Happy Birthday RML!
Today marks the 5th anniversary of buying RML from the sorely missed Tim Robinson. The new regime started back in October 2015.
I look back in fondness at those early days. The 1970’s phone system, lack of WiFi, dated marketing material, Tim still doing the invoicing at the end of the week, the comic sans everywhere, accounts answering the incoming calls, the manual cash book, a lot of woodchip wall paper, I could go on. What I did discover was a business full of love, passion, friendship and values. A business that perhaps didn’t realise the strength of its own brand and its full potential.
I found some brilliant people. In Tim the business had a leader that oozed pride that his name was attached to everything. Nigel provided the financial support and, whilst the accounting methods were old-school, they were sound and spot on to the penny. It’s good to have Nigel still around the business, a wise head! Glyn and Mark were seasoned senior leaders but keen to get stuck in and move the business forward. The impressive thing about all four is that at no point did they question my madcap vision or ideas, instead providing the knowledge and platform on which to build and continue to grow Robinson Manufacturing into what it is today.
The senior leaders weren’t the only ones. Mat(t)’s, Emma, Andy P, Wendy, Pete and Darragh to name but a few were all instrumental in helping me understand the business and suffer my stupid questions. Whilst some are no longer with the business (or sadly with us) they offered great insight into the wonderful world of timber. Which for a banker seemed all rather odd and slightly dated! They did so with pride and for that I am continually thankful.
Of course, we’ve had to look at a few things. I remember ask who looked after HR. ‘We all do’ was the proud reply. We had an external risk function. Everyone did a bit of marketing (hence the comic sans). We had zero presence on SLT of any females. We had some diversity around the business but not enough to reflect our customer base or a wider society. I’m proud to say we’re getting the diversity right, we have much more to do. The Senior Leadership team is female heavy, the female presence across the business is far greater and there are certainly no gender pay gap issues. Beyond the Senior Leaders we continue to have a wealth of talent, Rox, Carol, Rob A, Mark A, Tomasz, Tom C, Tracy, Greg, Chris, Michelle, the list goes on. All ready and waiting to take the next step in RML careers. I’m so proud of each and every one’s desire to develop and learn. Some of this has come from making sure we have the right people in the business with the right responsibilities, some of this comes from ensuring we also have role models across the business that reflect a decent social base. It is a pleasure to lead and work with talent across the business and our success and ability comes from the individuals within.
We’ve done a bit in those five years beyond people, we gave the place a bit of a spring clean. I talked about customer journeys and everyone looked at me a bit gone out, but we’re getting there and with the Customer Experience Team, under Andreya’s leadership, I believe we give an unprecedented level of attention and detail to every customer interaction. We brought in Eppie and refreshed the brand, from the logo to website, to our internal and external values, our look and feel is fresh vibrant and market leading. Some followed me from banking; Mark ‘Geordie’ Gibson has developed into a fine Head of, leading his BD team from regional players to national providers of some of the industries’ leading house builders. They do that with style and class. Matt Davies has made health and safety engaging and fun! Something I never thought possible. Sarah leads the design teams with grace and determination and the numbers compared to 5 years ago, as a result of continual talent acquisition and growth encouragement, are unrecognisable. I could continue to list the great things that all of the SLT have done but I might be here all day. Continued recognition to Anna and Sam who have absolutely transformed HR and Finance respectively for the better!
We’ve grown on the way, from 2.5 sites to 7 sites. A South East presence to a truly national brand including Wales and Scotland. We’ve done this on the bank of strengthening the balance sheet and diversifying the group portfolio to assist in times of recession and other challenges (don’t mention Covid). Whilst the core business leads the way in income the group now contains factory premises, a development company, land development, a hotel, a farm, a pub, a rugby agency and a soon to be launched sports app. We continue to diversify to protect the incomes of the larger group and to continue to protect our employees’ roles and futures. The group is in a good place despite the challenges and financial scarring that Covid has inflicted on us and the wider community. (Incidentally the RML family’s response during Covid has been second to none. The support that was given to each other, and which continues to be given, is first class.)
So what next? I could write a book about the last five years but I need to save something for the autobiography! We continue to strive for improvement. We follow our values, we Inspire, we Innovate and we Deliver. We continue to grow and we carry on our relentless drive to be pioneers in production, manufacturing, design, thought leadership and behaviours. The business, as it was with Tim, continues to prepare for the next level of leadership to take the brand forward and to put their stamp on it. Growth comes as a given but not at a sacrifice of standards. My teams will tell you that we are, as Matthew Pinsent put it, brutal with honesty. We are frank but fun, we smile and laugh but we continue to strive for perfection. Our reward is our customers trust and continued strength in the great and valuable brand we took on from Tim.
I am often asked why, where does the drive and motivation come from to be relentless in pursuit of excellence. It is the people. To lead everyone across the business is a pleasure. A genuine pleasure. Sure, everyone won’t agree with everything you do. The demand I place on the whole business is big, the expectations constant in style and finesse. But they do it. They do it like they are proud to be a part of it. It’s cyclical. It provides constant inspiration and energy. And we go again.
And of course, we’re good with wood.
Thanks to everyone for the last 5 years, support, emotional capital, love, challenge, debate, fun, smiles and pre-Covid allowed hugs. In the words of the great Greek, Aristotle style philosopher, Vinny Jones, ‘it’s been emotional!’. And cheers Tim for the opportunity.