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MUTTERINGS FROM A METAL BASHER

29-06-2009

Metal bashing

Smethwick-based metal processing Professional Polishing Services quit Birmingham Chamber of Commerce in disgust last year, after being encouraged (along with other members) to move production abroad. Now director Kirsty Davis has some uplifting news in the depths of the recession.

Shhhh – don’t tell anyone; but we made a profit last month!!

With ‘break even’ seen as the new profit the fact that there are still quite a few of us out here in no man’s land making a profit most months, albeit a reduced one, is something that is not being publicised. Perhaps we are to blame – there is an awful lot of ‘touching wood’ in this Brave New World into which we were plunged last Autumn – we don’t want to be seen to be crowing when other companies are going to the wall. Apart from it being bad form, there is the gut clenching feeling of there but for the grace of God… or, more often than not, the Bank Manager.

Our Company has just completed its 26th Year and in that period of time we have grown in size considerably.

basher

This sexy machine polishes stainless steel sheet. All our main sheet lines have been fully automated – the operator literally just presses a button – whereas when I started in this industry (20 years ago now) the operators had to put the sheet into the machine and take it out again the other end – with some sheets 70 kgs plus this was hot and heavy work!

I took over as Managing Director last July and had an ambitious Five Year Plan to accelerate that growth. It is extremely humbling that in December I was reducing our workforce onto one shift from two and making redundancies. Our Founder and I made this decision for the survival of the company and we had never been through this situation before. Six months on we have been able to re-employ two members of staff, we are very busy on one shift and the crash from the Autumn has been negated. My Five Year plan, however, sits dusty and lonely on a shelf.

The main plan for any company nowadays is survival – and this is often dependent on other factors, ones we cannot control. Cashflow, the lifeblood of business, is obviously sluggish as everyone is having trouble getting their customers to pay and this reverberates along the supply chain. There are daily stories of companies going to the wall and often their bad debt can be the final nail in someone else’s coffin. It’s all doom and gloom…and this must have a negative effect on morale, mustn’t it?

Perversely we have found that morale has never been better. Our team are more flexible and responsive than ever before. With a change in middle management structure staff are stepping up and taking responsibility and whilst it is hard work we’re relishing the challenge.

Yes, it could be seen that we’re going backwards, but retrenching is sometimes simply a rest before the great battle and, make no mistake about it, business in all sectors is a battle. That’s why I’m not worried about ignoring my Five Year Plan. After all, the old adage that ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’ means that we can adapt as we need to, to go on fighting.

Kirsty Davies BA. MA.

Managing Director, (aka Field Marshall)
Professional Polishing Services Ltd.

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