Weir Valves

The speed and efficiency with which Executives Online found two interim managers enabled a key division of a major international engineering group to enact a major change programme and turnaround.

Weir Valves and Controls, part of Scotland-based Weir Group, had enjoyed several years of growth before experiencing financial difficulties in 2003/4. Weir Valves and Controls, which has operations in France, the States and the UK, has its headquarters in Huddersfield, and it was the UK arm of the company that was experiencing the worst problems.

Phil Clifton was appointed MD of the division in August 2004, tasked with enacting a complete change programme by the end of 2005. The extent of the losses each month meant he needed to act immediately and make some swift decisions. His radical solution involved a higher degree of outsourcing and working with supply chain partners, reducing staff numbers by half, from 360 to 180, including cutting machinists from 75 machinists to 5 and moving from an 18 acre Victorian site to a new modern site better suited to the business’s new direction. New processes and cost systems needed to be introduced as well as integration into a global strategy of growth in China, the Middle East and around the world.

The most pressing issues where immediate support was needed were the supply chain – because of the extent of the planned outsourcing – and in the finance department where the magnitude of the turnaround and overseas plans created immediate need for a new divisional financial director.

"Our long-term needs were different to our short-term requirements so the interim route was the ideal solution."

"We had some good people, but the supply chain team wasn’t of sufficient calibre to help us implement our plans," explains Phil Clifton, who chose the interim route for filling the post of financial director to provide an injection of very specific high calibre expertise and allow the company to keep all options open until its new course was set – a typical interim scenario. "Our long-term needs were different to our short-term requirements so the interim route was the ideal solution. We hadn’t decided if we were going to merge the division with another part of the group or grow it, so we weren’t in a position to appoint a permanent Finance Director, but at the same time it was critical that we had someone to take charge of the divisional finances at this crucial time."

Executives Online were recommended to Phil Clifton by a colleague who had heard of their reputation to offer ready access to quality candidates. They didn’t disappoint. Within just two weeks, Executives Online had provided a shortlist of sound candidates for the role of divisional financial director.

"There were three excellent contenders, all of whom were perfectly capable of doing the job," enthuses Phil Clifton, who chose Paul M, a seasoned finance director with over 15 years experience at board level, plus a proven track record with turnarounds and improving profitability within a number of multi-site organisations.

When it came to the supply chain director, Phil Clifton was again presented with an excellent group of candidates to choose from, eventually selecting Sean C who will remain with the company until autumn of this year to develop a strategy for the change programme, deliver the first supply chain partners and recruit the new supply chain team. He has already appointed a supply chain manager to work with him.

Phil Clifton was hugely impressed with the whole recruitment process, which began with a long face-to-face meeting with Executive Chairman of Executives Online, Norrie.

"Executives Online completely understood our requirements and knew how to interpret them perfectly," says Clifton. "Our needs were quite specific yet Executives Online not only managed to present us with one ideal candidate but several, all of whom were spot on."

And the turnaround is already well underway. Paul M has been concentrating on boosting performance in France and the US and focusing on setting up manufacturing operations abroad – there are plans to purchase a company in China by the end of the year. In addition Paul M has been working on a five-year strategy to double the size of the division. The magnitude and duration of Paul's expected contribution are such that in October, Weir elected to employ him directly in a longer-term contract.

So pleased has Phil Clifton been with the service he has received from Executives Online and the interim managers he has recruited through them, that he has recommended the interim route and Executives Online to colleagues from another division, Weir Pumps, which is going through a similar change programme.