In December 2007, I received a phone call which would result in me leaving a successful career at IBM to lead the rescue, rebuilding and growth of my 35 year old family business in Essex, employing 85 staff, which was destroyed by a devastating fire. Here is the summary of how, against the odds, I took hands on responsibility for the organizational, process and system change and led the business to record profits, multiple industry awards and the successful sale 10 years later.
At 10.00am on Saturday 22nd December 2007 I received a phone call from my Dad telling me that his business, JEGS, a multi-million-pound retail & distribution company had been destroyed by a devastating fire and made headline news on BBC South East.
JEGS was our family business which for the past 35 years sold a broad range of electrical, DIY, housewares and garden products, to 4,000 independent retailers throughout the UK and Northern Ireland. He wanted to rebuild the business but needed my help.
At the time I was having a great career at IBM working channels management leading international sales and marketing change program projects. I loved my job and was in discussion for promotion to Director level. My odds of success at JEGS were against us with only 85% of businesses who experience a devastating fire successfully staying in business within 2 years. Despite this, knew I had to help my family to rebuild JEGS.
Not to leave my IBM team in the lurch, I agreed to stay at IBM to complete a project and then joined JEGS.
My priorities were to:
1. Build the business back to profitability
2. Regain customers who had been obliged to buy elsewhere
3. Create a customer experience which differentiated us from competitors
Firstly, I won the hearts and minds of the JEGS team. Without this, I could not succeed. I replaced the whole senior management team who had created a blame culture and were very resistant to change, created a new strong management team who shared my values and vision for the business, built an ‘all star’ team who shared my values and believed in the business mission.
I implemented system and process change as the incumbent infrastructure was unfit for purpose. My project management skills experience in the technology sector meant successful deployment of Microsoft Dymanics AX across the business.
The organisational, systems and process changes were not done in isolation which made it challenging, however, by remembering the reasons for the change, having clear sight of the end goal, being tenacious, communicating with people and working as a team the benefits far outweighed the pain.
Within 3 years of the fire, I had led the team to record profits and turnover and we won the British Independent Retailer Award for Supplier of the Year as voted by its 7,000 members. Under my leadership the business won several other industry awards for marketing and customer experience, was featured in the Wall Street Journal with Microsoft as an example of how to use Dynamics in your business and our processes were even adopted by the New York Underground.
After almost 10 years at the helm, I successfully sold JEGS to a global manufacturer and distributor.
I look back at my time at JEGS with a great sense of satisfaction on what was accomplished and how JEGS really did rise from the ashes and go on to prosper and grow.
If you want to implement change in your business and not sure how to do it, or feel you do not have the time or expertise to do this on your own, then please do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
I also recommend you read – ‘The Levels: Can your business step up to the growth Challenge?’ by Ray Moore.