Managing Director - family owned German group


Due to promotion, Collingwood was approached by this European leader within building products to appoint a new Managing Director for one of their UK subsidiaries.

The family owned group has been trading since the 1930’s, employs 6,000 people, through 27 factories and generates revenues in excess of €1bn.  Having traded in the UK since the 1970’s, this UK site has sales of c. £26m and employ 123 full-time staff, of which 74 work in production. 
The parent company had invested £14m in this production facility in 2014, extending its production space to 12,000 square metres and significantly increasing its capacity. The Managing Director took over the position in 2005 and joined from a sales background, however, there was a real need to recruit an experienced operations biased MD into the role.

The site manufactures c. 220 units per day and the objective was to increase output to around 450 units, with maximum capacity being around 500. A productivity improvement plan was needed to drive better efficiencies in production rather than further investing in more automation, people or machinery.
Many operatives and middle managers within the production team had been with the company for a long period of time.  For this reason, together with it being a unionised environment, there was a need for a strong people centric leader who could quickly gain credibility and trust with the team to change their perception of what good looked like and raise the bar.

Senior management within the UK operation is largely stable and well respected. This said, the Operations Director left the previous year and so this person was going to inherit a Manufacturing Manager as the most senior person in production.

THE ROLE & its challenges

Fortunately for Collingwood and their Head of Building Products, Mark Goldsmith, they had good exposure to headhunting around the South West of England; an area not blessed with an abundance of allied manufacturers. To compound this the incoming Managing Director needed exposure to working within a Germanic culture and would therefore appreciate the cultural nuances of the two countries.
Also key to the role would be this person’s ability to create a more challenging environment but, due to the longevity of staff, it was essential this improvement was dealt with in a diplomatic manner and with a patient approach.


Working with his team of experienced researchers, Mark identified the local landscape of associated building product manufacturers around the South West region. Once he drilled down to those who would appreciate the nuances of working with a German board it was confirmed to the client that this provided an extremely shallow pool of potential candidates to target. Given this, it was agreed that Collingwood would open up the search to a more generic engineering focused manufacturing arena (rather than just building products).

The research identified 36 target candidates to approach. In addition, Mark was also able to refer through his long-established network of senior building product contacts throughout the UK to identify potential candidates and gain referrals to recommended individuals located further afield (more on this later). A social media strategy was developed, using attractive creative designs to share on twitter and Linked In to raise the profile of this opportunity. We also placed confidential adverts via the larger job boards in order to cast the net as wide as possible.


Following initial in-depth telephone screening, a long list of 7 strong candidates was delivered to the German client and we collaboratively agreed to face to face interview 5 of these.

Following these competency-based interviews, 4 candidates were recommended to the client who came to the UK for first stage interviews.  2 were invited back for final interview with the German family owners and the preferred candidate, who ultimately started employment with the client, came to Mark’s attention via a headhunted candidate’s referral. Working in Asia he was not on Mark’s initial radar and fitted the role perfectly. The power of proactive networking and gaining trust was again demonstrated in this successful assignment.

Mark managed the process, both pre and post offer, with the candidate securing rented accommodation temporarily whilst his family planned to re-locate to the UK later in the year.

Success was enjoyed despite such a tough brief.

Here is a testimonial from the newly appointed Managing Director describing his interaction with Collingwood.

"I would have no hesitation in recommending Mark for executive recruitment. I worked closely with Mark in securing my current role and was very impressed with his knowledge of the hiring company. Throughout the process, Mark was very engaging and kept me well informed of the process and next steps. Since starting the role Mark has kept in touch and continued to offer helpful advice. I plan to stay connected with Mark for my future recruitment requirements."