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Corporate skills for SME growth

logoFounded in 1926, Thomas Swan Ltd is a fourth generation family owned and run, independent manufacturer of chemicals with an enviable reputation for high quality service across the industry.  The company is built on traditional family values of trust, respect, fairness and hard work and under the leadership of Harry Swan since 2006, has prioritised its activities in three key areas of Performance Chemicals, Custom Manufacture and Advanced Materials.

Actively exporting to over 80 countries worldwide and serving a global network of distributors and customers with offices and warehousing in the UK, USA and China, the company recognised the need to support this continuing growth with the appointment of a commercially-minded Global Operations Director. Wickland Westcott was retained to support the business in finding someone who could galvanise the expertise, skill and dedication of the existing team and add knowledge and experience in operational excellence, facility development and supply chain and procurement.

The approach comprised an extensive search of the chemical and allied sectors in order to identify candidates with the right balance of leadership, operations experience and commercial awareness. However, for this assignment, cultural fit was as important as the right combination of skills and experience as the search targeted many of the large corporate groups in the sector. For this strategy to be effective, the evaluation of candidates had to identify those personality characteristics that would enable them to transition from large corporate backgrounds into an SME environment. 

Through extensive experience of working with SMEs in appointing main board and senior executives, Wickland Westcott has developed a process geared to finding high calibre talent compatible with the sector. This ensures that shortlisted candidates are adaptable to the demands of working within a stretching, more ‘hands on’ environment and are sensitive to company values and culture shaped over years of successful business operation. For Thomas Swan, a combination of rigorous interview and evaluation was employed which tested not only the leadership experience and technical expertise of candidates, but also their likely cultural compatibility and fit with Thomas Swan. As a result, the chosen individual brought with him large, international-scale experience and, crucially, an appreciation of the company’s heritage that would not compromise the characteristics which had delivered success over the last 87 years.

"We had not used Wickland-Westcott before but I wanted to try a different approach to our recruitment process for such an important, senior role. While experience and capability were of course important, the personality and disposition fit of the candidate was vital. We needed someone who would understand and adapt to the independent SME style of management while seeing the opportunity to shape the company with their own ideas as we grow. I was delighted with Wickland-Westcott’s support and the end result."

Harry Swan - Managing Director, Thomas Swan.