Hello to my new MANN+HUMMEL colleagues. As Managing Director of MANN+HUMMEL Filtration Technology in the UK, I wanted to share with you a few thoughts on our history and corporate philosophy. The story of WIX in the UK is a slightly different one to the usual model of expanding into a new market by setting up a subsidiary. Here, we started as an independent distributor, grew the business, and then acquired by WIX in 2013. I’d like to share our story of growth and success, as our UK team continues to increase sales in this highly competitive market.
Seeing an opportunity and taking a risk
Six years ago, I was happily working for Filtration Control, a MANN+HUMMEL distributor in the UK, working directly with end user trade customers. However, I heard of a new opportunity for us: the Affinia distributor in the UK was for sale and it was an opportunity we couldn’t afford to miss. I approached management with the idea of running a separate company to start selling WIX products to the automotive aftermarket. It was a bit of a risk, as the market at the time was going through challenging times and declining in size. However, I thought it was worth it and truly believed we could succeed.
In 2010, European Filtration Company was established. We had £400,000 worth of stock to sell and spent our first weeks out on the road visiting customers face-to-face. We were quite successful in our efforts in that first year, which carried into our second year, when we broke the £1 million mark. The business continued its path of success, and gained the attention of Affinia Group (WIX). In July 2013, we were officially acquired by Affinia and became WIX Filtration Ltd.
The keys to success
I went into the market with no preconceived notions. I may have been a little naive but it turned out to be an added bonus. I was used to having a customer-centric focus and, right from the beginning, I had a similar attitude with the new business. The sales team developed a consultative approach: we listened to our customers, we asked them what they wanted, and therefore we understood what they needed. It may sound obvious, but it wasn’t happening in the market at the time.
I was fluid in my thinking, developing a business model that was right for the company and right for our customers. For example, there was no minimum order value – if a customer wants one filter in a hurry, he could order it and get it delivered quickly; something that was unique back then.
I had to be flexible. Once sales took off, I discovered a bottle-neck in our order processing. I took our sales team off the road for a whole month and got them offloading trucks and picking and fulfilling orders. I had to show our new clients that we were a reliable and committed supplier. Although this was abstract, there was still a buzz amongst all the team to ensure we delivered as promised to our customers.
Of course, I learnt from others. You may want to call it “benchmarking best practice” but I say borrowing good ideas. After all, if a scheme or concept is working for others in different product segments, why wouldn’t it work for us?
A pivotal moment in our fortunes
There are breakthrough moments in the development of every company, and ours came in 2012/2013. It was then that we were approved by the three main buying groups in the UK. I turned up with six senior members of the team, including some colleagues from Poland, to the very first meeting with the first group. We were trying to impress and presented our revolutionary, customer-first offering. It worked – we were approved by 12 votes to 2. I later learnt that, at a provisional vote before the meeting, the approval rate was the exact opposite – 12 of the board were just not interested in having us as a supplier.
Following on from that meeting, the company secured approval from the other two big buying groups in the UK and nearly doubled our turnover from 2012 to 2013. The growth continued under the ownership and investment from Affinia, with double-digit growth rates.
My own personal development
I’ve learnt a lot over these years. I had no formal management training so it was a case of learning on the job. If I were to do it all again, I would delegate some roles and tasks to other members of the team earlier on. I’m very much “hands on” and it can sometimes be difficult for me to let go of things. However, I now know the importance of empowering my employees and we have developed some great people in our organisation.
Now the circle is complete. We are MANN+HUMMEL Filtration Technology UK Ltd. We’re looking forward to a great future thanks to this phenomenal partnership. We’ll gain from being associated with MANN+HUMMEL, the market leader worldwide, while still selling the trusted WIX and FILTRON brands. We’ll be investing more in our brand identity, fantastic service and marketing support. Together, the future is very bright.