We caught up with our MD, Dale Lister, to hear about how he went from technical apprentice to managing director of one of the UK’s leading foundry suppliers.
We also quizzed him on what he does to alleviate stress and building a relationship with staff.
What does a general day look like for you as the MD at John Winter
I usually start my day before 7am, as we work with a lot of companies in Asia, so early morning is the best time of day for us to talk. I go through emails that have come in overnight from China, Korea or Taiwan, and catch up with our overseas agents over the phone.
Once the morning admin is done, I’ll head over to our research and development lab, via the warehouse and production areas, to get an update on our latest product tests.
The rest of my day involves meetings and discussions regarding on-going initiatives and anything that has come in that day that needs focusing on. Every afternoon I get a ‘finger on the pulse’ overview showing me all the orders for the day in a daily order report.
As the UK working day is drawing to a close, it’s my time to talk to our partners in the States. Before leaving the office I take a look at my priorities for tomorrow and plan for the rest of the week.
Tell us about your career so far. Where did you start? How did you move on?
I started my career completing a technical apprenticeship while working at a Halifax foundry supplier, where I stayed for around three years.
After my apprenticeship I wanted to continue to learn and develop, as well as gain some experience working for a foundry itself, so I worked at a number of foundries for the next eight years.
In 1987 I joined John Winter as General Manager of the works and, as we grew, I got involved in sales and technical support. In 2000 I became the Managing Director and have been heavily involved in driving export sales of the business, which started about 15 years ago, and now accounts for 25% of our turnover. I’m thrilled to say I’ve just celebrated 30 years at the company!
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always loved playing sports, especially football and cricket, but I turned out 3-4 inches too small to go professional!
In your current position, what has been the biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was actually taking on the role. Naturally, it took a bit of time to adjust to and to get comfortable with. All of a sudden I found myself with everyone knocking at my door wanting an opinion and a decision – it was now up to me. I took a calm and considered approach to decision making then, and I still do now.
Your job must get stressful at times, what do you do to alleviate the stress?
I like to exercise when I can; going for an evening walk or playing golf. I also really like going on holiday, getting away for a week and absorbing new cultures.
Where would you like to see the company in five years’ time?
Our five year plan includes significant growth. We want to continue to work on our current initiatives to ensure that everyone in the organisation has the opportunity to progress, whilst also increasing our turnover and profitability.
Internally we’re moving from being a small company to a medium sized company, which has its own demands on the business and the skills needed. Our excellent workforce is over 40 strong, but we always want to welcome new faces with new expertise to take the business forward.
If an aspiring business leader came to you for advice, what would it be?
You’ve got to get know the key areas of the business and how they operate. This knowledge will be invaluable as you lead from the front, bringing your people with you.
Build a relationship with, and work with, your staff, suppliers and customers. Get your stakeholders to see the business how you see the business.