The Covid-19 pandemic like many crises throughout history has laid bare the importance of adaptability within business, testing business leaders in new ways as they have sought to guide their firms through the last 19 months.
WRG Steel Partitioning was originally established in the early 1980’s to manufacture partitioning and safety barrier systems. Its continuous aim is to develop and produce value engineered quality products at competitive prices, which provide value for money to customers.
In the year 2005, David Graham - now director of the company - took over the longstanding business having previously been one of its customers. Over his 16-year tenure to date, he has faced a multitude of challenges including two of the most pressing in recent times: the global financial crisis, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first of those challenges came less than five years into David’s directorship of the company, and by his own admission, it forced a then naïve young director to adapt very quickly to help guide the business through.
Speaking to The Leaders Council, David candidly said: “I was very naïve back then. I knew a lot about the products of the business, but in my previous role I was a product manager as opposed to a managing director, so I had to get used to a lot quite quickly. Adaptability is key.”
When asked about the qualities that leaders must display to manage a crisis, David said that being able to make the difficult decisions as well as maintain a positive outlook were crucial qualities to possess.
“Leaders must remain truly positive in challenging times and difficult decisions have to be made. Back in 2008, we had a reduced orderbook, so we had to canvass the shop floor to get them to agree to reduced hours, and we all had to agree to pay cuts. At that point it was all about survival and looking at costs, to ensure we could get through the other side. It has largely been the same through Covid too.
“I now look back at these testing times which the business had to get through, as enjoyable but tricky times. But we came out of the other side to become the company we are today, and we can look to that success to inspire us for the future.”
One of the key aspects of maintaining a positive mindset as a leader in David’s view is to believe that any challenge can be overcome, and it is this attitude and determination, he says, that has helped British industry pivot to see through the pandemic thus far.
David said: “I’d advise anyone to stay positive and focused. Look at your cost base and stay open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Surround yourself with good people, drive your vision forward and be positive about the future. If I could go back and advise my younger self when I first started out in business, these are the things I’d be telling him.
“As a business, our approach to manufacturing is simple. We ensure that our products are made from quality materials, using the latest technology and equipment, combined with highly skilled employees, to achieve the highest standards. When there is any challenge, our remit is to react as quickly as possible to find a positive solution, and I feel we’ve shown time and again that we can do that to great effect.”