‘Being a CEO is not always easy. It means wearing multiple hats, dealing with big decisions, and guiding a work culture.’
This month, we took a moment to catch up with Marie Cooper, CEO of CBE+, to find out what she took from the storm that was 2020 and what she has planned for the upcoming year.
What were the highlights of 2020?
The greatest achievement for CBE+ in 2020 is the fact that we kept buoyant and survived. A lot of manufacturing businesses have unfortunately not had the same experience, ultimately being forced to downsize or even close, This has resulted in many jobs in the sector being lost. Some may say we were lucky, but we made our way through by staying safe, staying sensible and staying positive. Remaining open for business kept us ahead when others closed.
Fabio Cosenza, our Business Development Manager is always on the lookout for opportunities and when the Ventilator Challenge UK presented itself, he put the business forward to help.
The parts were something we had never made before, but our engineers worked hard to find a way to make them and within days we put thousands into production, supporting the NHS but also enhancing business performance. This really demonstrated that innovative thinking, teamwork and flexibility can benefit the business in many ways, and we have seen the impact through the changing culture and morale of our workforce.
To finish the year on a high, Chris Brown and I took 100% shareholding of the Group.
What lessons did you learn in 2020? How did you cope with the pandemic?
A key lesson we learnt is the value of staying close to customers and suppliers, and maintaining those positive relationships. By communicating more with our business partners, we gained market intel, knowledge and interesting facts about the supply chain. Most interestingly, we gained a new appreciation of where the products we manufacture end up. We found that many of our products are used in key sectors and in the first lockdown our customers requested our support to continue production, ensuring vital products were still manufactured.
Another lesson I learnt personally, as I am sure many others did, is that no matter how hard we try there are some things we cannot control. I like to at least feel I have control of certain situations, identify problems, and create solutions so we can move forward efficiently and proactively. With COVID-19, this was not something we were able to do. We were waiting on government announcements every few weeks and constantly having to react to the situation presented. The uncertainty was hard to deal with and we had to make tough decisions, quickly but effectively. Although challenging, this taught us how adaptable we could be if we worked together safely, sensibly and supported each other throughout.
How will you apply these lessons to make 2021 more successful?
We have already taken steps to strengthen our customer relationships and increase the level of communication we have with them. This has been made possible by the restructuring of the sales team. We have introduced new Key Account Manager, Jonathan Curry, who is supporting Fabio in solidifying existing and new customer relationships, in turn increasing the orderbook to support our growth plans.