Autumn Fair 2015 – Passion and Innovation VS Business Growth and Strategy

I took the opportunity to visit the Autumn Fair this week to meet up with new and old faces as well as look to gain insights and further knowledge into the FMCG sector for 2016 and beyond.

Walking around the vast number of exhibits at the NEC, as well as listening to some of the seminars, what was evident to me was the passion and innovation that British companies still have for their product and business.

As a new Father myself I got to see some of the great new toys and gadgets that my son Harry is likely to be playing with in the coming years as well all the ‘vintage’ and ‘chic style’ home interior products that my wife will continue to buy and clutter the house with! However, what was evident was the continued emphasis and drive to promote and sell ‘all things British’, a unique selling point not only for our own market but the export market too.

Walking around the exhibits I began to think about how businesses need to ensure they maintain a fine balance of passion and innovation versus the growth ambitions that they have set. Over the years working in the executive search sector I have met a number of senior managers and Directors who joined a family or privately owned business with the strategy of assisting the owners to grow and develop their ‘prized asset’. Things always start off well but it soon it is evident that the owners struggle to ‘let go’ and hand over responsibilities. I understand the need to hold on to the idea generation and innovation as an entrepreneur but I feel it is just as important to understand that it is difficult to grow a business on your own and that you only have a certain knowledge level yourself, before reaching a ceiling.

This was evident when I sat and listened to Emma Bridgewater, during her keynote speaker slot at the show. 30 years ago she launched a new pottery brand which provided ‘beautiful, practical pottery for a relaxed and colourful, mismatched life.’ 15 million mugs later, the rest is history as they say!

Echoing my thoughts, Emma talked a lot about the importance of passion and innovation in a business and that your biggest asset is your brand. She also talked about the importance of heritage as well as supporting British brands.

During the Q&A session I asked what challenges she faced as the business grew with people and processes and if she struggled to ‘let go’. She admitted to this day that she is still very hands on in the business, but in order to grow the business she needed to seek further advice and guidance along the way. This was evident when they took over the manufacturing themselves. People thought that she was mad to do so, but with help and support was able to significantly grow and develop her business. She admitted that you only have a level that you can work to and it was important to identify a number of ‘Brand Supporters’ to help you get your message out there for you.

Over the years Collingwood have worked with a number of privately owned and family businesses to help attract, headhunt and recruit senior talent in to their business. Whenever we meet the owners the level of passion and innovation is always evident, and is often the biggest pull factor when attracting candidates to the business. The successful businesses have always been the ones that have allowed their new recruits bring their own innovation and ideas to the table, often resulting in the growth that they desire.

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