Martin Lyne, Managing Director of Alexandra Workwear tells us all about following your strategic vision, the shift to online retail and being part of the south west for 160 years.
Hello Martin, tell us about Alexandra and your role as Managing Director:
Alexandra is the leading work wear company supplying SME businesses in the UK. We are a long standing business, renowned for its expertise in garment quality and manufacture. We are celebrating our 160th anniversary this year. We supply uniforms to all sectors, particularly in healthcare, hospitality and trade. As the Managing Director it is my duty to manage the business, pursuing growth, exploring new markets and providing the highest level of service to our customers.
How is the economic climate impacting on your business?
It seems that we are emerging into a better economic environment but businesses still have a ‘brittle confidence’ about the future. The hospitality sector is showing signs of buoyancy and the healthcare sector continues to be a strong performer. Unemployment is down and inflation is fairly stable so I think we are moving in the right direction for growth.
What challenges are you facing over the next 12 months?
At Alexandra we are passionate about delivering excellent customer service. We are continually improving our services and systems to meet the needs of our customers.
To this extent our major project this year is to renew our online presence. We will be upgrading all our e-commerce activities, developing a new website and spreading into new online markets. We are also implementing a B2B ‘decision maker portal’: this will be targeted at managers who handle work wear budgets and want to buy in volume.
Do you think that the government is doing enough to support your sector?
As we are a leading supplier to the SME market, I would like to see more support for small businesses, especially in regards to finance. Large organisations currently have too much power over payment terms, which stifles SME growth. There seems to be a lot of talk but not enough action. The government talks about developing new bank initiatives, but I would rather they focus on improving what already exists, such as forcing banks to honour their commitment to increase business lending.
What is your view on the South West business scene?
We have been here for 160 years! Over that time we have faced our share of challenges, but have built up a strong brand presence with a good network of loyal customers. I think the region is better placed than most to grow and I’m always impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit here, where start-ups can take advantage of incubators to become successful businesses. I’m proud to be part of the region as a major employer.
Do you have any Non-Executive Directorships? If so, what have you learned from the experience?
I don’t have any Non-Executive roles yet. This is a major year for the business, but it is something I will be looking at later.
Do you have any advice that you’d pass on to a newly appointed company director?
Leadership is about having a vision and ambition for the business, sharing it with others and driving it forward. The best strategies are ones where everyone in the organisation has a stake, so involve the rest of your team in shaping your vision and forming the agenda. Listen to others and encourage new perspectives, recognise best practices that you can use in your businesses.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like my sport. I’m a keen “veteran class” runner and I have done several half-marathons that have raised money for charity. I have three daughters who are all sporty, so football, hockey and netball dominate my time. I am a football coach. I also enjoy listening to music and entertaining my friends.
Who is your hero/personal inspiration?
My personal inspiration is Nelson Mandela. I am all about having the conviction to follow your vision and Mandela is the greatest example of this. To spend 27 years in prison undergoing unimaginable hardship and put all that resentment behind you for the sake of pursuing the greater good of society is incredibly admirable. You will face some difficult challenges in your life, but it is good to always bear in mind people like Mandela who have been able to overcome worse and how they did it.
What is on your I-Pod and what are you reading right now?
I like all sorts of music, but my listening is often dictated by my daughters nowadays. I enjoy Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young as well as Bastille and Jake Bugg. I like any music that has a deeper meaning behind it. I’m not a big reader but do enjoy biographies, right now I am reading “Can’t be satisfied – the life and times of Muddy Waters”.
What has been your experience of working with our company?
It has always been very positive working with Moon Consulting and we have a business relationship covering some 15 years. Whenever we have recruitment needs, Moon Consulting have a strong grasp of the requirements and depth of knowledge to supply the right candidate. They are very active in the South West business community.