional interviewees. Collingwood communicated with the MD that, although good, we did not feel these two offered improvement to the existing preferred candidate (skills, salary and fit).  Drawing up a Management Information Report for the MD to share with the COO and CFO, the amount of research and approach work was clearly outlined to them, thus allowing them to move forward with this one preferred candidate. This meeting ultimately led to the client offering the role, with Collingwood managing the offer process to a successful conclusion. 

Interestingly, this preferred candidate came to Collingwood's attention via a referral from an approached headhunted candidate. This preferred candidate was living in Spain, having been seconded by his UK employer – it is fair to say, this person would not have been picked up by conventional recruitment means.

Collaboration with our client and the sharing of data rich research was the key to our success in appointing this role.