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Divisional Chairman, Wholesale Company

Blackwood’s client is a ftse 100 builders’ merchant. The company has revenues of almost £5bn with an international supply chain and sourcing operation to support it. Blackwood’s assignment was to bring in additional exceptional talent to supplement its existing talent pool as part of a move to improve the breadth and depth of their Executive Committee as they near the FTSE 100.

Role

Blackwood worked closely with the Deputy CEO and Group HR Director to clearly define the atypical Divisional Chairman roles. The company operates multiple brands from 1,700 sites in the UK through four operating divisions with different end markets, each with c. £1 billion revenues. The Divisional Chairmen sit above each of these 4 divisions. The title and structure had only been created recently and this was to be the first appointment of an external candidate into one of these roles.

The Divisional Chairman assumes overall responsibility for the division’s P&L, defines the on-going strategy and KPI’s of their division and are the visible leader for the division at group level. However, the MDs who report into the Divisional Chairman have the hands-on operational responsibility and run their business units on a day-to-day basis.  It was therefore a key requirement to identify a proven GM who was able to retain some distance from day-to-day operations, manage through influence and coaching, and provide healthy challenge and support to the MDs.  This person would have a ‘low ego’ and be comfortable allowing their MDs to take the plaudits when things go well, whilst supporting them through more difficult times.

Search Process

Our client was a dominant player in the builder’s merchant sector and was keen for us to bring talent and new ideas from outside of the industry. We therefore drew up a list of target companies from analogous industries, such as other B2B distributors/wholesalers and other service businesses that served the building & construction sectors. We focused predominantly on experienced general managers who had already proved themselves in running significant P&L’s and had the right set of behaviours and gravitas to play a more Chairman-type role. The main challenges in the search were finding people with the required cultural and personal fit and to persuade individuals who were either leading businesses as a CEO or reporting to a CEO to take on a position that reported to the Deputy CEO.

Outcome

Blackwood appointed the former Deputy CEO of a FTSE 250 automotive leasing company to lead a newly created division largely encompassing a recent acquisition. He brought innovative thinking and relevant experience from his previous roles as President Europe and President Americas at a leading listed electronic distribution business. Our client also met and hired another candidate as part of our search who they felt was well-suited to the culturally sensitive role of becoming Chairman of the division encompassing their core brand. He was previously CEO of a small listed construction rental business.

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