Gordon Cameron has been involved in the plant industry for many years now, working his way up to become managing director of Hardox Wearparts Centre (Stirling). The firm manufactures all wear-related products for the quarrying, recycling, agriculture and engineering industries and recently moved into much larger premises as a result of increased growth. Gordon tells Gary Moug about his role in a landmark wind turbine project, finding himself locked out of his car on a busy construction site and why he can’t relax until a job is done.
Q) How did you break into the plant industry?
A) I started out as a business development manager with a large German firm that was a steel stockholder, even though I kne nothing at all about steel. I loved the culture and the people right from the start. I worked from there into plate sales, then plant management and operations, then moved into site management with a profiling business. At that point the Hardox Wearparts job came along. it was the dream call and I jumped at the chance. I’m now MD.
Q) What does your current role involve?
A) Everything! Since I started I have completely revamped our marketing strategy, revised all our commercial procedures, recruited the right people into the business for succession, moved premises and overseen the whole project management of that. Plus I cannot give up the customer visits and face to face side – it’s in my DNA to speak to my customers and talk through their issues and what we can do to help them.
I am hoping 2016 will bring more customer facing time and also operations improvements on our new site which I am relishing to get started.
Q) Career highlights?
A) I was involved in supplying the steel for the largest wind tower in Europe – the one that sits just off the coast at Methil. That was a huge personal journey and taught me a lot about myself and how to handle real pressure. Getting made the MD at HWP Stirling is also up there as a proud moment. I have also been privileged to visit some places that others will never see. I’ve been 1500m under the ground at the LKAB mine in Sweden and seen some massive open cast pits that make you feel totally insignificant in size – places that in 10/15 years may no longer be here.
Q ) Is there anything that would surprise people about your job?
A) I still make deliveries. I also try to answer every e-mail I receive from speculative people because at one point I did that myself. I still really enjoy it and can get a little obsessive with the hours I put in.
Q) Any funny anecdotes from your career?
A) Too many to mention. Car crashes, bumps, scrapes, leaving my case on sites. Oh, and locking my keys in the boot of my car on a very busy construction site is up there! Fortunately there was an Audi garage about a mile away from where I was and someone was able to come out and open the lock without causing any damage to the vehicle.
Q) How has the industry changed since you first started?
A) It hasn’t changed a huge amount. I am trying to market in a more modern way and we have developed a larger product range but a lot of things like e-commerce are still a long way off.
Q) Best advice you’ve ever received?
A) The best piece of advice I was ever given was from the late Raymond Nichol of Nichol McKay in Ayrshire. I visited him as a spritely and impressionable 20-something when he had three cars parked in the car park – a Bentley, a top of the range Merc and a BMW M-sport. I remarked that it must have been amazing to have the money to buy all those cars. His response – “You can only wear one pair of troosers son!” – has stuck with me to this day. Money doesn’t bring happiness.
Q) How do you relax away from work?
A) I’m lucky to have a wife and soulmate who I spend as much time with as I can. We are two peas in a pod. I also have two kids, though I’m not sure if they are relaxing! I watch a lot of live football, I’ll leave you guessing as to the team, and I spend a crazy amount of time with my dog, walking and seemingly continuously playing. I’m a fair weather cyclist and I collect European football programmes. I also own over 150 pairs of Adidas Original trainers that I have collected for 20 odd years.
Q) Is there anything you’d change about the industry?
A) It would be good to get more people looking and selecting products from our website, but then you take away the site measure ups which are always fun, especially as the winter is coming in.
Q) What advice would you have for youngsters considering a career in the plant world?
A) Firstly, come into the industry. It’s great dealing with people who have built their own businesses and you can learn from them more than you would in a classroom. But also learn from the bottom up and take all the basics in.
A solid grounding will take you a long way. But also look at things through innocent eyes and see changes you can make. Like any industry we need fresh blood and fresher ideas.
Q) Best and worst thing about your job?
A) The best thing is having the direct ability to develop staff and take them to where there true potential lies. I also love the marketing side and meeting customers still to this day.
I love the mix of customers we have and the characters that I come across every day, which I would not change for the world. The worst – probably the hours. Having OCD and an addictive personality doesn’t help – I can’t put things down when I start and can find it hard to switch off but that’s always been my character. If you give me something I won’t let it go until I know its right.
Q) Hopes for the future?
A) I hope that we outgrow the new factory we’ve just moved into and we become the number one wearparts supplier in Scotland.
Q) How are you finding the industry at the moment?
A) There’s plenty of work. Prices are tightening a little bit due to increased competition but I’m finding the industry very receptive to new technologies and new ideas.
Instead of going out and cutting our prices for customers, we’re trying to upgrade. Most customers are looking for more for their money and a longer term solution, which suits us better as well.