ENGINEERING HER OWN SUCCESS
Bridie Warner-Adsetts is Chief Operating Officer of Naylor Industries. Based in Barnsley, the company has a turnover approaching £50m and is one of the leading manufacturers of building and construction products. Established in 1890 the firm has 380 employees in six factories in Yorkshire, Scotland and the Midlands.
Even with her steely determination and can-do attitude she saw her initial attempts to forge a career in engineering thwarted. We caught up with her and found out that she isn’t someone who takes no for an answer!
You wanted to be an engineer but found yourself working in a finance team.
That’s right. I graduated in Engineering from Sheffield University but getting a job in that field in the 80’s was pretty much impossible. I was pleased to join what is now SIG plc in the finance department at a really exciting time to be in the business as it was acquiring like crazy and ripe for flotation.
How did your career develop?
I put my hand up for any opportunity that I could; I wanted to learn and prove myself; to show what I was capable of – I kept on asking and asking, throwing myself into each new challenge.
What happened next?
I took on a number of different roles in SIG but after 10 years it was time to move on. I went on to work for a Sheffield based steel manufacturer and then Jewsons before taking a year out to travel. I went to see the world – from the Far East to Australasia, the Pacific and the USA.
On my return, I knew that what would give me real satisfaction was building teams, being involved in growing and expanding businesses and whilst I was more than capable of the nuts and bolts side of a finance role, that wasn’t where my passion lay.
By good fortune I met a former colleague who invited me to join BLP plc in Doncaster as their Operations Director where I had a hands on role in several exciting projects including setting up a new manufacturing facility in China and involvement in a management buy-in as well as buy-out and its subsequent distress sale to a competitor. I’m delighted it is once again a great success after a roller coaster ride of highs and lows – I learnt a great deal.
Do you think that enough women are encouraged to pursue a career in Engineering?
Sadly, I’d have to say no. If you take the concept of mentoring – which is something that is far more commonly discussed these days – it is imperative that we have role models who can spot talent, encourage and nurture people, especially when it comes to encouraging more women to look at career opportunities in science, engineering and manufacturing.
There is still crippling stereotyping occurring in the media, in schools and from parents that needs deconstructing before gender parity can be achieved.
Did you have someone you considered a mentor? How did that benefit you?
I did have managers that trusted me to get the job done but there wasn’t someone that I would say was a mentor, certainly not in the way we consider the role today. It would absolutely have been easier for me in many ways if I had known a prominent woman forging ahead in industry that I could have looked up to and wanted to emulate.
When you are looking to make your mark there is a confidence that comes from the environment that you have been raised in – I was extremely lucky to have a supportive family around me that had enormous faith in my abilities.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Good leadership is about understanding what motivates your team, driving for results and about bringing others willingly along with you; it’s also being aware that sometimes you have to adapt to make that happen. Failure can often teach you the most valuable lessons. I value authenticity in others and so I hope I lead with authenticity most of all.
How have you been able to adapt your COO role?
The leadership role that is needed from me today is different. The team that I have built around me have made that the case. Part of being a leader is taking responsibility and showing others what leadership looks like and in doing so you have to take a step back yourself and let them step up to the plate. It has become more about the vision than the application.
Is there one thing that you do differently now?
Yes, I really look to celebrate the good things that are being done well – in the early days I would look for things that were wrong – what was it that I could fix? But seeing the positives is not something that comes naturally to me, my mind is much more geared towards finding the number that is out of place or identifying where something could be done better; and whilst I haven’t stopped doing this, I now make sure that I actively seek out things that are working well and look at how we can share and learn from these.
When it comes to recruiting do you favour home grown talent over external hires?
That is an interesting question. I think that it is something which is very job and circumstance specific. You could have an established team that is functioning well but when the opportunity comes along to appoint a person into a role it may be that a fresh impetus and new ideas is what is needed at that time. And there could be many reasons for that – maybe there isn’t somebody internally who is ready to take on that role or sometimes an element of ‘disruption’ is needed to create ingenuity. External recruitment is sometimes essential but you have to be sensitive to not taking an opportunity away from someone who is already part of your team.
If an internal candidate says to me “I want that job. Give me the opportunity” I almost always go with it. After all, that’s how I got on by being bold enough to ask and someone saying yes.
Are there qualities that you look for in a person regardlesss of level or the role?
People who take an entrepreneurial approach – those with motivational drive and determination will always do well in my book! Most of all, I like to work with people who are straight-forward; who will cut through everything and look to get on with what needs to be done. There’s no room for politics in the team.
What is the next big challenge?
We have a huge growth goal at Naylor and in order to achieve that we will need to stretch ourselves beyond where we are now; we will need to take a leap towards something bigger than we have done before whether that is through product innovation or acquisition or most likely both. We already have a new production line coming on stream as well as a new factory building being completed – it’s all about creating the momentum in the business to achieve that growth and making sure that we get everything ready to really go for it.